As training camps swing into gear around the NFL, Daniel Jeremiah projects the best- and worst-case scenarios for seven intriguing defensive rookies.
Nick Bosa, DE, San Francisco 49ers
Drafted: Round 1, No. 2 overall, out of Ohio State.
Best-case scenario: Bosa shows up completely healthy -- he's battled a hamstring injury this offseason -- and immediately earns a starting role in a very talented defensive line group. His pure pass-rush skills instantly translate to the next level, and he benefits from playing next to Pro Bowler DeForest Buckner, who led the team with 12 sacks last season. He is solid against the run and emerges as one of the elite, young players in the NFL.
Worst-case scenario: He deals with nagging injuries that have plagued him in the past, including a core-muscle injury that caused him to miss most of his final season at Ohio State. He misses some time this season, which limits his production, though when he's on the field and healthy, Bosa still finds a way to impact games. The numbers aren't eye-popping, but his talent is undeniable.
Projected stats: 55 tackles and 10 sacks.
Quinnen Williams, DT, New York Jets
Drafted: Round 1, No. 3 overall, out of Alabama.
Best-case scenario: He immediately emerges as a dominant force, lining up next to Leonard Williams. Quinnen Williams does a great job holding the point of attack against the run, freeing up C.J. Mosley and providing the linebacker with the opportunity to have a monster year. The rookie moves up and down the line of scrimmage on passing downs, finding favorable matchups on a weekly basis.
Worst-case scenario: Williams has a prolonged holdout and misses valuable practice time. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams moves him around too much, and he never gets completely comfortable in one spot. He is outstanding versus the run but doesn't have a consistent impact as a pass rusher.
Projected stats: 60 tackles and six sacks.
Clelin Ferrell, DE, Oakland Raiders
Drafted: Round 1, No. 4 overall, out of Clemson.
Best-case scenario: Ferrell slides right into the starting lineup and impresses with his ability to set the edge in the run game and provide pocket push in the passing game. He proves to be very reliable on all three downs, and he continues his pattern of making impact plays late in games. He also emerges as a young leader for the Raiders' defense.
Worst-case scenario: He does just fine against the run but fails to generate a consistent pass rush. Questions emerge about his upside, but Ferrell's motor and energy still have an impact on Oakland's defense. His pass-rush opportunities are limited because the Raiders find themselves trailing early in games against the talented teams in their division.
Projected stats: 65 tackles and six sacks.
Devin White, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Drafted: Round 1, No. 5 overall, out of LSU.
Best-case scenario: White's combination of speed and playmaking ability helps transform the Bucs' defense, and he quickly develops into the leader they need on that side of the ball. His ability to cover running backs inside the division (Carolina's Christian McCaffrey, New Orleans' Alvin Kamara and Atlanta's Devonta Freeman) proves to be a game-changer for new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
Worst-case scenario: I have a hard time coming up with a worst-case scenario for White. He might need a little time to adjust to playing off blocks (he frequently beat blockers to spots in college), but I believe he'll figure it out. His instincts aren't at an elite level, and there might be some occasional spots where he's caught out of position.
Projected stats: 130 tackles and two interceptions.
Brian Burns, DE, Carolina Panthers
Drafted: Round 1, No. 16 overall, out of Florida State.
Worst-case scenario: He is unable to sustain his added bulk and struggles to stay on the field on run downs. Burns has some success early with his speed rush but is unable to develop the necessary counter moves to be consistent. He still provides some splash plays because of his combination of speed and effort.
Projected stats: 40 tackles and 6.5 sacks.
Johnathan Abram, S, Oakland Raiders
Drafted: Round 1, No. 27 overall, out of Mississippi State.
Best-case scenario: Abram provides a physical presence in the middle of the Raiders' defense and proves he is capable of playing up high or down in the box. He is a dynamic blitzer and generates a couple of exciting plays every week. Abram matches up well with tight ends in the AFC West (the Chiefs' Travis Kelce, the Chargers' Hunter Henry and the Broncos' Noah Fant), and he becomes a fan favorite because of his "hair on fire" style of play.
Worst-case scenario: He struggles to avoid penalties by having too many helmet-to-helmet hits and getting a little too grabby in coverage. Abram misses some time due to injury (or possible penalty-related suspension) and needs time to develop a comfort level as a true center fielder in the Raiders' defense. He still produces some electric moments for a defense that was quite boring and ranked dead last in scoring, sacks and yards per play allowed last fall.
Projected stats: 100 tackles and three interceptions.
Deandre Baker, CB, New York Giants
Drafted: Round 1, No. 30 overall, out of Georgia.
Best-case scenario: Baker starts Day 1, and his combination of instincts and ball skills are immediately showcased for the Giants. He proves to be a good matchup for quick-footed guys in the NFC East like Dallas' Amari Cooper and Philadelphia's Nelson Agholor. Baker gets his hands on a lot of footballs and brings an infectious energy to a secondary in need of a boost.
Worst-case scenario: His lack of elite size and speed proves to be a legitimate concern. Big receivers like Tampa Bay's Mike Evans (the Giants' Week 3 opponent) and Philly's Alshon Jeffery have big games against him. Baker loses a little bit of confidence but still flashes his playmaking skills throughout the season.
Projected stats: 55 tackles and two interceptions.