Coaches and scouts attempt to downplay the expected potential of rookies during OTAs and minicamps, but even astute evaluators have high hopes for their team's top picks when the regular season rolls around. With mandatory minicamps providing most teams with their final look at first-year players until training camps begin in July, now is a great time to examine how 10 of the top rookies could perform in Year 1.
Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams
No. 1 overall pick, Round 1, Cal
Best-case scenario: The Rams ease their franchise quarterback into the role by relying heavily on Todd Gurley to carry the offensive load. The 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year sets the table for the offense with his electric running skills, which forces opponents to use eight-man boxes (or seven-man fronts against one-back sets) to slow down the Rams' new shotgun-heavy attack. With the team featuring a number of quick-rhythm pass concepts designed to get the ball out of Goff's hands quickly, the one-on-one matchups created by Gurley's presence could help the rookie get off to a fast start in Hollywood as he quickly develops a strong rapport with Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt in the passing game.
Worst-case scenario: Despite the Rams' best intentions to build an offense around their star running back, the stout defenses in the NFC West make it impossible for the team to contend for the postseason without strong play from their first-year signal caller. Defensive coordinators not only stack the line on early downs to neutralize Gurley, but they attack the rookie passer with a barrage of blitzes and exotic looks that test his judgment under duress. Goff is unable to punish opponents with accurate throws against the blitz, resulting in the Rams' playoff drought extending for another season.
My projection: 3,300 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
No. 2. overall pick, Round 1, North Dakota State
Best-case scenario: The Eagles allow Wentz to sit behind a pair of veterans to learn the nuances of the game from the sidelines. The redshirt season provides the rookie with an opportunity to master the playbook without the pressure of having to perform at a high level as a first-year starter. Most importantly, the patient approach affords head coach Doug Pederson and his staff with enough time to craft a long-term game plan that sets up Wentz for success when he eventually steps onto the field as the team's starting quarterback in 2017.
Worst-case scenario: The disappointing play of Sam Bradford and/or Chase Daniel forces the Eagles to scrap their redshirt plans for their rookie passer. Wentz steps into the lineup following the team's Week 4 bye to lead an offense desperate for a spark at the quarterback position. The 6-foot-5, 237-pounder flashes big-time talent and playmaking ability, but his transition from small school standout to NFL starter is littered with costly mistakes and turnovers against the stellar defenses in the NFC.
My projection: 2,300 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions; 300 rushing yards and four scores.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
No. 4 overall pick, Round 1, Ohio State
Best-case scenario: The rookie rusher helps the Cowboys return to the blue-collar formula that netted the NFC East crown in 2014. Playing behind the best offensive line in football, Elliott quickly emerges as one of most productive runners in the game on the way to making a push for the rushing title. Most importantly, he alleviates some of the pressure on Tony Romo to carry the offense, which results in a more balanced and dynamic attack in Dallas.
Worst-case scenario: Elliott fails to live up to the hype that preceded his arrival in Dallas as the top runner in the 2016 draft class. Although he picks up 1,000-plus rushing yards behind Dallas' massive offensive line, Elliott fails to add the explosive dimension that many expected based on his spectacular career at Ohio State. Even though the team benefits from the presence of a young "grinder" in the backfield, expectations for their top pick to play like a superstar from Day 1 fall short.
My projection: 250 carries, 1,300 yards, 10 touchdowns; 30 receptions, 250 yards and two scores.
Corey Coleman, WR, Cleveland Browns
No. 15 overall pick, Round 1, Baylor
Best-case scenario: Coleman becomes a touchdown machine as the centerpiece of the Browns' passing game. The 5-foot-11, 194-pound speedster shines in Hue Jackson's offense as a catch-and-run specialist, exhibiting exceptional open-field running skills with the ball in his hands. In addition, Coleman quickly develops into a terrific vertical playmaker as the designated deep-ball weapon on the perimeter. Considering the run-centric nature of the Browns' offense and Robert Griffin's strong arm, the Browns' new WR1 makes an immediate impact as a rookie.
Worst-case scenario: The lack of sophistication in Baylor's offense hinders Coleman's ability to make immediate contributions as a WR1. He requires some time to make the transition to a traditional route runner in a pro-style offense after being allowed to freelance as a collegian. Given the lengthy growth period, Coleman makes only limited contributions as a designated deep-ball threat in Year 1.
My projection: 50 receptions, 700 yards and five touchdowns.
Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans
No. 21 overall pick, Round 1, Notre Dame
Best-case scenario: Fuller fulfills the Texans' need for an explosive WR2 to alleviate the pressure on star wideout DeAndre Hopkins. Fuller's speed and big-play ability are on full display as he torches opponents willing to play single coverage on the backside. Thus, Brock Osweiler frequently targets the speedster, exposing defensive coordinators' intent on slowing down Hopkins and Lamar Miller in the Texans' revamped offensive attack.
Worst-case scenario: Despite Fuller's potential as a big-play threat, his questionable hands lead to a high number of drops. He shows significant improvement with his hands and ball skills over the summer, but fails to earn his QB's trust by struggling to reel in tough catches in crowded areas early in the season. His inability to make a few splash plays at the start of his career, leads the Texans -- and their Super Bowl expectations -- to lean on someone else to complement Hopkins.
My projection: 45 receptions for 600 and four touchdowns.
Josh Doctson, WR, Washington Redskins
No. 22 overall pick, Round 1, TCU
Best-case scenario: The Redskins -- who didn't have an immediate need at wide receiver -- see Doctson flash the tools that could make him a future dominant WR1. He sets the stage for that ascension with a solid rookie campaign that allows him to grow from a WR3 role to a primary playmaker position by the end of the season. Considering the attention opponents devote to DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed, Doctson becomes a key contributor for Washington as a feature guy against single coverage.
Worst-case scenario: Doctson's foot injury that led to his absence in OTAs extends into the regular season and prevents him from earning a significant role as a rookie. The ex-TCU standout -- clearly a talented playmaker -- is unable to expand and contribute to one of the more explosive offensive units in football.
My projection: 35 receptions, 550 yards and six touchdowns.
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Minnesota Vikings
No. 23 overall pick, Round 1, Mississippi
Best-case scenario: Treadwell emerges as a WR1, enabling Teddy Bridgewater to take the next step in his development as a franchise quarterback. The 6-foot-2, 221-pound pass catcher anchors the passing game and immediately becomes the Vikings' designated red-zone weapon. His willingness to do the dirty work between the hashes helps Stefon Diggs manufacture big plays outside the numbers. As Bridgewater begins to find his rhythm in a retooled offense, his new WR1's performance and production spurs the Vikings into legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Worst-case scenario: Skeptics who worried about Treadwell's ability to create separation due to his pedestrian 40 time are vindicated. Although he shows he's capable of using his physicality and size to ward defenders off at the catch point, Treadwell has trouble consistently getting open against CB1s in key moments highlighting a need for him to refine his technical skills.
My projection: 65 receptions, 850 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Paxton Lynch, QB, Denver Broncos
No. 26 overall pick, Round 1, Memphis
Best-case scenario:Mark Sanchez seizes the starting quarterback job and allows Lynch to serve as an apprentice in 2016. The opportunity to develop away from the spotlight serves the ex-Memphis standout well, as he transitions from a spread system to a traditional scheme that features several West Coast Offense principles. If Lynch is inserted into the starting lineup, the Broncos' steady running attack and stellar defense allows him to function as a productive game manager.
Worst-case scenario: The Broncos are forced to start Lynch after Sanchez underperforms during training camp or the early part of the season. The rookie struggles through the season due to an inconsistent running game that forces him to become a playmaker. Despite the presence of a pair of Pro Bowl-caliber pass catchers, Lynch shows he's not ready to throw the ball 30-plus times a game and become the focal point of the offense.
My projection: 2,200 passing yards, 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions; 250 rushing yards and two scores.
Hunter Henry, TE, San Diego Chargers
No. 35 overall pick, Round 2, Arkansas
Best-case scenario: The Chargers groom Henry to replace Antonio Gates as the team's TE1 in the passing game. The Arkansas product, who's a crafty route runner with strong hands, thrives alongside the veteran in two-tight end sets. In addition, Henry shows outstanding instincts and awareness in critical situations, particularly in the red zone and on third down.
Worst-case scenario: The Chargers, counting on Henry to be a major part of the passing game with Gates nearing the end of his career, don't see the immediate impact they expected from the rookie. Henry struggles to get minutes because he's unable to set the edge against stout defensive ends, signaling a need to improve his run-blocking skills. The Chargers' running game can't get on track -- a major issue for a team that's seeking more balance on offense.
My projection: 55 receptions, 750 yards and six scores.
Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee
No. 45 overall pick, Round 2, Alabama
Best-case scenario: Henry joins DeMarco Murray to create a formidable 1-2 punch in the Titans' backfield. Mike Mularkey's desire to employ an "exotic smash mouth" attack works as intended, relieving some of the pressure on Marcus Mariota and giving the Titans' offense the physicality and toughness it needs to win games down the stretch. Henry owns his role as the closer, making the Titans' rugged running attack a feared unit by season's end.
Worst-case scenario: Henry's erect running style and lack of lateral quickness makes him a poor fit in an offense that frequently directs running backs off tackle. While Henry boasts explosive speed, quickness and power when he gets his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage, he struggles to find room behind a leaky offensive line that will need some time to jell as a unit in a power-based scheme.
My projection: 145 carries, 500 yards and three touchdowns.