It will be a massive shock if the 2015 NFL draft is remembered more fondly than the 2014 draft, given that last year’s edition gave us Odell Beckham Jr., Sammy Watkins, Zack Martin, Mike Evans, Khalil Mack and a host of other talents.
These players made a seamless transition from college to the NFL, lighting up the league with extraordinary displays each week. This season it’s the turn of Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota to do the same.
Ones to watch
But the talent doesn’t stop there. Here are five rookies who haven’t received the level of attention afforded to Winston or Mariota but will nonetheless be household names come season’s end.
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5) Landon Collins, S, New York Giants
The Giants traded up to select Collins with the first pick of the second round. At 6’0”, 225 lbs, Collins is a safety in a linebacker’s body and will add some much-needed ferocity to the Giants’ secondary.
Dubbed “the best in-the-box safety in this draft” by Mike Mayock, Collins recorded 103 tackles and three interceptions in his final season at Alabama and covers ground quickly, running a 4.53 40-yard dash at February’s combine. To the running backs and receivers tasked with avoiding Collins’ booming tackles, good luck.
4) Bud Dupree, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
You know the kid in school who was good at every sport? Dupree was that guy. As well as being a star on the gridiron, the former University of Kentucky linebacker won a state title in basketball at Wilkinson County High School.
The Steelers will be pleased he focused on football.
Dupree is a freakishly athletic linebacker who will play an integral role in a defense which finds itself in transition after the resignations of Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor and long-time defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
He recorded the best broad jump (11’6”), second-best vertical jump (42-inches) and was third-quickest of all linebackers at the combine, and had 23.5 sacks in four seasons at UK.
There’s competition at outside linebacker in Pittsburgh but new defensive coordinator Keith Butler is bound to like that he sees in Dupree.
3) Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions
Word out of Lions’ training camp is that Abdullah has looked impressive. So impressive, in fact, that he may steal a number of snaps from veteran Joique Bell. ESPN’s Michael Rothstein reported that Abdullah “displayed bursts of speed no other running back on the Lions has.”
Nimble and decisive, Abdullah is a dynamic threat. He had seven receiving touchdowns at Nebraska and is the perfect checkdown option for when defenses swarm Matthew Stafford’s favourite targets, Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.
With Bell recovering from knee and Achilles surgery and Theo Riddick’s ability still questionable, Abdullah has every chance of making the starting berth his own.
And, as college defenses will attest, once he’s ahead rarely is Abdullah ever caught.
2) Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks
If Jimmy Graham is Russell Wilson’s reliable option, Lockett is the explosive one. The speedster runs a 4.40 40-yard dash and will provide a spark to a receiving corps not known for its swiftness.
Lockett will make his biggest impact on special teams. Twice named the Big-12 Special Teams Player of the Year, he racked up 2,684 yards and six touchdowns in kick/punt return duty at Kansas State.
The third-round pick bears a striking resemblance to former Seahawk Percy Harvin. Return specialist? Check. Under 6’0”? Check. Roughly 185 lbs? Check. Their 40-yard dash times were separated by 0.01 seconds.
Harvin wreaked more havoc in the Seahawks’ locker room than he did on the field, but Lockett is a player ready to let his performance do the talking.
1) Phillip Dorsett, WR, Indianapolis Colts
The NFL draft throws up more surprises than a Josh McDaniels offense, and one of the biggest was Dorsett’s selection by the Colts with their first pick. Despite the alarming state of the defense, Andrew Luck was gifted another weapon.
T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief. Add Dorsett’s name and you have possibly the best receiving group in the NFL. Dorsett has immense acceleration and once he reaches top speed few, if any, will catch up. In his Pro Day Dorsett ran 40 yards in 4.27 seconds.
The Colts can expect big-play production from Dorsett, who averaged 24.2 yards per reception in his final year at the University of Miami, with 10 his 36 catches leading to touchdowns.
According to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport the Colts believe they have a superstar. They’ve spent the last five years trying to find a way back to the Super Bowl and Dorsett may be the final piece of the puzzle.