Everyone knows of Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, but what about the rest of the 2015 draft class? This class has many players that could stand out from day one, although you may not have heard of them. Here are the top rookies to keep on your radar this season.
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions (Nebraska)
Taking the place of Reggie Bush is the crafty back out of Nebraska in Ameer Abdullah. Abdullah is slightly undersized but has elite quickness and can slip through defenders when it seems impossible. He has excellent strength given his size, and is one of the best pass catching running backs from the draft, if not the best. With Joique Bell being injury prone, and even starting the season injured, Abdullah should see a fair share of playing time in a loaded Detroit offense.
Bryce Petty, QB, New York Jets (Baylor)
Petty has the potential to take over the Jets’ offense this season, as quarterback issues have plagued New York for years now. The Jets finally have weapons on offense to give a chance to whoever is at quarterback this season, however I believe Petty is the most talented. Petty has the ideal build for a quarterback, plus a powerful arm, and good athleticism when he escapes the pocket. He already has plenty of weapons surrounding him with both Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall to pass to. All Petty needs is a chance and he could be one of the biggest surprises out of the draft, and he may just get a chance now with Geno’s face smashed in.
Devin Funchess, WR, Carolina Panthers (Michigan)
Devin Funchess is a monster, 6-5 receiver, who will be very dangerous for defenses considering he lines up across from another giant receiver in Kelvin Benjamin. Funchess is a perfect fit for Carolina, and will be a huge target for Cam Newton, especially in the red zone. Funchess gives the Panthers a duo of receivers that no other team has, two receivers that simply can’t be matched up with due to sheer size. Funchess will be in the starting lineup from day one, and should have an immediate impact on the league.
Hau’Oli Kikaha, OLB, New Orleans Saints (Washington)
With the absence of Junior Gallete this season for the Saints, Kikaha should have a starting role with New Orleans. Kikaha led the nation in sacks this past season at Washington, and now will have the opportunity to perform at a high level again as a part of the Saints’ front seven. With help from one of the best 3-4 defensive linemen in the NFL in Cameron Jordan, Kikaha should have a big year.
Owa Odighizuwa, DE, New York Giants (UCLA)
Now with Jason Pierre-Paul off the Giants and one finger off of his hand, Odighizuwa has an opportunity to fill in for the star pass rusher much like Kikaha mentioned above. Odighizuwa was a highly debated prospect on draft day, many teams were huge fans while others had questions. Odighizuwa is a talented young prospect with a high ceiling and a killer name, something the Giants love (see Osi Umenyiora). No other player may get quite the opportunity so early on to excel as Odighizuwa has, and I guarantee you that he will take advantage of this opportunity.
Eli Harold, OLB, San Francisco 49ers (Virginia)
Another player stepping in for a lost star is Eli Harold. Harold was an underrated prospect due to the tremendous amount of depth of pass rushers in the draft. Harold will be attempting to step into the shoes of Aldon Smith as an elite, young pass rusher for the 49ers. No one suffered more losses from last season than the 49ers did, but hopefully Harold will be a bright spot in a new era for the team.
Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks (Kansas State)
Seattle scored last season with rookie receiver Paul Richardson, however with Richardson being out for the majority of the season already, plus an already weak receiving core, Lockett could potentially play a large role in the Seahawks’ offense. He returned a kick 103 yards for a touchdown in the team’s first preseason game the other night, showing promise as a speedy playmaker… much like the Seahawks had hoped Percy Harvin would be for them. Lockett could wind up being the steal of the draft in terms of receivers.
Gabe Wright, DT, Detroit Lions (Auburn)
Last season the Lions sported the best interior pass rushers in the NFL in Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairly, however now with both players gone it will be up to rookie Gabe Wright to try to fill the gaps that Suh and Fairly left behind. He will join the veteran star, Haloti Ngata and the upcoming star, Ziggy Ansah along the defensive line that has seen quite a bit of change this offseason. Wright was the star defensive player at Auburn this past season, and if he is able to translate his leadership and abilities to the NFL then Lions’ fans should have a little less to worry about.
Josh Robinson, RB, Indianapolis Colts (Mississippi State)
Robinson was the best running back in the country outside of the Big 10 last season in college football (when Todd Gurley was hurt), however was totally overlooked in the draft. Robinson is a wrecking ball, and one of the hardest runners that you will ever watch. His brute strength is something to fathom over, as it is near impossible to take him down one on one in the open field. He should see some goal line touches this season, and possibly play a larger role if Frank Gore ends up not working for the Colts.
Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons (Indiana)
Tevin Coleman was one of the big five running backs in the Big 10 last season (Abdullah, Elliot, Gordon, Langford, and Coleman), and is coming into Atlanta where there is very little talent in the backfield. He should see a great amount of touches his rookie season, and has the potential to be the best rookie rusher this season. He is a phenomenal combination of speed and strength, and the best part is that he is incredibly durable given the amount of carries he had at Indiana. Atlanta found themselves a great young running back without having to reach for Gurley or Gordon in the first round.