Skip to main content

Five rookies from 2015 we shouldn't forget about

It's May, and that means it's time for rookie minicamps. It means endless hope and it means every team just had* its best draft.* But it's also a time to mistakenly forget last year's new crop of players who were in the same position just 12 months ago. We tend to get infatuated with the new, when it is really the development of second- and third-year players that lead teams to the playoffs and beyond.

So as we continue to poke and prod at this season's incoming class, let's take a look at five players from 2015 who are worth remembering -- and why.

1. Trae Waynes, cornerback, Minnesota Vikings (Round 1, pick No. 11): Waynes only played 215 snaps during his rookie season. This happened for several reasons -- for one, the Vikings got an incredible 981 snaps out of 37-year-old Terence Newman, who re-upped for one more year in March. Also, under head coach Mike Zimmer, the team prefers to bring along cornerbacks slowly. It is one of the toughest positions to develop at the next level, with some scouts listing it right behind quarterback at the top of their list. The Vikings spent their second-round pick on a corner this year (Mackensie Alexander) who could factor in as a dime player and Captain Munnerlyn is plugged in at nickel (with Xavier Rhodes at the outside corner spot). Still, there was some raw ability and instinct to like in the little bit of tape Waynes put out last season. His lone start against the Cardinals had some good and bad, but was underscored by a pretty consistent level of aggression and physicality. Newman was a joy to watch last year, but our guess is that he will not play close to 1,000 snaps again this year, with Waynes figuring to get a bigger piece of the pie. We recognize that this prediction will require us to suspend some belief about how the NFL works and how impatient coaches can get, but the physical tools are there. Will he be a Pro Bowler in 2016? Probably not. Is there a good chance he could double or maybe triple his snap count from his rookie season? Yes.

2. Dante Fowler, defensive end, Jacksonville Jaguars (Round 1, pick No. 3): Fowler tore his ACL during rookie camp last year, forcing him into an unwanted medical redshirt season. The first year after an ACL tear is still difficult, with many players noting that Year 2 feels more natural. Still, Fowler should ease his way into a defense that -- on paper -- has vastly improved. General manager Dave Caldwell did everything he could to bolster the front seven, and a fortuitous draft aided in that process. Assuming that their assembled group of corners and safeties (Prince Amukamara is one to watch) does a better job of slowing opposing quarterbacks down, we could be looking at an eight-to-10 sack rookie season for Fowler if he stays healthy.

3. Phillip Dorsett, wide receiver, Indianapolis Colts (Round 1, pick  No. 29): Dorsett could be an explosive wide receiver, but like the Rams discovered with Tavon Austin, it is difficult to find that out without getting creative and giving him the ball. The Colts' offense was muddled at best last year, with an injured Andrew Luck and a confused scheme that was attempting to placate several target-hungry wide receivers. This year should be different. Dorsett averaged a little more than three targets per game a year ago. With the subtraction of tight end Coby Fleener and wide receiver Andre Johnson, there should be more opportunities for Dorsett to move up in the progression and catch some passes.

4. Cameron Erving, center, Cleveland Browns (Round 1, pick No. 19): Erving was always going to be a buffer for the inevitable loss of Pro Bowler Alex Mack, but last season he was jostled in and out of the lineup amid a 3-13 season. It did not go well, but what did in Cleveland? Offensive line is becoming a very difficult position to project at the next level, but the Erving situation is reminiscent of Giants center Weston Richburg, a second-round pick in 2014 who experienced growth after cycling back into his natural position. Improvement will only come with playing time, and Erving figures to get plenty. Also, the Browns will be aiming to get rid of the football much faster, which always makes an offensive line unit look better than it really is.

5. Vic Beasley, defensive end/pass rusher, Atlanta Falcons (Round 1, pick No. 8): I liked Beasley more than most last year and was impressed at the pop he can provide at his size. He started off strong, but like the rest of the Falcons, endured the rigors of an up-and-down season. The torn labrum he played with probably didn't help matters, either. While Atlanta did not do as much as, say, Jacksonville to improve the perception of its defense, the team is still running a version of the best scheme in the NFL. Atlanta's defense (like Jacksonville's, Seattle's, etc.) is adaptive instead of reactive, meaning that the goal is to force the offense to adjust. This is meant to eliminate extraneous responsibilities and an extended learning curve, which can help a fast player like Beasley play even faster.

Also receiving votes:Bears wide receiver Kevin White, Broncos defensive end Shane Ray, Ravens wideout Breshad Perriman.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content