We’re a month away from preseason, and two months away from the start of the NFL season. The 2016 rookie class was full of pleasant surprises – Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott – and immense disappointments. Like many of the guys on this list:
1. Jared Goff, QB, Rams
From opening the season 3rd on the depth chart to looking completely out of his element throwing 205 passes and completing just 54 percent of them, the #1 overall pick had a disastrous rookie year. He absorbed 26 sacks, looked uncomfortable in the pocket, and was picked off seven times.
Reasons for optimism: 1) Jeff Fisher is gone, and he’s been replaced by Sean McVay, who spent the last three years as offensive coordinator for the Redskins; 2) The offense literally cannot get worse, after finishing dead last in the NFL in points, yards per play, and basically every category that matters; 3) Two improvements on the offensive line, and three receivers in the draft.
2. Josh Doctson, WR, Redskins
Only played 31 snaps as a rookie due to injury, and caught two passes. But the Redskins leading receiver (Pierre Garcon) is gone, and so is the guy who led them in yards per reception (DeSean Jackson). Doctson will start, and should have something approaching 90-100 targets if he can stay healthy.
3. Shaq Lawson, DE, Bills
Started the season injured, and coming off the shoulder injury, had a pedestrian rookie year, mustering only two sacks in 10 games playing limited snaps. It’s tough being a rookie, drafted by one regime, only to see that group get bounced. But there’s reason to be optimistic for Lawson: the Bills are shifting from a 3-4 under Rex Ryan to a 4-3 under Sean McDermott.
4. Corey Coleman, WR, Browns
Injuries slowed his rookie year, which looked extremely promising after a 5-catch, 104-yard, 2-TD performance against the Ravens in Week 2. But he only caught one TD in his final eight games. Cleveland selected Coleman 15th overall; Will Fuller went six picks later, and had a far better season. You could even argue Fuller had the worse QB. Coleman should approach 100 targets this season; Swapping Terrelle Pryor for Kenny Britt helps. Cleveland starting Deshone Kizer at QB would help even more.
5. Paxton Lynch, QB, Broncos
It’s not that he was disappointing as a rookie, it’s just that he wasn’t ready. Lynch sat initially behind Trevor Siemian, but did play in three games due to injury, and didn’t exactly make the most of his time (59 percent completions, 5.9 yards per pass). The Broncos traded up to get him. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t be a huge deal; but when Dak Prescott is an MVP candidate, and he was taken in the 4th round … Lynch needs to win the starting job and deliver. It’d be nice if he had a healthy C.J. Anderson.