LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The 2015 NFL draft was completed in May, and talent was not lacking.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the first overall selection in the draft and used it on Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. However, Winston is not on our list of the top five rookies who will have the largest impact on the field this season.
5. Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams, 10th overall pick
Gurley played three seasons at the University of Georgia, where he scored 36 touchdowns and rushed for 3,285 yards. However, Gurley was suspended indefinitely from the team in 2014 after a violation of NCAA rules.
Gurley played in just six games during the 2014 season, and in his first game back after his suspension, he tore his ACL and went on to miss the entire year.
In his first season with Georgia, the running back averaged 6.2 yards per carry on 222 attempts, and scored 17 rushing touchdowns.
The Rams took a chance when selecting him with the 10th overall pick, but if Gurley can come back healthy, he will be a feature back in the NFL for years to come.
He has speed, agility and elusiveness, and gives the Rams a go-to back, something they have lacked since Steven Jackson departed the team after the 2012 season.
The Rams traded for quarterback Nick Foles this off-season and drafted Gurley to go along with their impressive and young defense. Expect the Rams and Gurley to make some noise this season, as their talented defensive unit finally has a quarterback and a running back with Pro Bowl potential.
If Gurley can come off the torn ACL with no issues, he could easily rush for 1,000 yards this season.
4. Leonard Williams, New York Jets, sixth overall pick
The New York Jets did not expect Leonard Williams to fall to them at the sixth overall pick, so when he fell into their lap, it was an easy decision to draft him.
The 6-foot-5, 291-pound defensive lineman played his college football at USC, where in three seasons, he collected 21 sacks and 36.5 tackles for losses.
The behemoth lineman joins an already massive defensive line that has Muhammed Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, two former first-round picks who will be perfect mentors for Williams.
Williams was projected to go in the top three of the draft, but the Jacksonville Jaguars elected to take Florida defensive end Dante Fowler instead. Fowler sustained a season-ending injury in training camp and will miss the entire 2015-16 season.
Wililams has an NFL-ready body and has his new coach already raving about him before the season has even started.
“He’s got years beyond his age,” NY Jets Coach Todd Bowles said. “The way he comes in and walks into it, treating it professionally, he doesn’t carry himself like a young 20-year-old.”
Williams has the potential for a double-digit sack total in his first year in the NFL, as the Jets defensive is now one of the most feared in the league after bringing back cornerback Darrelle Revis and drafting Williams.
“He’s always on time. He’s always in his playbook. He’s asking more questions than the normal rookies usually ask at this point in time,” Bowles added.
3. Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers, 15th overall pick
The Wisconsin running back led the NCAA in rushing yards (2,587), and rushing touchdowns (29) in his senior season. The Chargers traded up in the draft in order to draft Gordon as they have not had a stable presence at running back since Ladainian Tomlinson left in 2009.
Ryan Mathews, Branden Oliver, Donald Brown and Danny Woodhead all manned the backfield for the Chargers in the past, but none was able to establish a consistent output.
Gordon had a record-breaking senior season at Wisconsin. He was the 2014 Big-Ten Running Back of the Year, as well as the 2014 Big-Ten Offensive Player of the Year.
On Nov. 15, Gordon broke the NCAA single-game rushing record by rushing for 408 yards against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The previous record was held the by Tomlinson, who rushed for 406 yards with the TCU Horned Frogs in 1999.
In 2014, he became just the 17th player to reach over 2,000 rushing yards in a season and finished second in the Heisman trophy voting to Marcus Mariota.
Gordon is the most explosive back in the draft and can get behind secondaries in a heartbeat. If the Chargers offensive line can block for him, he could be a legitimate contender for the Rookie of the Year award.
Gordon has the talented skills for a running back that Philip Rivers has not seen since Tomlinson’s departure and could be the catalyst that brings the Chargers back into the playoffs.
2. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans, second overall pick
Coming off a season in which he won the Heisman Trophy and lost in the NCAA Championship Game, Marcus Mariota couldn’t be more ready for the NFL.
In three seasons with the Oregon Ducks, Mariota put up ridiculous stats, totaling 105 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions.
During the 2014 season, he threw for 4,454 yards with 42 touchdowns and four interceptions. Despite losing the coach that recruited him in Chip Kelly, Mariota thrived in the fast-paced Ducks offense and led the team to the national title game against Ohio State.
Mariota also rushed for over 700 yards in each of his three seasons at Oregon, and his dual-threat ability is perhaps the most talented the NFL has seen since Michael Vick.
Mariota has the accuracy that Vick lacked, however, and won the 2014 Davey O’Brien Award for the nation’s best quarterback, as well as the Walter Camp and Maxwell Award, recognizing the best overall player in the nation.
This kid has it all and could be the new model-prototype for NFL quarterbacks going forward.
Mariota was the last first-round pick to sign, as he and the Titans had a contract dispute, but now that it’s settled, he can focus all his energy on the field. Mariota joins a Tennessee team that has struggled at the quarterback position for a long time, after their selection of Jake Locker with the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft went awry.
Locker retired this off-season due to health concerns, and Mariota will compete with and eventually beat Zach Mettenberger for the starting job in Tennessee. Look for Mariota to come out strong throwing and running the football, and to lead the Titans to a semi-successful bounce back season.
1. Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders, fourth overall pick
OK, Raiders Nation, the future has arrived.
Amari Cooper was the most talented player in the NFL draft, and the Raiders were fortunate that the first two teams in the draft needed quarterbacks or he would have been selected earlier than fourth.
Cooper had an absolutely monstrous season at the University of Alabama in 2014, racking up an NCAA-leading 124 receptions.
Cooper had 1,727 receiving yards in his third season at Alabama, while adding 16 touchdowns to his resume as well.
He showed physical dominance at the NCAA level that turned heads from all across the NFL, setting an Alabama single-game receiving record with 224 yards, two separate occasions.
He won the Biletnikoff Award in 2014 for the nation’s best wide receiver and was also a unanimous first-team All-American.
With a gunslinger like Derek Carr throwing the ball to him, Cooper should be thrust into the action immediately in Week 1. He is listed as the Raiders’ No. 1 receiver on the depth chart and already has a Hall-of-Famer raving about him.
Tim Brown was drafted by the Raiders in 1988 with the sixth overall pick and has high praise for Cooper’s ability.
“I just thought that he was that great of a not-miss-type pick. I can’t wait to see him Day 1. I think this guy is going to be great,” Brown said.
Let’s get this straight, Raiders fans, Cooper is not Darius Heyward-Bey.
He is a star waiting to happen and will be in the running for the Rookie of the Year Award. Derek Carr’s job got a lot easier when the Raiders drafted him, and if he can find Cooper in space and in the back of the end zone for lob passes, the Raiders will finally have an entertaining and successful young duo on offensive.
Cooper is 6-foot-1 with a 33-inch vertical, and 4.42 40-yard dash time. He combines power, physicality and speed at the wide receiver position and could be this year’s Odell Beckham Jr. Raiders fans should be buying this kid’s jersey now.
Jack Del Rio is entering his first season as the Raiders coach, and if he wants to keep his job for long, he should find a way to get Cooper the ball … a lot.