With the First Round of the 2016 NFL Draft just days away, many potential First Round picks are poised to bring an immediate impact to their new team. The 2015 First Round brought some of the best young talent into the NFL and many lived up to their hype and showed that they could adapt quickly to the pace of the NFL. There were a few players that showed why they won’t have a sophomore slump as they continue to dominate in their second season.
Marcus Peters was the 18th overall pick by the Kansas City Chiefs. He finished his rookie season with eight interceptions (two taken back for touchdowns), one forced fumble, sixty tackles, and twenty-six pass defenses. Peters’ eight interceptions tied former Bengals safety Reggie Nelson for the most in the league. Peters also earned himself self a Pro Bowl spot and received the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. His success should continue because he has great ball skills and a nose for the football. He can read routes quickly and adjust himself to play the ball in the air very well. He also is surrounded by a solid defense to help him out. Peters already made a name for himself as one of the best cover corners in the NFL.
Another player that will have a great season is Todd Gurley. The Rams selected the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year with the 10th overall pick last year. Many teams were skeptical to draft Gurley because he tore his ACL in his final season at Georgia. The Rams rolled the dice and landed their franchise running back. In 2015, Gurley totaled 1,106 rushing yards, a 4.8 yards per carry average, and 10 rushing touchdowns. Coming off the injury, he was only able to play in 13 games but started 12 of them, where he averaged 85 yards rushing a game. Gurley could be compared to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Both only got to start 12 games in their rookie seasons, but came home with the Offensive Rookie of the Year award and a Pro Bowl berth. Had Gurley played the whole season according to his per-game averages, he would have finished first in rushing touchdowns and second in yards behind Adrian Peterson.
The Rams will likely draft a Quarterback in this year’s draft, which should take some pressure off of Gurley and could help the Rams be a potential contender in the next few years.
Amari Cooper was drafted by the Oakland Raiders with the fourth overall pick. In his first season with the Raiders, Cooper had 1,070 receiving yards on 72 receptions, averaging about fifteen yards a catch. Cooper also managed to pull in six touchdown catches in sixteen games. Cooper showed off his speed and ability to get open, grabbing six catches that went for forty or more yards. Cooper showed that he was the answer for Derek Carr paired along with Michael Crabtree and the young, rebuilding Raiders. The duo of Carr to Cooper will only get better as both these young players show progress in their early years in the NFL. Although Cooper replaced Brandon Marshall, he was able to find his way into the Pro Bowl as a rookie. It’s only expected that Cooper will get better and he has the talent to do it. If Carr can be a consistent quarterback for Cooper, there is no reason why he couldn’t go down in history as one of the best Raiders receivers in history.
A player that was hiding under the radar last year was Miami’s first rounder DeVante Parker. He was pretty quiet in his rookie season, but started to get more attention at the end of the season. With the loss of Wide receiver Rishard Matthews, Parker will replace him at the number two spot on the depth chart. The 6’3” Parker brings a great mix of speed, hands, and athleticism. Parker also is a a great red zone threat. Though he only managed 494 yards on 26 reception’s and 3 touchdowns on a poor Miami offense, being paired up with Jarvis Landry, Miami has a great one-two punch as young receivers. Watch for Parker to have a breakout second year.
Coming out of the draft, there were a few players that had unfortunate injuries that sidelined them for their entire rookie season. Kevin White and Dante Fowler Jr. were both picked in the top seven picks of the first round. Both players had high ratings coming out of the draft and unfortunately couldn’t show their talent. These two players are players to watch this season as they show that they can overcome major injuries and compete at a high level in only their technically their first season.
Through it all, the First Round in the draft has brought in many outstanding rookies over the years, but many have fallen off after a sophomore slump. There are plenty of other sophomores from last year’s First Round who could have huge second seasons, but look for Peters, Gurley, Cooper, and Parker to not fall prey to the “Sophomore Slump”.