NFL Announces Finalists for 2015-16 Pepsi Rookie of the Year

Danny WebsterAnalyst IIIJanuary 9, 2016

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Austin Seferian-Jenkins (87) listens as Jameis Winston (3) talks to him on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016. The Panthers won 38-10. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)
Bob Leverone/Associated Press

The finalists for the NFL's Pepsi Rookie of the Year Award have been announced, and they are the players that were expected from the start.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, this year's No. 1 overall pick, is part of the five-man field that includes Oakland Raiders receiver Amari Cooper, St. Louis Rams running back Todd Gurley, Seattle Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett and Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Marcus Peters.

2016 Pepsi Rookie of the Year Nominees
Jameis Winston, QBTampa Bay Buccaneers
Amari Cooper, WROakland Raiders
Todd Gurley, RBSt. Louis Rams
Marcus Peters, DBKansas City Chiefs
Tyler Lockett, WRSeattle Seahawks

All five of these nominees deserve the award, each providing a big-time impact for his respective team.

Winston broke the Buccaneers' rookie records with 4,022 passing yards and 22 touchdowns while leading Tampa Bay to a four-win improvement from a year ago. He became the second rookie quarterback in history to throw for five touchdowns and no interceptions in a game, joining the late Chicago Bears quarterback Ray Buivid, who accomplished the feat in December 1937.

Cooper became the Raiders', and Derek Carr's, favorite target this year—and for years to come. He is the first Oakland receiver since Randy Moss in 2005 to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark, and he had five 100-yard games. He also was a major reason why the Raiders won seven games for the first time since 2011.

Gurley led all rookies with 1,106 rushing yards and ran for at least 125 yards on five different occasions. The Rams took a chance on him with the 10th overall pick, as he was coming off a torn ACL he suffered at Georgia. But he showed that St. Louis has a future star in the backfield.

Lockett was utilized mainly for his return abilities but soon became a lethal threat in the passing game, hauling in 664 yards and scoring six touchdowns. He was named to the Pro Bowl as a return specialist.

Peters had a special season for the surging Chiefs, tying for the league lead with eight interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. He's become a nice complement to Sean Smith in the Kansas City secondary. Peters was also selected to the Pro Bowl.

Normally an award like this would go to a quarterback, but this year it's a toss-up. It could go to any one of these five players.