When you get NFL tickets, you want to see the players you know, but you also want to check out the rookies. Will they live up to the hype? Be a total bust? Starting tomorrow, we’ll get to find out which rookies will surpass expectations and make an impact on the team and which ones were a waste of a draft pick.
Here are 11 rookies from the 2014 draft class we think are going to make the most of that challenge and be a lot of fun to watch all season long.
With Tampa Bay Buccaneers tickets, you’ll see Mike Evans (Wide Receiver)
The 7th overall pick in the draft, Mike Evans ended up missing a lot of the offseason due to a hamstring injury. That might mean a slow start for the rookie, but it won’t stop him from being a key part of the offense beginning on opening day. Evans is 6-foot-5, just like Vincent Jackson, his counterpart, and also the wide receiver to which Evans is most often compared. If the Bucs can get these two in one-on-one battles, they could both be huge – and more important: simultaneous – threats.
Score San Francisco 49ers tickets to see Carlos Hyde (Running Back)
Carlos Hyde was the third overall running back chosen in the draft and will certainly split a lot of playing time with Frank Gore now that Kendall Hunter is out (torn ACL) and LaMichael James isn’t practicing (dislocated elbow). The 49ers are a two-back team with a huge emphasis on the running game and though at 31 Frank Gore is still a beast, Hyde will certainly have a lot of opportunities to make an impact. Hyde is notoriously hard to bring down, so it will be fun to watch this rookie RB try to get those extra yards after contact.
Get Cleveland Browns Tickets to catch Johnny Manziel (Quarterback)
Johnny Manziel lost out to Brian Hoyer in the quarterback competition, but he’s probably just one bad Hoyer pass away from getting the start. Still, this rookie QB who goes by the trademarked name “Johnny Football” and has raised the hopes of the Browns fans everywhere, has a lot of growing to do both on and off of the field. He was mostly mediocre in the preseason (with flashes of impressive improve skills) and has made headlines for fights, partying, and most recently: earning a $12K fine for flipping off the Redskins bench after an incomplete pass. Still, Manziel is the only freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy and the Browns need him. Expect to see him starting sooner rather than later.
With Buffalo Bills tickets, you’ll see Sammy Watkins (Wide Receiver)
If there’s one things Buffalo Bills fans need, it’s hope. Sammy Watkins may just be a rookie WR and it may still just be preseason, but nonetheless, he’s giving them exactly that. He’s made several stunning one-hand catches during training camp, even using his left hand one occasion. Of course, Watkins alone cannot cure the accuracy issues of QB EJ Manuel, but he sure can try.
Score Oakland Raiders tickets to check out Khalil Mack (Outside Linebacker)
Raider General Manager Reggie McKenzie compares Khalil Mack to Clay Matthews saying he has that same innate ability “to go sic ‘em.” Clearly, if Mack is anything like Clay Matthews, the Raiders will be elated with their first round (No. 5 overall) draft pick.
Get Carolina Panthers Tickets to see Kelvin Benjamin (Wide Receiver)
Kelvin Benjamin was called “the star” of Panthers training camp (by everyone except coach Rivera who said it was DE Frank Alexander). This 6-foot-5, 240 pound wide receiver has 35-inch arms and was one of the biggest wide receivers in the draft, ensuring he will be a huge challenge for cornerbacks to cover. With leading receiver Steve Smith gone and Benjamin showing everyone he’s a legit playmaker (his stumbling and diving 29-yard TD reception in the preseason game against Buffalo might have been awkward, but it was also effective and showed that Benjamin doesn’t quit), it’s pretty clear Benjamin is going to be one of Cam Newton’s favorite targets this year.
With St. Louis Rams tickets, you’ll see Aaron Donald (Defensive Tackle)
St. Louis’ defensive line last year was one of the strongest in the NFL, so the addition of Aaron Donald, the 13th overall pick in the draft, should make opponents very nervous. As a senior in college, Donald won basically every award a defensive player and had 28 ½ tackles for a loss and 11 sacks. Donald is definitely on the smaller side, but the Rams are hoping that will become irrelevant because of the way their defensive line is built. Only time will tell, but Donald’s size hasn’t been a problem yet and don’t count on it being one in the future.
It’s Not Just Johnny Football with the Cleveland Browns, You’ll Also See Justin Gilbert (Cornerback)
Justin Gilbert was drafted at No. 8 in the draft, 14 spots ahead of QB Johnny Manziel, and was the first defensive back taken. Gilbert has 12 career interceptions, 7 of which were last year. Gilbert is competing with Buster Skrine for the second starting cornerback job, but he hasn’t been able to make his case quite as fervently as he’d like since he was sidelined with a groin injury. His coaches in Cleveland only have good things to say about him though, and chances are good that this tall, fast, strong player is going to win the job. The good news for him? He’ll be lining up opposite Pro Bowler Joe Haden who is one of the best in the league. That means he be targeted a lot and plenty of chances to make big plays.
Get New Orleans Saints tickets, See Brandin Cooks (Wide Receiver)
Brandin Cooks has been eager to please in training camp, although cornerback Keenan Lewis might disagree after Cooks managed to beat him in practice and leave him in the dust. Small and fast, Cooks is lucky in that he has Drew Brees throwing to him and defenses that will be concentrating on covering TE Jimmy Graham. Cooks shined in the first preseason game, leading all receivers with five receptions, 55 yards, and the team’s only TD. Cooks is expected to live up to the hype, which will mean huge things for the Saints offense.
Score Tennessee Titans Tickets to see Bishop Sankey (Running Back)
Bishop Sankey was the 54th overall pick in the draft, but he was still the first running back picked (creating NFL history, probably not in the way he hoped). Still, that says more about the perceived value of the running back position than it does about Sankey, especially since Sankey is poised to be a versatile player who just might change the game for the Titans. Sankey finished his first preseason game with three catches for 38 yards, which is good news for QB Jake Locker (if he stays healthy) who can rely on him for something other than just grinding out the clock.
Don’t Miss out on Houston Texans Tickets to watch #1 Pick Jadeveon Clowney (Outside Linebacker)
No rookie has more to live up to than Jadeveon Clowney, the OLB who was picked first in this year’s NFL draft. (Well, maybe Johnny Manziel but that’s a whole other ballgame.) At the NFL combine, he posted the fastest time of any defensive lineman in the 40-yard dash (4.53 seconds), just one of many feats that has everyone talking about his incredibly athleticism. His performance in the Texans first preseason game against the Cardinals lived up to the hype, especially when he exploded into the backfield and blew up Cardinals running back Stephan Taylor for a loss. He stumbled a few times as well, but that’s to be expected for any NFL rookie who’s getting used to the game.
Featured image credit: Kevin Jones