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Rookie Watch: 15 First-Year NFL Players You NEED To See

They shined in college, impressing us with consistency and a competitive edge, all while leading their teams to Bowl Games and National Championships. Their top performances in their college football career have now made the hopes high for their NFL career and we cannot wait to see how these teams make use of these strong players. Some of these rookies may be the answer for some teams, providing them with a way to fill a void that has affected their success for a long time. Some of these rookies may be additions to an already competitive and strong team, helping them progress farther this season. And some of these rookies may disappoint, leading fans to question why they were even drafted in the first place, despite their college success.

It is always interesting and exciting to watch how rookies adapt to the NFL because for some, it takes a season or two to find their mojo while others produce exhilarating plays and a strong first season, that leave a long-lasting impression (think Russell Wilson). For these top 15 rookies, everything is up in the air at this point and I'm sure coaches, teammates, and fans everywhere are hoping for an igniting first year.

15 Robert Nkemdiche, DT (Mississippi) - Arizona Cardinals

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

He didn't play very consistently in college, but this rookie has numerous physical attributes that make his NFL career look promising. His production, or lack of, has raised concern but there is some faith in his physical build, his focus, and determination. You take that, with the fact that he was drafted by one of the most competitive teams in the league, and it is hard to think that his rookie year will be anything but entertaining. With Bruce Arians and the Arizona Cardinals behind him, Nkemdiche is being given a solid foundation in which he has knowledgeable and superb mentors to help guide him through his first year in the league. It will be interesting to see how Nkemdiche benefits from this, and how it helps him succeed in the NFL this year, which is why he is one of the top rookies to watch this season.

14 William Jackson, CB (Houston) - Cincinnati Bengals

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

His height and length make William Jackson an appealing cornerback. He is able to adapt to different routes very well and paired with his focus and speed, he is a competitive playmaker. This Bengals team saw quite a bit success last season and it will be interesting to see how nicely Jackson fits into this equation in his rookie season. Although he is built like an appealing cornerback, his strength has raised some concern, with the worry that bigger NFL players will be able to knock him around. Jackson was a very productive player in his college football career, and the NFL may give him the edge needed to become even more competitive and more aggressive in his plays. If Jackson uses the next couple of years to improve, work on his skill, speed, and power he could be a viable and strong starter for the Bengals.

13 Ronnie Stanley, OT (Notre Dame) - Baltimore Ravens

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Ronnie Stanley proved in college that he was a dependable, intelligent, and focused player. Throughout his career at Notre Dame, we saw Stanley grow and mature into a calm, poised football player, who manages to never panic and who can play quickly and adapt well. Although Stanley will need to work on his footwork technique and balance, Stanley is determined and will be ready to enter his rookie year with energy and focus, prepared to protect the quarterback for this Baltimore team. The intelligence, hard working and durable characteristics that make up Ronnie Stanley will be fun to watch this season and for seasons to come. It will be intriguing to see how he grows with the Ravens and this is the type of player they will be able to appreciate throughout his NFL career.

12 Devontae Booker, RB (Utah) - Denver Broncos

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Devontae Booker was one of the best running backs in the 2016 NFL Draft. In college he proved he had speed, stability, and consistency, helping Utah achieve many victories; it is actually slightly surprising that he went in the fourth round and not sooner. Booker has the potential to be a legitimate threat for the Denver Broncos, and given his determination, it wouldn't surprise me if this rookie had a killer year and adapted well to his new team right off the bat. What is concerning about Booker is his size and the fact that he does not reach top-speed as a running back. With this being said though, he is a patient runner, and with his determination, he manages to find the perfect openings for long lasting runs and change-making plays. It will be fun to watch how he plays with the Broncos this year and the developments he manages to make this season and for seasons to come. It wouldn't surprise me if he is even more competitive in his second year, let alone his third, fourth, fifth, and so on.

11 Laquon Treadwell, WR (Mississippi) - Minnesota Vikings

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Laquon Treadwell has true potential to make an impact for this improving Minnesota Vikings team. Treadwell is a smart receiver and throughout his college career, we saw him gain confidence, giving him more of a competitive edge and giving Mississippi more change-making plays. Treadwell shows solid body control with good footwork and technique. This is something the Vikings can strongly benefit from, even with Stefon Diggs. The Vikings are an improving football team, with an ambitious quarterback and watching how Treadwell practices and plays in his rookie season will give fans and viewers a nice sneak peek at just what this player is made of and how he will be able to make an impact for this team for years come. Treadwell is a player, that with hard work and determination, will be able to grow nicely as a Minnesota Viking.

10 Derrick Henry, RB (Alabama)  - Tennessee Titans

Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

The Tennessee Titans did a great job this offseason, picking up and drafting key players that will be difference makers for this offense and who will work well with Marcus Mariota. Derrick Henry is one of these players and Jon Robinson and Mike Mularkey are on their way to building a strong and physical football team. With the addition of DeMarco Murray, this Heisman winner may not see an abundant amount of action, but he will receive enough to leave a lasting impression on fans this season. It is hard to look past Henry's collegiate success, one that included the Heisman Trophy, the Doak Walker, Maxwell, and Walter Camp Player of the Year Awards as well as a National Championship -- all in his final year with Alabama! With that being said, he will have to work on his tackle breaking and passing game, as it is a bit ineffective, and his rookie year may make that substantially clear. This year will be a good sneak peek at everything Henry can do for this offense though, all while adapting to his new team and strengthening his skills that the Titans will appreciate for years to come.

9 Michael Thomas, WR (Ohio State) - New Orleans Saints

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Pairing Michael Thomas with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints is sure to make for some entertainment. Thomas is built like a starting wide receiver, and he proved he had the skill in his final two years with the Buckeyes. Besides some struggle with his footwork, Thomas managed to be the leading receiver for the Buckeyes in 2014 when they went to the National Championship, and he came back and proved the exact same thing in the 2015 season. It is easy to envision just how much fun Drew Brees can have with a player like this and just how useful Thomas could be for this Saints football team. The pairing of this veteran quarterback and rookie wide receiver will make for some compelling and enjoyable football this season as the veteran quarterback will make this rookie receiver look like a star wide-out sooner rather than later.

8 Carson Wentz, QB (North Dakota State) - Philadelphia Eagles

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

There was plenty of hype around Carson Wentz during the Combine and before the draft. The hopes are high for this rookie quarterback and if anyone needs it, it's the Philadelphia Eagles. This isn't to say that Wentz will be the answer to all of their issues but if he can give Philadelphia back their competitive edge, that is a step in the right direction. It will be interesting to see how Wentz adapts to his new team, one who went through significant changes this offseason. Wentz has already proved he can make NFL throws and it is obvious he is built like an NFL quarterback, with accuracy and great athleticism. This isn't to say that his rookie year will be a stellar one as he may need this time to improve his footwork and consistency on the field. How he manages to grow and improve with this team will be the true magic. During his college career, it was clear that he was the leader of his team, with perseverance, a strong work ethic, and intelligence. Hoping this will continue into his NFL career, he has the opportunity to become the leader of the Eagles, hopefully leading to more successes in their future.

7 Joey Bosa, DE (Ohio State) - San Diego Chargers

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

What a great pick for the San Diego Chargers. Joey Bosa has the potential to become such a viable threat for this defense, something the Chargers could certainly benefit from and would appreciate for years to come. He has significant growth potential, and watching how he does in his rookie season, as well as how he grows with this Chargers team will be an intriguing process to witness. Bosa is built like an NFL player, with his frame, arm extension, and confident attitude. His hand usage and ability is a great attribute to this rookie, and although there are flaws he possesses the traits of a good draft pick. His Junior year with the Ohio State Buckeyes was not as impressive as his Sophomore year but he still managed to be named the Defensive Lineman of the Year because of his skill and strength combination.

6 Jalen Ramsey, CB (Florida State) - Jacksonville Jaguars

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Jalen Ramsey was perhaps the best cornerback available in the 2016 NFL Draft, which is great news for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are hoping to significantly improve their defense. Ramsey is a dominant player, and we have seen that throughout his entire college football career. He started at cornerback his Freshman year at Florida State and continued to turn heads and impress people throughout his time there. Ramsey's athletic ability is something for the Jaguars to be hopeful and grateful about, he can adapt and redirect well, with great awareness and speed. If Ramsey can work on his footwork and patience, he has the opportunity to become a serious threat amongst cornerbacks in the NFL. If he can adapt well with the Jaguars, and grow with them as a team, then Ramsey will help fill a void they desperately need, as he will play a key role improving defense.

5 DeForest Buckner, DE (Oregon) - San Francisco 49ers

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

DeForest Bucker is built like a defensive power machine. The amount of growth he underwent in his final two years with the Oregon Ducks paid off and made him a much better player going into the draft. He is built like and NFL player, at 6'7 and 291 pounds, but that doesn't interfere with his quick speed. In fact, Bucker's size paired with his speed and strength makes him a dominant and powerful player. Bucker possesses versatility and his dynamic style was so beneficial to the Oregon Ducks that it will be just beneficial for the San Francisco 49ers. It will be interesting to watch how Buckner adapts to the NFL, even playing for Chip Kelly an reuniting with Arik Armstead who also played at Oregon. More importantly, it will be fascinating and entertaining to see just how much stronger Bucker is as his NFL career continues and as his skill improves.

4 Leonard Floyd, LB (Georgia) - Chicago Bears

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

What is most riveting about this pick is how Leonard Floyd's skill will work well with the Chicago Bears, but also how he manages to improve during his rookie year and in the future. There has been concern with Floyd's thin build and how that will hold up against bigger and stronger NFL players. With that being said, Floyd has a great combination of athleticism and range. His speed, which allows him to put heat on the quarterback so efficiently, will be beneficial to the Bears, especially if they work hard at helping him improve his skill, despite his thin frame. Leonard Floyd had an impressive college football career, earning the Defensive MVP for the Georgia Bulldogs in 2014 and leading in sacks for three straight years. It will interesting to see how Floyd adjusts to life in the NFL.

3 Myles Jack, LB (UCLA) - Jacksonville Jaguars

Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Myles Jack is built like a running back, which raises some concern being that he plays at offensive linebacker. This isn't necessarily something to use against him though because this rookie has determination, focus, speed, and a sense of aggression to keep going, play after play to get what his team needs. Jack is a dominant player with great energy and athleticism, something the Jacksonville Jaguars will be able to benefit from significantly. What will raise some questions will be this rookie's health and how well he bounces back from knee surgery. If all goes well in the health department, Myles Jack has the potential to be a threat amongst the Jaguars and the NFL pretty early on in his career. His athleticism, skill, and competitive nature will be entertaining to watch.

2 Jared Goff, QB (California) - Los Angeles Rams

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

All eyes will be on Jared Goff this season, especially considering the situation. First round draft pick, for a team who hasn't been the best with quarterbacks in the last few years, and who also just experienced a history-making move back to Los Angeles. Seeing how Goff performs in his rookie year will be interesting, especially considering that this draft class was less than dominant in the quarterback category. There is hope though, that Goff can fill the quarterback void that the Rams need, as well as give them a competitive edge they would benefit from. Goff is a mobile quarterback, who has a good arm that is able to throw deep balls and solid footwork. We saw him improve quite nicely during his time at Califronia, and because of these improvements, he is a more poised and confident quarterback. We will have to wait to see Goff in action as he is not slotted to start. However, Goff is bound for some playing time this season and when he does take to the field, rest assured that all eyes will be on Goff.

1 Ezekiel Elliott, RB (Ohio State) - Dallas Cowboys

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Ezekiel Elliott is a prime example of an elite, entertaining, and talented football player. In college he proved that he was not only a great athlete, but that his decisiveness, instinct, and adaptability, made him an even better player. His physique is exactly what a running back should be and he has this sense of determination and focus that helps him make significant plays. This can also be a downfall though, because since he does have this determination and focus, he has this sense of moving forward which can lead to certain collisions and hits, ones that he is too willing to take. While Elliott does have some maturing to do, he should thrive his rookie year and for years to come in his NFL career, especially as his improves his skill. Elliott's athleticism will energize this Cowboy's offense, giving them such a competitive edge and producing some entertaining football. There is reason to be excited for a running back in Dallas again and that reason is Ezekiel Elliott.

 

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Rookie Watch: 15 First-Year NFL Players You NEED To See