Sportsbooks haven't released 2015 NFL Rookie of the Year odds, but should soon with the draft in the rearview mirror. We won't wait for the books. Here's a list of rookies I expect to have big impact.
QBs Will Be ROY Favorites
For the first time since 2012, quarterbacks went No. 1 and No. 2 in the NFL Draft, with the Bucs taking Florida State's Jameis Winston and the Titans grabbing Oregon's Marcus Mariota. I wrote about those guys and their teams' division odds for the coming season so check those stories out. So I won't hit on them here. Certainly they are going to be the two early favorites for Offensive Rookie of the Year. A quarterback won the first three OROY awards this decade: the Rams' Sam Bradford in 2010 (now with Eagles), Panthers' Cam Newton the next year and Redskins' Robert Griffin III three years ago. It seems laughable now that RGIII won that year's award over the Colts' Andrew Luck, who is clearly the much superior quarterback. But RGIII was fantastic as a rookie. Things just haven't gone well since.
The 2013 OROY winner was Packers running back Eddie Lacy, the first tailback to win it since Minnesota's Adrian Peterson in 2007. Last season it was Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the first receiver to win it since Minnesota's Percy Harvin in 2009. He's now with Buffalo. On the defensive side, a lineman has won it each of the past two years: the Rams' Aaron Donald in 2014 and Jets' Sheldon Richardson in 2013. So not including the QBs, here are four guys I expect to have an impact from the get-go and should consider their teams as profitable NFL picks this up coming season.
Amari Cooper, Raiders
Oakland early NFL odds show they might actually be on the precipice of being good again. The Raiders had a very good draft last year in getting linebacker Khalil Mack with their first-round pick and then an apparent steal in Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr in the second round. What the Raiders lack most is a No. 1 receiver but they should have that now in Alabama's Cooper. Many scouts compare him to Jordy Nelson and the Raiders would be just fine with that. Cooper went up against future pros every Saturday playing in the SEC. He should start from Day 1 and be Carr's top target. Cooper was the Fred Biletnikoff Award winner last season with 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Raiders haven't had a 1,000-yard receiver since Randy Moss in 2005. That could change this year.
Kevin White, Bears
West Virginia's White has been compared to the Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald and is considered to have a higher ceiling than Cooper but also the possibility of being a bust. White will start from Day 1 as the Bears have traded Brandon Marshall to open a starting spot. And White won't have to worry about being guarded by the defense's top cornerback because those guys will likely be on Alshon Jeffery. Expect plenty of jump balls thrown White's way from Jay Cutler, and White has the size to go get them.
Melvin Gordon, Chargers
I'll say right now that this guy is my early Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite -- as long as San Diego doesn't trade Philip Rivers (having a good QB obviously helps open space for running backs). The Chargers moved up from No. 17 overall to No. 15 with San Francisco to get Gordon as the Bolts were afraid that Houston at No. 16 might have taken Gordon, who was second in last season's Heisman voting and won the Doak Walker Award. His 2,587 yards rushing last season at Wisconsin was the second-highest total in NCAA history, just 41 yards shy of Barry Sanders' mark set in 1988. Gordon had a crazy 40 runs for 15-plus yards in 2014. NFL.com lists his comparable as Robert Smith. He retired early after gaining 1,521 yards in 2000 with the Vikings. Gordon should lead all rookies by far in carries next season. He does need a bit of work in his pass catching.
Vic Beasley, Falcons
Is Clemson's Beasley a three-down player at outside linebacker? Probably not as he's not good against the run. But the one thing Beasley can do is rush the passer and the Falcons will have him on the field for every third down and simply let him loose. Beasley finished his career with 52.5 tackles for a loss and a school-record 33 sacks, including 12 his senior season. He won the ACC Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2014. He tore it up at the NFL Combine, tops among linebackers in the 40-yard dash (4.53 seconds), bench press reps (35), vertical jump (41"), broad jump (130"), 3-cone drill (6.91 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle (4.15 seconds). If anyone will know what to do with Beasley it's new Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, the former Seahawks defensive coordinator. NFL.com lists his comparable as Seattle's Bruce Irvin. I expect a bit more than that, although Irvin did have a solid eight sacks as a rookie in 2012.