The 2017 NFL season begins in earnest at the start of September and teams are finalising their preparations for the new campaign.
Rookies will be determined to make an impact in their first professional action, especially the men who were selected in the early stages of the 2017 NFL Draft.
A number of talented offensive players were picked in the selection process and will be aiming to follow in the footsteps of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to shine in their first year.
Prescott edged out his Dallas Cowboys’ team-mate for the Offensive Rookie of the Year crown, due to his excellence at the quarterback position, although Elliott amassed 1,600 yards on the ground.
We’ll now breakdown three players that could emulate the Cowboys’ duo for the looming campaign.
The 22-year-old was extremely impressive during his college days for the Louisiana State University Tigers. He flashed his potential in his first season as a freshman before becoming truly dominant in his sophomore term.
Fournette rushed for 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns for the Tigers, breaking the school’s records for both rushing yards and scores. It was no surprise to see the back selected fourth overall in the 2017 Draft by the Jaguars, who had a need at the position.
The struggles of quarterback Blake Bortles will thrust Fournette into an immediate impact role with the club. The other backs on the roster have had their opportunities to stake their claim for the starting position and have been unable to succeed.
As a result, Fournette will be the primary back and will have plenty of carries to bolster his production. Jacksonville’s problems at the quarterback position may leave him exposed, although he has the talent to come through the obstacles that opposing defenses will throw at him.
Chad Henne may get the start at quarterback and may have enough ability to feed the Jaguars’ talented receivers. That will create more room for Fournette in the rushing game, although the offensive line is not the best in the NFL that Elliott was afforded last season.
Don’t expect outstanding numbers from Fournette to rival Elliott’s campaign. However, given the circumstances a 1,000-yard term might be enough to land him the award at odds of +450 with Ladbrokes. He is a downhill runner and it won’t be for a lack of effort if he fails to fire immediately.
McCaffrey had an equally dominant spell during his career in the college game. However, he played in the Pac-12 rather than the grind of the South Eastern Conference. The 21-year-old’s exploits for the Stanford Cardinals were still enough to see him selected eighth overall by the Panthers.
The running back dominated in his sophomore season both on the ground and catching the ball out of the backfield. He broke the legendary Barry Sanders’ NCAA record for all-purpose yards in the 2015 term, ending the campaign with 3,864 yards.
McCaffrey finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting behind Alabama’s Derrick Henry due to the inferior quality of the Pac-12.
However, he made an impact on the big stage by breaking another record in the 2016 Rose Bowl. He notched 368 yards on the ground and through the air to guide the Cardinals to victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes.
The 21-year-old maintained his standards in his final season and a strong pre-draft saw him shoot up boards across the NFL. The Panthers chose him with their first pick in the hope of alleviating the pressure on Cam Newton.
Unlike Fournette, McCaffrey is joining a team one season removed from a 15-1 record and a trip to the Super Bowl. Their offensive line is solid and should open up holes for him in the running game, while Newton is more than capable of supplying through the air.
He has the speed and tenacity to rack up the yards and there’s no reason why his skills should not translate to the NFL. McCaffrey’s odds of +650 with BetFred are very intriguing.
Mixon is arguably the most talented running back of out the three to emerge near the top of the 2017 Draft. However, he has concerns over his character following an assault on a woman in 2014, resulting in one-year deferred sentence, 100 hours of community service and a team suspension from the Oklahoma Sooners.
He returned to action in the 2015 campaign and enjoyed a steady season, rushing for 753 yards at an average of 6.7 yards per carry. Mixon also proved to be a threat out of the backfield, catching 28 passes for 356 yards. The running back was impressive in redzone, scoring seven touchdowns, with the talent to build on his sophomore campaign.
Trouble was not too far away in the 2016 as he was suspended for one game following an incident where he intimidated a parking attendant. Sooners head coach Bob Stoops recalled to the side and he was outstanding for the rest of the term, rushing for 1,274 yards and 10 touchdowns. The diversity of his skills allowed him again to catch the ball out of the backfield for another 538 yards and five scores.
It was not enough for some NFL teams as they removed Mixon from their draft boards. However, the Bengals have a history of providing home for troubled players and selected 48th overall. At Cincinnati he will have an opportunity to make an impact due to his talent, and could oust incumbent Jeremy Hill from the starting role.
The Bengals’ line has lost a lot of experience over the off-season and could limit his charge. They also face stout defenses in the form of the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers. His talent might overcome those factors to enjoy an award-winning term at odds of +1000 with TopBet sportsbook.
Leonard Fournette To Win Offensive Rookie Of The Year
Christian McCaffrey To Win Offensive Rookie Of The Year
Joe Mixon To Win Offensive Rookie Of The Year