The best candidates for NFL Rookie of the Year awards aren't just about who is the best player. A confluence of factors -- from raw talent, to the opportunity to start immediately, to being surrounded by the right cast of teammates -- is required for one rookie to rise above all others. Here is a look at six strong possibilities for the 2015 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Todd Gurley, RB, St. Louis Rams
Despite an encouraging season from 2014 rookie Tre Mason, the Rams are obviously clearing the decks for Gurley. You don't spend a No. 10 overall pick and honor a trade request from another back unless the plans are clear. Mason might be better off, and perhaps even more effective, in a supporting role. Jeff Fisher once took the NFL by storm with a rookie power back who exploded for 1,368 yards as a rookie: Eddie George. Fisher might have his new George in Gurley. His rehabilitation from a torn ACL has been encouraging, and he is expected to be ready for September. Absent a setback, watch out.
Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders
On a team in dire need of receiving talent, you can believe Cooper will step into a starting role in short order, probably from Week 1. And if Derek Carr is counting on a career turnaround from Trent Richardson for a running game, you can also believe Cooper could end up being the focal point of the offense. Add to that the fact that Oakland will probably be playing its share of games from behind, and the Raiders should be filling the air with footballs.
Kevin White, WR, Chicago Bears
White should replace Brandon Marshall as a top threat for Jay Cutler, along with Alshon Jeffery. Cutler might never lose the interception bug, but he averaged more than 250 yards passing a game and had a career-high 28 touchdowns last year -- White should have some big Sundays. He's the got the speed and ball skills to make big plays, and a knack for coming down with well-contested catches. Chicago wouldn't have drafted him at No. 7 if the club didn't have designs on feeding him as many football as possible.
Maxx Williams, TE, Baltimore Ravens
With Owen Daniels signing with the Denver Broncos in free agency and hip injuries putting the career of Dennis Pitta in question, the Ravens invested a big pick (No. 55 overall) in Williams, who could provide a real downfield threat with his impressive receiving skills. Williams should get every chance to start and has the athleticism to get open. As well, Joe Flacco just plain likes throwing to tight ends. In his seven seasons as a starter, a tight end has been one of his top three pass catchers in five of them. Don't be surprised if the Flacco-Williams connection sparks quickly and catches fire.
Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers
Mark Gordon down as the Week 1 starter in the Chargers' backfield, and given the durability he showed at Wisconsin, there's no reason to think he won't still be there at the end of the year. The Chargers' team rushing average of 3.4 yards ranked 30th in the NFL and they added no offensive linemen in the draft, which could foretell some rough sledding for Gordon. Still, with a veteran quarterback such as Philip Rivers moving the chains, the dynamic rookie should have no shortage of carries.
Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
The draft's impact on the Falcons' and Rams' backfields is practically identical. Like the Rams with Mason, Atlanta has a promising but smallish second-year back in Devonta Freeman. But also like Mason, Freeman figures to settle into a secondary role behind a rookie. The Falcons also said goodbye to Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers, so it should be Coleman's show. Atlanta's offense has been too reliant on Matt Ryan -- if Coleman can bring some balance, Atlanta is a much stronger playoff threat and Coleman stays in the ROY conversation.