Each NFL Team's Most Promising Building Block Entering 2018
NFL teams are built by accruing young talent and letting it blossom. They benefit from cost-controlled rookie contracts and from knowing who they can include in their future plans.
Here, we're looking at all 32 franchises and who their promising building blocks. To define these players, we made sure they were 1) rookie-contract players, 2) 25 years old or younger and 3) have a chance to start in Week 1.
These are the future superstars who teams are not only counting on in 2018, but appear to have plans for in 2022.
Arizona Cardinals: Josh Rosen, Quarterback
Despite having never played an NFL game, Josh Rosen will have a huge impact on the Arizona Cardinals' next five to 15 years. Rosen was a betting favorite as the first overall pick in the draft, but Arizona packaged picks to move up to 10th overall and make him the fourth quarterback off the board.
With zero returning passers from 2017 Cardinals, there should be optimism that Rosen can beat out veteran quarterback Sam Bradford for the starting job early on. Rosen was the 11th-ranked player in his high school class, according to 247 Sports, and later a freshman All-American.
In three years under three offensive coordinators, Rosen was able to post an AY/A of 8.0, which by NFL standards, would easily make him a top-10 passer. If he can transition to NFL football as smoothly as he did college football, he's going to be a headache in the NFC West for a decade.
Atlanta Falcons: Grady Jarrett, Defensive Tackle
Last year, Grady Jarrett posted 23 tackles at or behind the line for the Atlanta Falcons. That number ranked fourth among interior defensive linemen, behind just Cameron Heyward, Ndamukong Suh and Kawann Short, all nationally recognized talents.
While another former Clemson defensive linemen, Vic Beasley, has the bigger name because he was a first-round pick and led the NFL in sacks in 2016, Jarrett has been the defensive linemen who the Falcons have been able to hang their hat on the last few years. When it's time to give Jarrett, who is in a contract year, a new deal, his three-sack effort against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl two years ago should be his agent's top selling point.
The 2015 fifth-round pick is quietly thriving.
Baltimore Ravens: Alex Collins, Running Back
With a strong veteran presence, there aren't many young stars in Baltimore. Instead, the strength of the roster is a highly rotated front seven. If there's a young cornerstone, it's Alex Collins, who was signed last September after the Seattle Seahawks cut him.
Collins had a 6.3 yards-per-carry average on positive runs last year. The only back with more carries and a higher average on positive runs last year was Todd Gurley (6.31) of the Los Angeles Rams.
When the Ravens got a hat on a hat, Collins was one of the most talented runners last season. If he can do more as a pass-catcher than he has so far, he may develop into one of the better all-around backs in the league.
Buffalo Bills: Tre'Davious White, Cornerback
After the offseason loss of Stephon Gilmore to the rival New England Patriots in free agency and the trade of 2015 second-round pick Ronald Darby to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Buffalo Bills desperately needed Tre'Davious White, their rookie first-round pick, to hit in 2017. Luckily for them, White proved that his athleticism could immediately translate, and he quickly was one of the best cornerbacks in the league.
Along with free-agent safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, White helped completely revamp the Bills' secondary in 2017. Buffalo's defense had a defensive passing efficiency of 78.8, the fifth-best mark in the league.
Per Bleacher Report's NFL 1000 rankings, White was the 13th-best cornerback in the NFL last season, slotted between former Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman and Atlanta Falcon Desmond Trufant.
Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, Running Back
As a rookie, running back Christian McCaffrey cracked over 1,000 yards of offense, despite most of them coming as a pass-catcher. It's possible that McCaffrey will take the bulk of the carries with Jonathan Stewart, Carolina's longtime top ball-carrier, now with the New York Giants, and just C.J. Anderson pressing him for touches.
McCaffrey is used more like a top-end gadget player than a true running back at this point in his career. Inside the 10, McCaffrey recorded just four of the team's 36 carries last year. At the same time, he was the only Panther to catch more than two balls inside the 10, where he saw seven targets for four touchdowns.
He's not what you would traditionally think of as running back. Everyone will be tracking his transition to a more voluminous role.
Chicago Bears: Roquan Smith, Linebacker
Over the last three seasons, the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers both ranked in the NFL's top 10 in passing plays. The Minnesota Vikings just signed Kirk Cousins to go with receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. This is to say: The Chicago Bears are going to need to be able to stop the pass.
In the pass-heavy NFC North, one Minnesota has been able to do is use double-A-gap pressure from linebackers to influence a quarterback to throw to his hot route, just for one of those linebackers to make the tackle after bailing out from a blitz look. That can work if you have an all-world athlete like Anthony Barr or Eric Kendricks.
Chicago found its super athletic linebacker in Roquan Smith, a first-round pick out of Georgia who ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash at the combine. While linebacker may not be a valued position in today's NFL, an athletic linebacker like Smith will go a long way in a division like the NFC North.
Cincinnati Bengals: William Jackson III, Cornerback
William Jackson spent his entire rookie season in 2016 on the injured reserve list, but he quickly made up for missed time with an elite 2017 season. The first-round pick out of Houston was able to register 697 snaps, the seventh-most among Cincinnati defenders.
Per Pro Football Focus, Jackson is 42nd-ranked NFL player going into 2018. Bleacher Report's NFL 1000 puts him as the No. 11 cornerback, just one spot behind Kyle Fuller, who signed a four-year, $56 million contract with an $18 million signing bonus this offseason.
If Jackson continues to play at this level, he's due for Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. And a lot of money.
Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield, Quarterback
Any quarterback taken first overall in the draft is expected to be the face of his franchise. No matter if Baker Mayfield or Tyrod Taylor starts the 2018 season, Mayfield is the future of the team.
Mayfield broke the FBS' passing efficiency record with a 196.39 season in 2016, just to break it again a year later with a 198.90 effort in 2017. The Power Five's other top seasons ever in passing efficiency were posted by Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Jameis Winston, Cam Newton and Marcus Mariota.
Collectively, those five quarterbacks had rookie seasons with a 6.29 ANY/A, in the ballpark of what Kirk Cousins posted last year. At the same time, all other rookie passers since 2011 have combined for an ANY/A of 4.89, a number close to Brian Hoyer and Joe Flacco's 2017 seasons. That is to say, if you're as efficient as Mayfield, Wilson, Girffin, Winston, Newton or Mariota in a major college football conference, you're likely to be significantly more efficient than your peers as a rookie.
Hopes are high in Cleveland.
Dallas Cowboys: Dak Prescott, Quarterback
Running back Ezekiel Elliott may be more talented, but there is no young player in Dallas who is going to influence wins and losses more than quarterback Dak Prescott.
According to Pro Football Reference's expected points model, Dallas' rushing offense was best in the league with 47 points over expectation last year. So the run game seems solid, but when Prescott dropped from a 104.9 passer rating in 2016 to an 86.6 passer rating in 2017, Dallas went from a number one seed in the NFC to missing the playoffs completely.
But he's still just a 24-year-old passer who posted the most efficient rookie season of any passer ever. Playing under a cost-controlled rookie contract, Prescott has years to prove that he still is the player from 2016 before Dallas even thinks about moving on.
Denver Broncos: Bradley Chubb, Outside Linebacker
It is clear at this point that 2015 first-round pick Shane Ray will not starting opposite Von Miller long-term. Going into the draft, it did not seem that the Denver Broncos had a need at outside linebacker, with Miller, Ray and Shaquil Barrett on the roster. But the team used its fifth overall selection on Bradley Chubb, a 4-3 defensive end from North Carolina State, and changed the dynamics in Denver completely.
Now, it's almost impossible to think that Chubb isn't the full-time starter by 2019, with him playing at least a rotational role as a rookie. The Broncos have long searched for DeMarcus Ware's replacement across from Miller. Years later, Chubb will look to fill his shoes.
At the college level, Miller, now an All-Pro pass-rusher, posted 33 sacks and 50.5 tackles for a loss in four years at Texas A&M. Chubb had 25 sacks and 54.5 tackles for a loss at North Carolina State. At worst, he should develop into one of the best complementary pass-rushers in the league as the Broncos edge toward the portion of Miller's contract which jumps up to $25 million cap hits annually.
Detroit Lions: Kerryon Johnson, Running Back
The last Detroit Lions player to rush for 100 yards in a game was Reggie Bush on Thanksgiving of 2013. At that time, Detroit's 2018 second-round pick, Kerryon Johnson, was a junior in high school. Hopefully, Johnson is able to change the Lions' rushing woes.
While offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter has put more on quarterback Matthew Stafford's plate as a reaction to their running back and offensive line issues over the years, that is going to have to change at some point. With three top-100 picks spent on offensive linemen over the last three drafts, along with the price tags of T.J. Lang and Ricky Wagner, Detroit should be able to run the ball this year with even just a functional back.
This puts Johnson, who played in Gus Malzahn's single-wing-heavy offense at Auburn, in a good position to live up to expectations. After 11 100-yard efforts over the last two seasons, it's hard to imagine that Johnson won't be the one to supplant Bush as Detroit's most recent triple-digit rusher.
Green Bay Packers: Kenny Clark, Nose Tackle
Kenny Clark was a 2016 first-round pick, and he somehow will start the 2018 season at just 22 years old. It's simply rare for a 22-year-old to have 30-plus games under his belt, no matter his quality of play on the field.
Luckily for Green Bay, Clark is one of the best penetrating nose tackles in the league, earning 4.5 sacks last season despite predominantly taking up double-teams in the middle of the line. According to Bleacher Report's NFL1000 project, Clark was the 17th-best defensive tackle in the league.
At the deepest position in the NFL, Clark is standing out. For the Packers, receiving what should amount to six or seven years of in-prime play from a penetrating nose tackle is a massive hit on a 27th overall pick.
Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson, Quarterback
Last year, Houston's Deshaun Watson posted a 9.3 percent touchdown percentage as a passer. To put that into perspective, only 2004 Peyton Manning (9.9 percent) was able to post a better mark with at least 100 passes thrown since the merger. Carson Wentz, with 7.5 percent, was second behind Watson in 2017.
If Watson throws for three touchdowns a start, he will have some of the best stats in an NFL career. Will his numbers regress from his six-start sample in 2017? Almost certainly. Is there room for concern about the long-term health of his knee? Yes. Would Houston trade him for any non-Aaron Rodgers player in the league right now? Doubtful.
The Texans caught lightning in a bottle last year after trotting out Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage as potential answers to their issues. If Watson continues the pace that he's on, he can quickly emerge as a top AFC quarterback, something the conference has desperately needed with the aging of Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers.
Indianapolis Colts: Quenton Nelson, Guard
Quenton Nelson is football's version of Bane. Against LSU, he drove a linebacker into the dirt with more force than I can ever recall seeing. Against Georgia, he picked up a field blitz outside the right tackle as a left guard.
You can't often make a highlight reel out of an offensive lineman's career, but Nelson could be the closest that we're going to get. As a college guard drafted sixth overall, Nelson comes into the league with nearly unprecedented expectations, but there are no flaws in his game, at least ones college defenses could have diagnosed.
Nelson, rookie second-round pick Braden Smith, Ryan Kelly returning from injury, Jack Mewhort returning from injury and Anthony Castonzo will look like a completely different offensive line than what the Colts had to start in Week 17 last year. With the protection of quarterback Andrew Luck as the team's top priority, Indianapolis has embraced the value of a quality line.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Jalen Ramsey, Cornerback
In terms of trash talk, both on and off the field, and the ability to back up said trash talk, Jalen Ramsey is the closest thing we have to a Deion Sanders in today's NFL. After two All-American seasons at Florida State, Ramsey declared for the draft early, was drafted as a top-five pick and has already been named a first-team All-Pro two years into his career. I don't think he's stopped talking since he walked in the door.
According to Bleacher Report's NFL1000 project, Ramsey is already the fourth-best outside cornerback in the NFL, behind teammate A.J. Bouye, Jimmy Smith and Darius Slay. The tandem of Bouye and Ramsey—along with slotback Aaron Colvin, who signed with the Texans for $34 million this offseason—suffocated offenses for all of 2017.
If one play went differently in the AFC Championship Game, the Jacksonville Jaguars would have made the Super Bowl last year, mostly on the strength of their defense. Ramsey is a game-changer in a way that very few players ever are, much less at 23 years old.
Kansas City Chiefs: Kareem Hunt, Running Back
If you believe that Patrick Mahomes should be on this list, I won't argue. Instead, though, I chose Kareem Hunt, who actually played a significant amount as a rookie last year.
As a third-round pick out of Toledo, it's hard to claim that anyone knew that Hunt was going to lead the league in rushing yards as a rookie. For the NFL's standards, the Chiefs run a fairly option-friendly system, which is set up to spring tailbacks, quarterbacks and even tight ends at times. That certainly helped push up Hunt's numbers, but the sheer volume of 325 touches in a season cannot be understated.
With the recent addition of Sammy Watkins, to go along with deep threats in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, Kansas City now has four players who can win in space and take advantage of mismatches. The dynamic of both volume and efficiency that Hunt brings to the Chiefs backfield will stress defenses for the next three-plus years.
Los Angeles Chargers: Joey Bosa, Defensive End
Over the last two years, Joey Bosa has posted 23.0 sacks. Among 2016 draftees, only Yannick Ngakoue (20.0 sacks), Matt Judon (12.0 sacks) and Leonard Floyd (11.5 sacks) crack double digits. In terms of tackles at or behind the line over the last two years, Bosa has 37.0, Judon has 26.0, Ngakoue has 25.0 and Floyd has 20.5.
Clearly, he's head and shoulders above his peers, even though he missed the first four games of his NFL career. The Los Angeles Chargers' combination of Bosa and Melvin Ingram is one of the strongest tandems in the league, if not the strongest.
Only 11 players (Bosa, Aldon Smith, Von Miller, J.J. Watt, Clay Matthews, Shawne Merriman, Dwight Freeney, Jevon Kearse, Anthony Smith, Derrick Thomas and Reggie White) have ever posted 23 sacks or more in their first two NFL seasons. At this point, the trajectory of a Hall of Fame career isn't out of the question for the 22-year-old.
Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff, Quarterback
In 2016, rookie quarterback Jared Goff posted just 2.82 adjusted net yards per pass attempt in a 0-7 effort. After signing left tackle Andrew Whitworth and Robert Woods, along with trading for receiver Sammy Watkins and picking up new head coach Sean McVay, Goff was able to develop into a passer with over double the ANY/A as a sophomore, a virtually unprecedented phenomenon in the NFL.
The question now is if it's sustainable. If the 23-year-old Pro Bowl quarterback keeps playing at a level that helped his team go 11-4 last season, he's going to be a multi-time All-Pro. The only passers to post an ANY/A of 7.72 or more at 23 or younger since the merger have been Dan Marino (1984) and Dak Prescott (2016).
We're in fairly unknown territory, in that Goff has had one of the worst and best seasons in NFL history in back-to-back years. Is this the year he has a slump like Prescott did in 2017? Will he continue a streak of high play like Marino? The track that Goff takes in his career is worth monitoring for every NFL fan.
Miami Dolphins: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Defensive Back
Let's be real honest here, there's not a lot of good things going on with Miami. In the 2016 and 2017 drafts, the only top-100 pick who looks like a player the Dolphins cannot let hit free agency is Xavien Howard. That's not the type of track record you want with highly invested-in young players.
If you're ranking young Dolphins by upside, 2018 first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick has to be really high on the list. As a hybrid safety, Fitzpatrick often came off the edge as an extra blitzer, played in the slot and played as a single-high safety.
He was something close to college football's version of Harrison Smith. At this point, it's hard to tell exactly where Fitzpatrick will play, or if he will ever have a stationary position in the NFL, but his 24.0 pass deflections, 9.0 interceptions, 16.5 tackles for a loss and 4.0 touchdowns at Alabama speak to his versatility.
Minnesota Vikings: Danielle Hunter, Defensive End
At only 23 years old, Danielle Hunter already has 25.5 NFL sacks under his belt. All-time, that number is good for 10th in NFL history for a 23-year-old. The only names ahead of him are Shawne Merriman, Robert Quinn, Aldon Smith, Terrell Suggs, Mario Williams, Von Miller, Derrick Thomas, Jason Pierre-Paul and J.J. Watt, who have collectively made 39 Pro Bowls in their NFL careers.
Hunter's early career would suggest that he's going to start for another decade in the league, racking up Pro Bowls and All-Pro honors on the way. A contract-year player, if he hits the open market as a 24-year-old with north of 30 sacks in 2019, he could sign a deal worth around $50 million.
This makes him not only one of the more valuable Vikings but also one of the most valuable pass-rushers the sport has to offer. His teammates on the loaded Minnesota defense often overshadowed him, but as an individual he can change the makeup of a team.
New England Patriots: Isaiah Wynn, Offensive Lineman
Out of players picked in the 2016 and 2017 NFL drafts, only guard Joe Thuney has really developed as a full-time starter for the New England Patriots. If the team is going to be infused with young talent, it's likely going to have to come from the 2018 class.
The first player the team selected this year was Georgia left tackle Isaiah Wynn, who falls short of the NFL's practiced height minimum of 6'4" for bookends. There are exceptions to the rule, and Wynn, a former All-American, certainly played the part of a future NFL bookend against SEC competition, but it is unclear if he will play as a bookend or an interior player at this point.
Wynn has the talent to be one of the Patriots' starting five offensive linemen, but the role that he plays will likely hinge on the strength of who else they have as options at tackle. At the moment, those bodies are Marcus Cannon, who ended the season on injured reserve in 2017, and Trent Brown, who was traded from San Francisco during the draft. Either way, expect Wynn to start sooner rather than later, be it at left tackle or guard.
New Orleans Saints: Alvin Kamara, Running Back
Despite only carrying the ball 120 times last season, Alvin Kamara recorded 1,554 yards from scrimmage as a rookie, enough to earn him Rookie of the Year honors and a second-team All-Pro nod. Kamara is just as much of a threat in the passing game as he is as a runner, though he hasn't been a No. 1 tailback since his days in high school.
This year, he will have the chance to shoulder the load for at least a month. New Orleans' top ball-carrier, Mark Ingram, will miss the first four games of the 2018 season due to a PED suspension. This will be a make-or-break period for Kamara, as he can either take the reins completely as a David Johnson-type bell-cow back or revert back to his role as a complementary piece to a No. 1 ball-carrier.
Kamara and Christian McCaffrey, two 2017 draftees, are the faces for the new-age back in 2018. But to join the elite tier of their position, they'll have to excel in expanded roles.
New York Giants: Landon Collins, Safety
As a second-year safety, Landon Collins was named a First Team All-Pro in 2016. In his three years in the NFL, he has made two Pro Bowls and recorded 341 tackles, 28 pass deflections and eight interceptions.
He's started 47 of 48 possible games, giving the New York Giants a consistent piece on a defense that has rapidly changed over the last two seasons. Considering everything that goes with a transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense, they're fortunate to have him as a rock that can anchor the rest of the roster.
Going into the fourth year of his career as a 24-year-old, Collins is likely to be one of the most highly-paid safeties in the game by next season. New York should enjoy him on a cheap deal while it lasts.
New York Jets: Sam Darnold, Quarterback
The New York Jets traded the sixth overall pick and three second-round picks to the Indianapolis Colts for the pick that was used to select quarterback Sam Darnold. There's no question about who everyone is going to be paying attention to leading up to this season.
The former USC Trojan threw for over 7,000 yards in his two collegiate seasons, earning a Rose Bowl win as a redshirt freshman and All-Pac 12 honors as a sophomore. NFL scouts have had their eyes on him for well over a year, which was likely a deciding factor for the Jets' moving up to the third overall slot over a month before the draft.
He'll go up against Josh McCown, the incumbent starter, and Teddy Bridgewater, a free-agent signing and former first-round pick, for immediate playing time, but there is no barrier between Darnold and a long-term shot at the most important job in the Jets organization.
Oakland Raiders: Gareon Conley, Cornerback
2017 first-round pick Gareon Conley only played in two of 16 games last season, a disappointing number for a top rookie. With only 92 defensive snaps under his belt, it's difficult to make heads or tails of his progression.
Oakland's pass defense is one of the worst in the league, as it finished third-to-last in defensive passing efficiency with a 101.8 mark for the year, per TeamRankings.com. With just slot corners Rashaan Melvin and Shareece Wright, along with fourth-round pick Nick Nelson, added to the secondary, Conley has little competition pushing him for the No. 1 cornerback job, despite his relative inexperience.
They need him to play well. He was great in college, but we have no idea who he is as an NFL player because of his shin injury. We're going to learn a lot about both him and the Raiders secondary in 2018.
Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz, Quarterback
Quarterbacks separate themselves on third downs. On the money down, Carson Wentz had the second-highest completion percentage in the league in 2017, per the Washington Post. He was only behind Jimmy Garoppolo, who threw 71 fewer passes on third downs than Wentz.
The difference between Wentz and the average quarterback on third down was drastic, which made Nick Foles winning the Super Bowl when Wentz went down even more of surprise. After bouncing back from an awful rookie season, Wentz separated himself from the pack in the NFC East and proved that he's a franchise talent.
As long as he recovers well from his season-ending knee injury, he should be near the top of the MVP list again in 2018.
Pittsburgh Steelers: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Receiver
According to Football Outsiders, Antonio Brown had the highest Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement number in the NFL at 430. This should surprise no one, and neither should the fact that Marvin Jones, Keenan Allen, DeAndre Hopkins and Michael Thomas round out the top five.
What might stand out, though, is that Brown's teammate, JuJu Smith-Schuster, was ranked sixth overall in the NFL in the statistic. While he only started seven games as a rookie, Smith-Schuster turned 79 targets into 917 yards and seven touchdowns, making him one of the most efficient receivers in the league on a per-target basis.
Brown's body will likely age poorly, and he's already 29. With the 21-year-old Smith-Schuster in the chamber, the Pittsburgh Steelers now have a backup plan for when Brown's game eventually falls off. Until then, they have a great No. 2 option.
San Francisco 49ers: DeForest Buckner, Defensive Lineman
According to Football Outsiders, DeForest Buckner played 866 defensive snaps last season, good for the fifth-most among interior defensive linemen. In 2016, he played 1,005 defensive snaps, the most of any interior defensive lineman.
No team asks more of a lineman who predominantly plays between the tackles than the San Francisco 49ers have of DeForest Buckner early on in his career. He's handled it about as well as anyone could have asked, landing in the eighth spot on Bleacher Report's defensive tackle rankings for its NFL1000 project.
He's handled his transition from a 3-4 defense, which he played both at Oregon and early on in San Francisco, to a 4-3 defense, under former Seahawks and Jaguars assistant Robert Saleh, well. While his nine career sacks may not match up with his talent on film, high-production seasons are in Buckner's future.
Seattle Seahawks: Frank Clark, Defensive End
Over the last two seasons, only 16 defenders have posted at least 19 combined sacks. Among them is Frank Clark, who quietly is producing like an above-average No. 1 pass-rusher. With Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril gone in Seattle, they will have to rely more on Clark, a relative unknown nationally, to generate pressure.
Of those 19 pass-rushers, only four others (Joey Bosa, Vic Beasley, Yannick Ngakoue and Danielle Hunter) are still playing on their four-year rookie contracts. Clark is in an elite tier of both youth and production, even if he was the third pass-rusher in Seattle for the majority of his first three years in his NFL career.
The LaMarr Woodley-like athlete has a chance to make a name for himself this year, with just Dion Jordan, Rasheem Green, Marcus Smith and Barkevious Mingo as rosterable edge defenders or hybrid defenders. All eyes should be on him this season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, Quarterback
Since being drafted first overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015, Jameis Winston's passer rating has slowly crept up from 84.2 to 92.2. Between Pro Bowl receiver Mike Evans, Pro Bowl receiver DeSean Jackson, third-round receiver Chris Godwin, the recently extended tight end Cameron Brate, first-round tight end O.J. Howard and second-round running back Ronald Jones, it's clear that the team thinks that they will go as their skill players go, with Winston at the wheel.
Juxtaposed to the fairly faceless defense that the Buccaneers have fielded, Winston is clearly the brand that they want to build around. They will go where Winston goes, and they're putting the pieces around him to match that ideology.
Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota, Quarterback
Among the 24 NFL quarterbacks who have thrown as many passes as Marcus Mariota in the first three seasons of their NFL careers, Marcus Mariota ranks eighth since the merger behind just Dan Marino, Jeff Garcia, Carson Palmer, Peyton Manning, Jameis Winston, Andrew Luck and Matt Ryan. Simply put, this is a good list to make.
Mariota's career passing efficiency numbers are carried by his performance in 2015 and 2016, as he went from a 6.66 ANY/A over the first two years of his career to 5.51 last year. Naming Matt LaFleur as offensive coordinator in Tennessee should allow Mariota to get back to the top of the ranks of young passers.
As a non-play-caller, LaFleur has overseen the NFL development of the peaks of the careers of Matt Schaub, Robert Griffin III, Matt Ryan and Jared Goff in his nine years as an NFL assistant and coordinator. Now set to call plays, there could be big things in store for Mariota moving forward.
Washington Redskins: Derrius Guice, Running Back
Last year, the Washington Redskins lost an expected 74 points because of their run game, the worst mark by any team in the NFL, per Pro Football Reference. While running back Chris Thompson can contribute as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, Samaje Perine averaged just 3.4 yards per attempt and Robert Kelley average just 3.1 yards per attempt.
This is where rookie second-round pick Derrius Guice comes into play. Thompson can continue his role as a pass-catcher, while the rookie can command a bulk of the carries out of the backfield as a bell-cow-type back, which he did at LSU when healthy.
Among young players in Washington, Guice has both the most potential impact and the most likely immediate impact on the squad.
Tackle for loss totals and snap counts via Pro Football Reference unless otherwise.