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Top seven NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates for 2017

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Picking the top candidates for NFL Rookie of the Year awards is tricky business; a year ago, Joey Bosa topped our list of Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates and was the eventual winner, while on the offensive side, nobody saw Dak Prescott coming.

Of course, it takes more than talent alone to win these awards. Gifted rookies aren't always immediate starters, and they're not always surrounded by the supporting cast needed for them to shine.

Here is a look at seven possibilities for next season's NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award, as voted on by NFL.com analysts Daniel Jeremiah, Bucky Brooks and Lance Zierlein. The formula: First-place vote (50 points), second place (40), third place (30), fourth place (20), fifth place (10).

1. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Total points: 130
Highest ranking: 1st
Lowest ranking: 2nd
The comparisons between Fournette's rookie year and Ezekiel Elliott's, particularly given that they were both chosen with the No. 4 pick, are inevitable. But the gap between the Jaguars' offensive line and the Cowboys' line Elliott starred behind is canyon-like. Nevertheless, Fournette will be fed plenty of footballs in Jacksonville, and if second-round pick Cam Robinson is an immediate success (probably at right tackle), Fournette will be better off for it. Bottom line, If he doesn't win OROY, it won't be for a lack of touches.

2. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Total points: 100
Highest ranking: 1st
Lowest ranking: 5th
Last year proved you don't have to be a first-round pick to take this award, and Cook, the Vikings' second-rounder, is a first-round-caliber talent. The versatile star from Florida State steps into a void left by Adrian Peterson, and with his excellent receiving skills, he's capable of filling it on every down. He's certainly set up for instant impact from a need standpoint; the Vikings finished dead last in the NFL in rushing last year (75.3 yards per game). He's needed in Minnesota every bit as much as Fournette is needed in Jacksonville.

3. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
Total points: 60
Highest ranking: 3rd
Lowest ranking: Unranked
You don't spend the No. 8 pick of the draft on a running back unless you expect him to electrify the offense from Day 1. The more Carolina offensive coordinator Mike Shula can get McCaffrey the ball in space, particularly as a receiver, the better chance he'll have to do so. How McCaffrey fits in as a rusher with Jonathan Stewart will be no small factor in his OROY candidacy, as well.

4. Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
Total points: 50
Highest ranking: 1st
Lowest ranking: Unranked
Los Angeles spent only one draft pick on an offensive skill position, but it was a big one. Williams should fit nicely into a receiving mix for QB Philip Rivers as a big target who can make tough third-down catches in traffic and excel in the red zone. Rivers spreads his completions in a lot of directions -- six Chargers, all returning for 2017, caught 36 or more passes last year -- so Williams' production might be tempered by distribution. Still, he'll be an imposing challenge for defenses.

5 (tied). Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans
Total points: 30
Highest ranking: 4th
Lowest ranking: Unranked
Watson will compete with Tom Savage for the starting role in Houston. Like any rookie quarterback, he'll face a steep learning curve that doesn't lend itself well to predictions about when he might emerge as a starter. But if he's able to win the job in short order, the door for a big impact will be open to him. With RB Lamar Miller in the backfield and a receiving threat like DeAndre Hopkins on the outside, Watson has help at the skill positions. Year Two development from WR Will Fuller and some positive impact from fellow rookie D'Onta Foreman (RB) would help even more. None of that guarantees Watson success, but he's an exciting talent who should get every chance to prove himself.

2017 NFL DRAFT

5 (tied). Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans
Total points: 30
Highest ranking: 4th
Lowest ranking: Unranked
The Titans will be hoping for Davis to develop into a frequent target for QB Marcus Mariota, who enters his third season as one of the NFL's up-and-coming passers. It's definitely a position of need for the Titans, and Davis brings an incredible record of college production to the club as a four-year star at Western Michigan. Mariota's athleticism and ability to extend pass plays outside the pocket figures to be a plus for Davis' production, as well.

5 (tied). Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Total points: 30
Highest ranking: 3rd
Lowest ranking: Unranked
In Mixon, Cincinnati added a potential every-down starter who has the size to run between the tackles as well as the speed and receiving skills to be a big problem for defenses in the passing game. He joins a Bengals backfield that includes Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. Hill should be plenty motivated as he enters a contract year, while Bernard will be coming off a knee injury.

Also receiving votes: Samaje Perine, RB, Washington Redskins.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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