2015 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Candidates

Mini-camps are over and training camps are still over a month away for most NFL franchises. That means one very simple truth for football fans and analysts everywhere. There’s a lot less to talk about right now than usual. While that might seem like a negative thing at first glance it gives us the opportunity to indulge in one of our favorite NFL off-season pastimes.


Making wild (and often incorrect) predictions is one of the most enjoyable aspects of being a football fan, and this is the perfect time of the year to do so. With a new season on the horizon, it seems like the right time to focus on the league’s newest bunch of stars. The 2015 NFL Draft produced a talented bunch of offensive players that figure to contribute immediately at the professional level. Even in a pool as deep and skilled as this class, however, there can only be one offensive rookie of the year (OROY). With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top ten candidates for the award in 2015.

Please note that the candidates are ranked on a five-point OROY potential scale, from lowest to highest: Low, Low-Moderate, Moderate, High-Moderate, and High.

2015 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Candidates

Jameis Winston (first overall) , quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Marcus Mariota (second overall), quarterback, Tennessee Titans

I’ve placed Winston and Mariota together on this list because of their virtually identical situations. These two star passers were the top selections in the draft and each man has been tasked with being the new face of his franchise having joined a 2-14 team. Both of them have the talent to win OROY, but neither finds himself in a favorable situation in year one. While it’s true that four of the last seven OROY winners have been quarterbacks, that is a misleading statistic. Historically, the award is seldom won by a signal caller. Winston and Mariota are special talents to be certain, but they both may face tough sledding in year one.

OROY Potential: Low

Amari Cooper (fourth overall), wide receiver, Oakland Raiders

Make no mistake about it. FindingĀ a number one wideout for sophomore quarterback Derek Carr this off-season was hugely important for the Raiders and in Amari Cooper, they’ve done it. Cooper was regarded as the best, most pro-ready receiver in the 2015 NFL draft and he’ll be tasked with stepping in and immediately assuming an important role in this offense. Cooper is a premium route runner with quickness in spades, and will likely see an enormous number of targets during his rookie campaign. The Raiders attempted 629 passes last year (fourth most in the league), and that number is expected to remain high in 2015.

Cooper is a complete receiver, polished and professional, and has drawn rave reviews in camp already. The Raiders are an improving team, and Cooper is an important piece of the puzzle. He won’t be eased along at all, but that’s not an issue for the former Alabama star. He’s ready. A 1,000-plus yard season is a distinct possibility.

OROY Potential: High

Kevin White (sixth overall), wide receiver, Chicago Bears

The Bears drafted Kevin White to be Brandon Marshall’s replacement and in the long run, the move will pay dividends. White is a rare physical talent with elite size and speed that figures to be a highly productive player for many years. In terms of 2015, however, White may face a bit of a learning curve. Most pundits feel that White was less polished entering the league than a player like Cooper, and will take more time to get acclimated to the pro level than his top-ten pick pass-catching counter-part.

Unlike Cooper, however, White enters a somewhat crowded wideout group in the Windy City. Alshon Jeffrey is locked in as Jay Cutler’s top target, Marquess Wilson is a high-upside player we’ve talked about for two years now, and the newly-signed Eddie Royal was a favorite of Cutler’s in Denver. White will have to fight for snaps in this rotation and as such, his immediate prospects don’t match up with his enormous long-term potential.

OROY Potential: Low-Moderate

Todd Gurley (tenth overall), running back, St. Louis Rams

Todd Gurley would be the run-away favorite to win this award if his medical situation wasn’t clouded by his recovery from the torn ACL he sustained last November. Simply put, Gurley is one of the best running back prospects to enter the league in years. With that said, while all indications are that Gurley’s recovery is coming along well, there is always a chance that he could miss time in camp, or even open the season on the PUP list.

The Rams have said they’ll bring the former Georgia Bulldog along slowly, so a lighter workload may be in his immediate future. For this reason, it’s difficult to consider Gurley a front-runner for OROY, but in spite of the situation, his remarkable talent makes it impossible to write him off.

OROY Potential: Moderate

Melvin Gordon (15th overall), running back, San Diego Chargers

While Melvin Gordon might have been selected five picks after Gurley, his prospects for OROY shine brighter than perhaps any other rookie tailback. The Chargers moved up two slots to make sure they nabbed their man, and all indications are that the former Wisconsin Badger star will be given a very big workload right out of the gate. Gordon is an exceptional talent with a track record of success, and figures to give the Bolts’ running game the jolt it needs, taking some pressure off Philip Rivers in the process.

While he certainly won’t rush for the same 2,587 yards and 7.54 yards per carry (believe it or not, those aren’t typos) he did at Wisconsin in 2014, Gordon seems like the surest bet for a 1,000-plus yard season of any rookie runner. He might not be as big a factor in the passing game with Danny Woodhead on the mend, but Gordon is under-rated as a receiver out of the backfield and can make an impact on that aspect of the game as well. He could be in for a very big year.

OROY Potential: High

Nelson Agholor (20th overall), wide receiver, Philadelphia Eagles

Nelson Agholor is about to become a key ingredient of one of the league’s best offenses. Indeed, the Philadephia Eagles’ first-round pick enters a situation that is highly conducive to immediate success. While much has been made of Chip Kelly’s personnel moves this off-season, no one can debate the success of his high-octane offense through his first two years at the NFL level. Think about it this way: the Eagles attempted 621 passes last year (fifth most in the league) and 144 of those attempts went in the direction of Jeremy Maclin.

With Maclin now catching passes from Alex Smith in Kansas City, there is a big opportunity for targets in Philly. Agholor figures to step in as an immediate starter and feature heavily in the passing game alongside sophomore breakout candidate Jordan Matthews. Agholor is a talented player in a top-notch offense. Don’t sleep on him.

OROY Potential: High-Moderate

TJ Yeldon (36th overall), running back, Jacksonville Jaguars

TJ Yeldon deserves more love than he’s currently getting. Rated by most analysts as the third-best back in the draft, the former Alabama star is a three-down runner who could prove to be a big-time contributor for a young Jaguars offense. The Jags only ran the ball 360 times last year, fifth-fewest in the league, but with a player like Yeldon in the mix, the team is expected to be much more balanced in 2015.

Since the moment Yeldon was drafted, a featured role has been in the forecast for the youngster, but he has the right perspective about the situation. He recently stated that he feels he’s at the bottom of the depth chart right now, and will need to work his way up. You have to respect that attitude, and when the opportunity comes along, expect him to take advantage of it. The Jags offense should take a big step forward this year, and Yeldon will be a big catalyst for the team’s success.

OROY Potential: High-Moderate

Ameer Abdullah (54th overall), running back, Detroit Lions

Ameer Abdullah could be an instant impact player for the Lions. The former Nebraska star has already earned rave reviews in training camp, and figures to step into a role similar to the one Reggie Bush occupied in Detroit over the last two years. Abdullah, a rare athlete, posted the highest SPARQ score of any rookie running back in this draft class and should make waves as a runner, pass-catcher, and possible return man right out of the gate.

With Joique Bell still in the mix, it’s unlikely that Abdullah will have as heavy a workload as some of his rookie counter-parts, but his unique talents in a potentially elite offense could more than make up for that. Look for Abdullah to make some highlight reel plays in his rookie season.

OROY Potential: Moderate

Tevin Coleman (73rd overall), running back, Atlanta Falcons

This is the sleeper pick. Coleman may have been selected in the third round, but his talent and situation have earned him a place on this list. Simply put, Atlanta was the ideal place for Coleman to start his career. His running style and skill set fit brilliantly in offensive co-ordinator Kyle Shanahan’s running back friendly, zone-blocking scheme, and he has the talent to compete for carries right out of the gate.

Questions linger about how the workload will be divided between Coleman and promising sophomore Devonta Freeman but the fact remains, if Coleman can earn a prominent role in this offense, he could put up some very big numbers.

OROY Potential: Moderate

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