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Published: Aug. 19, 2015 at 01:11 p.m.
Updated: Aug. 25, 2015 at 09:29 a.m.

Todd Gurley, Amari Cooper lead NFL OROY candidates

It can be tough to guess which players will rise from each year's crop of newcomers to become the Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year. Just consider the predictions that appeared on NFL.com around this time last year.

Brandin Cooks, Sammy Watkins, Blake Bortles, Jadeveon Clowney, Ryan Shazier and C.J. Mosley were among the names included -- with eventual winners Odell Beckham Jr. and Aaron Donald warranting nothing more than a passing mention.

Nonetheless, let's take a snapshot of the upper echelon of the 2015 class as it stands right now. Below, you'll find my top five candidates for OROY, presented in reverse order.

NOTE: To see my top five Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates, click here.

5 Photos Total

  • Agholor is an outstanding athlete with very long arms, a wide catch radius and top-end quickness. He's also an excellent punt returner, which will enhance his chances of making noise in this race. Two things concern me about him. First, he doesn't seem to be real strong, which could hamper his ability to deal with defenders trying to make it hard for him to get off the line of scrimmage. Second, he's on a team with plenty of other offensive weapons, including a rising second-year pro in Jordan Matthews, which means he might not put up the numbers necessary to make the cut. Still, I loved this kid coming out of USC, and I expect big things from him in 2015. 5

    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    5) Nelson Agholor, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

    Agholor is an outstanding athlete with very long arms, a wide catch radius and top-end quickness. He's also an excellent punt returner, which will enhance his chances of making noise in this race. Two things concern me about him. First, he doesn't seem to be real strong, which could hamper his ability to deal with defenders trying to make it hard for him to get off the line of scrimmage. Second, he's on a team with plenty of other offensive weapons, including a rising second-year pro in Jordan Matthews, which means he might not put up the numbers necessary to make the cut. Still, I loved this kid coming out of USC, and I expect big things from him in 2015.

  • Abdullah has been turning heads lately, drawing <a href="http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000509918/article/bowles-abdullah-is-about-as-quick-as-barry-sanders">a comparison from Jets coach Todd Bowles to none other than Barry Sanders</a>. While that's a bit like comparing a promising young writer to Shakespeare, I <i>do</i> see some similarities. Abdullah has the 1989 Offensive Rookie of the Year's quickness and vision. He also has burst, acceleration and a history of producing at Nebraska. Everybody's looking for the total package, and Abdullah is exactly that, capable of dashing off big plays in both the aerial and the return game. If he notches 1,000 rushing yards and 45 to 50 catches, he should garner some OROY consideration, especially if he also returns a touchdown or two. Modern defenders are so good that we don't see 80-yard runs like we once did, but Abdullah has the quickness to rack up the sizable gains. 4

    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    4) Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions

    Abdullah has been turning heads lately, drawing a comparison from Jets coach Todd Bowles to none other than Barry Sanders. While that's a bit like comparing a promising young writer to Shakespeare, I do see some similarities. Abdullah has the 1989 Offensive Rookie of the Year's quickness and vision. He also has burst, acceleration and a history of producing at Nebraska. Everybody's looking for the total package, and Abdullah is exactly that, capable of dashing off big plays in both the aerial and the return game. If he notches 1,000 rushing yards and 45 to 50 catches, he should garner some OROY consideration, especially if he also returns a touchdown or two. Modern defenders are so good that we don't see 80-yard runs like we once did, but Abdullah has the quickness to rack up the sizable gains.

  • The Wisconsin product isn't as good an inside runner as Todd Gurley, but he has strength, size and exceptional perimeter speed. He's a terrific competitor and probably a stronger runner than I've given him credit for. He also has big hands, which should help make him a threat in the passing game. Gordon's pro career got off to a slow start in <a href="http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2015081356/2015/PRE1/cowboys@chargers">Week 1 of the preseason</a>; logging six carries against the Cowboys, he posted just 11 yards. But that was just one dress-rehearsal outing. In camp, it looked like he has the skill -- reminiscent of Jamaal Charles -- to be the clock-eating back the Chargers' coaching staff needs. I see him topping 1,000 yards, and if he can help carry San Diego to the playoffs, he has a real a chance in this award's race. 3

    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    3) Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers

    The Wisconsin product isn't as good an inside runner as Todd Gurley, but he has strength, size and exceptional perimeter speed. He's a terrific competitor and probably a stronger runner than I've given him credit for. He also has big hands, which should help make him a threat in the passing game. Gordon's pro career got off to a slow start in Week 1 of the preseason; logging six carries against the Cowboys, he posted just 11 yards. But that was just one dress-rehearsal outing. In camp, it looked like he has the skill -- reminiscent of Jamaal Charles -- to be the clock-eating back the Chargers' coaching staff needs. I see him topping 1,000 yards, and if he can help carry San Diego to the playoffs, he has a real a chance in this award's race.

  • I saw him in person at Raiders training camp, and he stuck out like a sore thumb -- in a <i>good</i> way. In three practices, I don't think he dropped one pass. He possesses good size, a big wingspan and tons of talent. He can run routes and catches the ball well. He's on a team with a rising young quarterback in Derek Carr and not much else in the way of offensive threats, so I think he'll be targeted a lot and should prove to be a big-play machine. The only thing that could hold him back come awards season is the potential lack of team success. I think he'll top 100 catches, but if Oakland can't win more than a handful of games again, Cooper might have a hard time with voters. 2

    Greg Trott/Associated Press

    2) Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders

    I saw him in person at Raiders training camp, and he stuck out like a sore thumb -- in a good way. In three practices, I don't think he dropped one pass. He possesses good size, a big wingspan and tons of talent. He can run routes and catches the ball well. He's on a team with a rising young quarterback in Derek Carr and not much else in the way of offensive threats, so I think he'll be targeted a lot and should prove to be a big-play machine. The only thing that could hold him back come awards season is the potential lack of team success. I think he'll top 100 catches, but if Oakland can't win more than a handful of games again, Cooper might have a hard time with voters.

  • This is a special, talented guy with size. He's strong and powerful, possesses great vision, balance and tackle-breaking ability, and he can catch the ball. Jeff Fisher loves the power-running game, and Gurley, who reminds me of Steven Jackson, looks like a perfect fit. Now, in all probability, he'll <a href="http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000509128/article/todd-gurley-likely-to-miss-start-of-season-for-rams">miss several games to start the season</a> as he continues to work back from a torn ACL suffered <a href="http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000428929/article/acl-tear-ends-season-for-georgia-rb-todd-gurley">last November</a>. But his skill and talent level should allow him to flourish anyway. If he can get in 12 games (the same as 2014 Offensive Rookie of the Year Odell Beckham Jr.), he has the potential to break the 1,000-yard mark and lead St. Louis to the playoffs -- and he'll have a very strong chance of taking home some hardware after the season. 1

    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    1) Todd Gurley, RB, St. Louis Rams

    This is a special, talented guy with size. He's strong and powerful, possesses great vision, balance and tackle-breaking ability, and he can catch the ball. Jeff Fisher loves the power-running game, and Gurley, who reminds me of Steven Jackson, looks like a perfect fit. Now, in all probability, he'll miss several games to start the season as he continues to work back from a torn ACL suffered last November. But his skill and talent level should allow him to flourish anyway. If he can get in 12 games (the same as 2014 Offensive Rookie of the Year Odell Beckham Jr.), he has the potential to break the 1,000-yard mark and lead St. Louis to the playoffs -- and he'll have a very strong chance of taking home some hardware after the season.