Skip to main content

NFL rookie forecast: Best-case/worst-case for offensive notables

As we head toward the 2017 season, former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks examines what could be in store for 11 notable rookies on the offensive side of the ball.

Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Chicago Bears

No. 2 overall pick, Round 1, North Carolina

Best-case scenario: Despite trading up and spending the No. 2 overall pick on a quarterback, the Bears would love to keep Trubisky on the sidelines for at least a season before handing him the keys to the offense. If Mike Glennon can win a few games as the team's "bridge" quarterback, Trubisky can work on his game on the practice field and make a run at the job with a strong preseason performance in 2018.

Worst-case scenario:Bears fans might want to see their prized pick take the field in 2017, but the rookie would likely struggle due to his limited experience (only 13 collegiate starts) and a weak supporting cast. Although he has the raw talent to win the job from Glennon during the season, the Bears would be wise to stick to a slow development plan for their future QB1. After all, this team doesn't appear to be poised for big things in 2017. Rushing Trubisky into the lineup probably wouldn't do much to help the present -- and could severely affect the future.

Projected stats: N/A (I expect Chicago to show restraint and allow Trubisky to spend Year 1 refining his game on the practice field.).

Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

No. 4 overall pick, Round 1, LSU

Best-case scenario: The Jaguars dream of their rookie runner having an Ezekiel Elliott-like impact on the offense from Day 1. Fournette's violent running style and big-play ability could give the offense a rough-and-rugged identity while alleviating the pressure on Blake Bortles to carry the unit. With Doug Marrone intent on jamming the ball down opponents' throats with a powerful running game, it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility that Fournette finishes the season as the NFL's leading rusher.

Worst-case scenario: The Jaguars' desire to run the ball at will hinges on an offensive line littered with question marks on the edges, due to Branden Albert's apparent contract dissatisfaction and rookie Cam Robinson's inexperience. If the team's new bookends fail to deliver and allow opponents to crash off the edges, the Jaguars' shiny new toy might not be able to put the offense on his back despite his immense talent and potential.

Projected stats: 1,150 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns; 15 receptions for 150 yards.

Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans

No. 5 overall pick, Round 1, Western Michigan

Best-case scenario: The Titans added a key piece to the offensive puzzle when they grabbed Davis with the No. 5 overall pick to serve as Marcus Mariota's WR1. The Western Michigan product is a smooth route runner with outstanding ball skills and running ability. If he is fully recovered from the ankle injury that prevented him from working out during the pre-draft process, Davis could be a problem for opponents on the perimeter.

Worst-case scenario: Davis' transition from small-school standout to NFL WR1 could take longer than expected, due to the jump in competition from the MAC to the AFC South. Although his skills suggest he should be able to flourish from Day 1, the big-bodied pass catcher might need some time to adjust to the speed of the pro game after crushing mid-major competition over the past four years.

Projected stats: 50 receptions for 675 yards and eight touchdowns.

Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

No. 7 overall pick, Round 1, Clemson

Best-case scenario:Philip Rivers needed another weapon on the perimeter to complement oft-injured Keenan Allen and Dontrelle Inman in the passing game. The big-bodied Williams is a physical route runner with outstanding hands, ball skills and leaping ability. As an alley-oop specialist in the red zone, the Clemson product could quickly become Rivers' favorite target when the Chargers need to put the ball in the paint through the air.

Worst-case scenario: The nagging back injury that has prevented Williams from taking the field during organized team activities -- and which will keep him sidelined until training camp -- could hinder his ability to learn the playbook as a potential starter or key contributor on the perimeter. Sure, he could still carve out a role as a limited route runner, but the lack of summer reps could prevent Williams from getting on the field with the 1s early in the season.

Projected stats: 40 receptions for 600 yards and five touchdowns.

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

No. 8 overall pick, Round 1, Stanford

Best-case scenario: McCaffrey is a matchup nightmare who gives defensive coordinators sleepless nights. The Panthers could fully take advantage of his skills as a triple-threat playmaker (runner/receiver/returner) to create big plays on offense and in the kicking game. With McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel serving as interchangeable big-play threats, the Panthers' offense can evolve into one of the NFL's most explosive units.

Worst-case scenario: Carolina's desire to evolve into a more diverse and dynamic unit could be derailed by Mike Shula's lack of creativity. The Panthers' longtime offensive coordinator has never really featured running backs prominently in his passing game in the past, which raises major concerns about McCaffrey's potential impact as a rookie. In addition, Cam Newton has never shown an interest in throwing the ball underneath to his backs when defenses take away the deep ball. Considering the track record of the play caller and quarterback, it's possible McCaffrey fails to make any impact on the Panthers' offense due to poor planning and execution.

Projected stats: 600 rushing yards, 600 receiving yards, eight total touchdowns.

John Ross, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

No. 9 overall pick, Round 1, Washington

Best-case scenario: After watching the offense lose some perimeter firepower during the 2016 offseason (with Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu having departed as free agents), the Bengals wanted to add some sizzle to the lineup with the selection of the ultra-explosive Ross. The 4.22 speedster not only stretches the field as a deep threat, but he is a dynamic route runner capable of picking up chunk yards on a variety of catch-and-run concepts. If Ross simply does his job as a dynamic playmaker, Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd and others will benefit from the arrival of a true speed merchant on the outside.

Worst-case scenario: Ross' injury history makes him a bit of a wild card as a top pick. The diminutive pass catcher had a hefty list of ailments on his collegiate r��sum��, and he's still recovering from a March shoulder surgery, which could affect his readiness in the offense come fall. If Ross is unable to step onto the field as the Bengals' WR3, the struggles that plagued Cincinnati's offense a season ago will extend into the 2017 campaign.

Projected stats: 35 receptions for 550 yards and four touchdowns.

Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans

No. 12 overall pick, Round 1, Clemson

Best-case scenario: Despite the Texans' desire to bring along Watson slowly, the team is actually well-positioned to start a rookie quarterback due to the presence of a championship-caliber defense and a strong supporting cast. Watson's natural leadership skills and big-game moxie should allow him to effectively run the show without incident -- IF he can quickly master Bill O'Brien's system. With DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller capable of making life easier for Watson with their collective playmaking skills, the QB could make a run at the Offensive Rookie of the Year award with a solid season as the starter for a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

Worst-case scenario: The Texans should be worried if Watson fails to supplant Tom Savage as the QB1 prior to the end of the preseason. Although the veteran has a slight advantage in the quarterback race due to his experience in the system, Watson's superior talent, confidence and leadership skills should make him a Week 1 starter for the Texans. If he is standing on the sidelines as a healthy scratch in September, Houston's potential franchise quarterback would be considered an early disappointment for a team that's a quarterback away from title contention.

Projected stats: 3,800 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions; 300 rushing yards.

O.J. Howard, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

No. 19 overall pick, Round 1, Alabama

Best-case scenario: If Howard quickly emerges as the between-the-hashes playmaker many envisioned when he was selected in the first round, the Buccaneers' aerial attack could be unstoppable, with Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Cameron Brate also doing work. With the speed to run past linebackers and the size to post up safeties/nickel defenders, Howard should thrive over the middle as one of Jameis Winston's favorite checkdowns in the passing game.

Worst-case scenario: A team can never supply a franchise quarterback with too many targets in the passing game, but you have to wonder how Winston will keep all of his playmakers happy with only one ball to go around. Despite Howard's exceptional talent and playmaking ability, he could get lost in an offense that already has a pair of dominant pass catchers outside of the numbers.

Projected stats: 40 receptions for 500 yards and seven touchdowns.

Zay Jones, WR, Buffalo Bills

No. 37 overall pick, Round 2, East Carolina

Best-case scenario: The Bills might've snagged a No. 1 receiver on Day 2 of the draft when they picked up the NCAA's all-time leader in career receptions (399). Jones is a polished route runner with impeccable patience and timing in the passing game. With sticky hands and outstanding ball skills, Jones' natural playmaking ability could make him a star in the Bills' system as a first-year starter.

Worst-case scenario: Jones' playmaking skills might be muted in an offense that's expected to be a run-first outfit with LeSean McCoy acting as the focal point. If the team continues to operate in this manner, with Tyrod Taylor serving as a game manager instead of a playmaker, Jones might not get a chance to be a vital contributor in a passing game that also features the talented (but injury-riddled) Sammy Watkins.

Projected stats: 55 receptions for 700 yards and six touchdowns.

Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

No. 41 overall, Round 2, Florida State

Best-case scenario: It's uncommon for a second-round pick to be viewed as a frontrunner for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, but that's the case with Cook, who is poised to serve as the Vikings' RB1. The electric back is an explosive inside-outside runner with home-run ability every time he gets the ball in his hands. He is a natural pass catcher capable of taking screens and swing routes the distance in the passing game. As the Vikings retool their offense around the strengths of Sam Bradford's game (quick-rhythm thrower), Cook could blossom into a versatile star in an attack that is dynamic and explosive in 2017.

Worst-case scenario: The presence of Latavius Murray could keep Cook from taking the bulk of the carries at the RB1 spot. The former Pro Bowler might be better suited to handle the grind-it-out responsibilities in the running game, which could limit Cook to third-down duty as a change-of-pace option in the backfield. If Cook fails to show the coaching staff he can handle all of the RB1 duties, including pass blocking, he might be forced to split time as a rotational player.

Projected stats: 1,250 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns; 35 receptions for 300 yards and two scores.

Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

No. 48 overall pick, Round 2, Oklahoma

Best-case scenario: Mixon has the raw talent to be a game changer as a multi-purpose threat out of the backfield. The dynamic big back has the potential to eventually become a 100/1,000 playmaker (100 receptions, 1,000 rushing yards), but he should at least be a solid contributor as a hard-charging runner between the tackles in Year 1. Mixon's combination of size, speed and big-play potential could transform the Bengals' offense into a scoring machine if he plays to his potential from Day 1.

Worst-case scenario: Mixon is another combustible player thrown into a locker room that features a few volatile playmakers on both sides of the ball. The rookie runner must show maturity and emotional control when things go awry, and avoid becoming a negative force on a team that teeters on the brink in big moments.

Projected stats: 1,050 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns; 40 receptions for 400 yards and three scores.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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