1. Christian McCaffrey, RB Panthers
There is nothing McCaffrey cannot do on the football field. He is an excellent between the tackles runner, using patience, vision and lateral quickness to get everything that is blocked for him. He has enough speed to get to the edge and hit the big play; plus his receiving ability is head and shoulders above any other back in the class.
McCaffrey was drafted by Carolina, which runs a lot of power offense just like he did at Stanford, making for an easy transition. He should be highly involved in the offense, playing snaps at running back and receiver and able to put up big time numbers in his rookie year.
The Panthers GM Dave Gettleman said McCaffrey is on the level of Curtis Martin when running in between the tackles. Look for McCaffrey to be a special player who does everything in Carolina; he may even add a dimension returning punts.
2. Mitchell Trubisky, QB Bears
As things stand now, Trubisky is unlikely to open the season as a starter. Yet recent history tells us quarterbacks who are drafted this high tend not to stay on the bench for very long. The Bears traded up to get the quarterback general manager Ryan Pace bet his future on and they will do everything in their power for him to succeed.
Trubisky is a good athlete, with good anticipation and accuracy. He is able to attack zone coverage and fit the ball into tight windows.
Look for him to have growing pains, but also to flash his upside his rookie year. A young quarterback’s best friend is a running game he can rely on and Trubisky has that with sophomore RB Jordan Howard. If he can lead the Bears to wins in his rookie year, he has a chance to take home Rookie of the Year.
Mitchell Trubisky accuracy map:
Passes charted for actual ball location.
Accurate = perfect
Frame = on target pic.twitter.com/qQyU3kjF8T
— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) May 4, 2017
3. OJ Howard, TE Buccaneers
The Buccaneers were patient on draft day and had a top-10 talent fall into their laps with the 19th overall pick. I have compared Howard’s upside to Gronkowski, and for good reason as he is supremely talented.
Howard goes to a loaded Buccaneers offense with a good young quarterback in Jameis Winston, who loves to target the tight end. Unlike most rookie tight ends, Howard is ready to dominate at both the point of attack as a blocker and in the receiving game. He will be able to stay on the field consistently and provide big play ability.
With Evans and Desean Jackson on the field, Howard will see match ups he can dominate physically. Look for the Bucs to take advantage of those match ups and for Howard to make his case for Rookie of the Year.
4. Joe Williams, RB 49ers
Williams is a high upside prospect with blazing speed. He consistently showed off his ability to hit the home run at Utah.
Kyle Shanahan was quoted as saying “I’m telling you right now: if we don’t get him, I’ll be sick. I will be contemplating Joe Williams all night.” Both Kyle and his father have a history of finding a young running back they love and letting him tote the rock.
Late round picks such as Alfred Morris, Steve Slaton, Mike Anderson, Orlandis Gary, Tatum Bell and Terrell Davis all thrived early on in their system. When Kyle Shanahan gets excited about a runner, it’s important to take notice. With only the oft-injured Carlos Hyde on the depth chart, Joe Williams could explode onto the scene in his rookie year.
5. Wayne Gallman, RB Giants
A favorite of both myself and Director of Scouting Kyle Crabbs, Wayne Gallman fell to the New York Giants in the 4th round. Gallman will compete for touches with Paul Perkins and the oft-injured Shane Vereen.
In my eyes, Gallman is a superior talent to Perkins and can supplant him as the main back early on in the season. His one cut ability, combined with his power and balance, will fit well in New York. He has more receiving ability than he showed at Clemson, and he will compete in all three phases of the game.
Look for Gallman to shine as the season goes on and if things break right, he may make a late push for Rookie of the Year.