Who will be the next star in football? Which new recruit to the ranks of NFL player will shock the world? Will it be an undrafted free agent or a high draft pick? Here are three rookies who are going to have the greatest impact during the first half of the 2015 season.
Amari Cooper (Wide Receiver)
The first receiver taken in the draft, Oakland expects great things from Amari Cooper. The expectations for Cooper are sky high, but can he have a standout rookie season a la Odell Beckham? His supreme talent was on full display during his time at Alabama, and his prowess is sure to translate to the NFL. Even during the preseason, cornerbacks have been wildly impressed the young man’s skills, particularly his route running. Cooper is a solid WR2 to start the season even though he has a tough Week 1 matchup against the Bengals pass defense which ranked 3rd in the league last year.
Jameis Winston (Quarterback)
The number one overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft is looking to make an even bigger name for himself as he takes the helm in Tampa Bay. Winston may have walked into the best situation possible. He gets to play in front of the same fans that cheered for him at Florida State. He also is the undisputed starter on a team praying for a lifeline. Something has to give for a team that finished fourth in a division whose winner posted a losing record. First week, Winston will match up against his draft class rival Mariota in what is sure to be an entertaining show.
Marcus Mariota (Quarterback)
The number two overall pick is looking to prove that he should have been number one. Like Winston, Mariota may seem like a godsend for the Titans simply because of the situation he walked into. He doesn’t have to play Houston (and feel the wrath of J.J. Watt) until week 8. Winston and Mariota’s matchup Sunday will beg the question: Who will be Peyton Manning and who will end up as Ryan Leaf?
Randy Gregory (Defensive End)
The Cowboys got the first-round talent in the second round due to off the field issues. Gregory has stated he wants to make the best of his situation in Dallas, and has shown promise throughout training camp. Gregory has recorded multiple sacks in pre-season games and practicing against all-pro left tackle Tyron Smith will only help him improve. Expect him to get tons of playing time with Greg Hardy suspended for the first four games.
Trae Waynes (Cornerback)
Waynes had one of the fastest 40-yard dash times at the NFL Combine with a 4.31. The new Minnesota Viking has good size and strength along with his quickness. Waynes might not be a starter now, but look for his stock to climb in terms of roster moves throughout the season.
Duke Johnson (Running Back)
The Cleveland Browns got a good deal in picking up Johnson. But, the all-purpose player has been hit with the injury bug lately. He suffered from a hamstring injury that kept him off the field. In his first preseason game, Johnson suffered a concussion. It’s hard to get a read on whether Johnson will reach his full potential, but if he performs anything like he did at The U, he is sure to have a breakout season.