Monday 19 February 2018 / 01:14 PM


It’s the offseason in the NFL, and that means that it’s a time for review and preview, speculation and takes.  But I figured that I’d offer a break from all of that, and instead take a look at the players that were designed to be impact players from last year: the top rookies from the 2015 NFL Draft.

Specifically, I’d like to take a look at the impact of the top 10, those going to the worst teams and brought in to make an immediate impact.  We’ll take a look at their production and fit, and see how valuable the pickup was.

  1. Jameis Winston – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Winston was a coup for Tampa, who heard rumblings before the draft about the risk they were taking bringing in the embattled Florida State QB.  For the Bucs, however, it ended up being a no-brainer.  Already an instate kid, Winston moved just up the road to Tampa, and got to work quickly in figuring out the system of the NFL.  Winston put up good numbers and finally brought alive a Tampa offense that had lacked firepower for a few years.  The offense grew tremendously under Winston, and the young Bucs look to be taking the next step on competing for the NFC South with Carolina.

  1. Marcus Mariota – Tennessee Titans

The Oregon Duck moved his run-and-gun style to the NFL without much of a hitch, putting up gaudy numbers in the very first game of the season.  Mariota had arguably a better season than the QB picked before him, at least from a statistics perspective.  Mariota is no doubt a talented QB, and has the makings of a maintain in the new style of the NFL.  His evolution in Tennessee will be a fun trip to watch.

  1. Dante Fowler – Jacksonville Jaguars

Fowler entered the draft as one of the most versatile and free moving lineman in the nation from the University of Florida.  Fowler made the quick move to linebacker in the combine, and didn’t miss a step, hammering out amazing 40 times and an impressive power showing.  Jacksonville took the gamble on Fowler, desperately needing a leader on a young defense.  However, Fowler would suffer an injury before the season even began, and was forced on IR for the season.  Fowler seems ready to go for camp this August, so time will tell if Fowler will still have his explosiveness.

  1. Amari Cooper – Oakland Raiders

Cooper came out of Alabama as the top receiver in the draft class, and was promptly given the honor by the Raiders, who desperately needed the help on the outside.  Cooper shined in his first year in Oakland, becoming the top receiver and competing for the top selection in this draft.  Cooper was dazzling, and looks to be the next great receiver.  He’s still got some growing to do, and some work on his route running, but you won’t find a better sure-thing at his age.

  1. Brandon Scherff – Washington

Scherff was asked a lot of in his selection at five by Washington.  From day one, the tackle was moved to guard to pair with Morgan Moses on the left side to alleviate some of the burden in the abysmal offensive line play the Skins had gotten in 2014.  Scherff was an upgrade, but definitely showed some flaws in his rookie campaign.  Shcerff wasn’t that great in the running game, doing little to help one of the leagues worst running attacks, which was disappointing seeing as it was his strength coming out of Iowa.  But he was worse in pass protection, struggling to secure high-playing ends. The bigger players weren’t too hard on Scherff, but speed guys were able to blow past Shcerff.  He’s definitely part of Washington’s future, but he’s going to have to improve to warrant that #5 pick.

  1. Leonard Williams – New York Jets

Williams’ stats may not blow you away, but the talent displayed by the lineman in his first season was a breath of fresh air.  The Jets defense was a force, and Williams played a key part in that.  While he only got three sacks, Williams played 800 snaps and was incredible against the run.  While his sack numbers were low, Williams pushed the pile as well as anyone, and got a lot of clamor for the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.  Williams has a great supporting cast, and will look to again wreak havoc on the line.

  1. Kevin White – Chicago Bears

This one was a tough selection by Chicago on draft night, as they longed for receiver help in a receiver-poor draft.  What they ended up with was West Virginia’s Kevin White.  The 6-5 White was explosive in summer drills and training camp, but came up hobbling in August with a shin injury that required surgery.  White missed all of 2015, but appears ready to go in 2016.  White is going to have to have a solid season, as the depth behind him and Alshon Jeffrey isn’t something to be excited about.

  1. Vic Beasley – Atlanta Falcons

Beasley was a dominant pass rusher, at Clemson, igniting college football with his quickness and strength.  It only made sense for the Atlanta, one of the worst teams in football at getting after the QB, to pick him up.  But Beasley’s first season in Atlanta was lukewarm at best.  Beasley, moved to inside linebacker, showed flashes, but ultimately struggled to provide the type of pressure that a top-10 pick should.  The Falcons are attempting to move him into an Earl Thomas-type role in the next season, which spells a little bit of trouble for the Beasley experiment in Atlanta.

  1. Ereck Flowers – New York Giants

The 6-6 offensive tackle out of Miami has struggled to aid a Giants offensive line that looks pretty bad to begin with.  Injuries forced the rookie into the rotation a little earlier than expected, and it more than showed in his first season in the trenches.  Flowers was awful in pass protection, and performed the worst among first round offensive linemen.  While it’s not time to panic, Flowers is going to have to get tough in his second season, especially with some new faces in New York.

  1. Todd Gurley – LA Rams

Gurley was a big question mark when the Rams picked him up at 10.  Gurley had been injured the previous year, and was dealing with ACL injuries that pushed his draft stock slightly, and worried teams about his stability.  But Gurley was a revolution for a Rams offense that had nothing else to be happy about.  Gurley was named the NFL’s Rookie of the Year for his efforts, and carried the Rams offense on his back.  While injuries are still a concern, Gurley looks like the future back of the NFL.

Other notable rookies outside the top 10 were NFL Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Peters, KC center Mitch Morse, Raiders DE Mario Williams, and Seattle’s pair of Tyler Lockett and Thomas Rawls.

This draft was criticized for not being too deep, but the talent at the top has been better than expected.  Aside from injuries, only one player in the top 10 totally under performed, and just a few looked like they weren’t ready.  This draft class proved to be deep, and while not loaded with stars, looks ready to assume a nice place in the NFL in their sophomore campaigns.

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About the author

Austin Albertson

Austin is CBS' senior NFL and NBA analyst, bringing you commentary on everything between the lines and inside the hashes, from the film room to the scoreboard.

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