- Deshaun Watson – QB, Texans
Six of the last 11 Rookie of the Year award winners have been quarterbacks. Deshaun Watson’s skillset fits the Texans’ offensive scheme perfectly and I believe he will start his rookie year from day one; beating out Tom Savage.
Watson provides the Texans with a huge upgrade from last year’s starter Brock Osweiler. Led by their defensive talent, the Texans won the AFC south last year; winning 9 games. I expect that number to improve by two games this season.
Watson’s ability to give his receiver a chance to win matches perfectly with Hopkins contested catch ability. He can throw an accurate deep ball to supplement Fuller’s ability to get behind a defense with ease. Watson also excelled targeting Hunter Renfrow and Artavis Scott in the slot. Having Braxton Miller’s lateral quickness allows him to project favorably in that role.
Watson’s ability to win games late will be taken advantage of by a Texans team primed to make the playoffs. If he is able to take them there, he has a great shot to win the Rookie of the Year award and have a Dak Prescott-like season.
- Corey Davis – WR, Titans
Corey Davis fits the exotic smash mouth system the Titans look to run. He is a physical blocker at the point of attack but he also has big play ability running routes from both the outside and in the slot.
The Titans commented at his press conference they think he can play both roles well: “He does play outside, he does play inside. I really think he can play both.” He is dominant in the open field and can turn a five yard drag route into a 60-yard touchdown.
Davis should step in and be the Titans number one option from day one, competing for targets with TE Walker, WR Matthews and fellow rookie Taylor. He has the big play ability to make highlight-reel plays that will get the national media excited and on his side.
The Titans are set up to win games now and if Davis can contribute to that he has a great chance of walking away with the award.
- Leonard Fournette – RB, Jaguars
Fournette has a good chance going into the year to win the Rookie of the Year award. This is because he is likely to see the highest volume of touches. Tom Coughlin said of the 4th overall pick: “I don’t have any question he can play all three downs. Running out of shotgun is not a concern.” If Fournette sees the field on all three downs and has 25+ touches a game, he can put up the kind of numbers that win a player the rookie of the year.
The Jaguars offensive line will be a major key in Fournette’s success as his lateral quickness and vision can be an issue at the first level. With the rebuilt defense in Jacksonville, look for the Jaguars to try and grind out games behind the talent of Fournette.
If he can play like he did in 2015 for LSU and the Jaguars can turn that into a winning season, he has as good a chance as anyone to walk away with the award.
- Joe Mixon – RB, Bengals
Mixon’s off field issues are well documented but the Bengals believed enough that he is a changed man to make him the 48th overall pick.
On the field Mixon was a first-round talent who can run between the tackles and catch the ball out of the backfield; he is also an elite open field runner. He steps into what may seem like a crowded backfield but he is a better receiver than Bernard and a better runner than Hill.
I expect him to get 20+ touches a game and be a consistent runner with game breaking plays that grab the attention of the national media.
- Mike Williams – WR, Chargers
Mike Williams is a dominant one on one receiver who went to a talented offensive team. As the secondary option, he will see a lot of single coverage where he thrives.
Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt talked about how they want to get him isolated on a side of the field and let him win in contested catch situations. If Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams stay healthy, Williams should be left in single coverage to dominate all season.
If one goes down, his target share will increase. He has a chance to have an excellent rookie season and, if the Chargers win enough games, come home with the Rookie of the Year award.