The Rookie of the Year competitions are heating up as we get into the final leg of the season. This year doesn’t have a clear frontrunner for offense or defense, but the view is starting to get clearer. Here are my choices for the Finalists for each and who will win.
Offensive Rookie Of The Year
QB Mac Jones, New England Patriots
RB Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers
WR Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals
This award is generally a QB/RB award with all of the last 6 winners being a QB (Justin Herbert, Kyler Murray, and Dak Prescott) or RB (Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, and Todd Gurley) split 3 and 3. The last WR to win was Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014.
Mac Jones likely ends up being the QB of the best team of the bunch, and the Patriots have a shot to be one of the higher seeds in the AFC. In terms of efficiency, he checks the boxes. His 70.2% completion percentage is 3rd in the league, and he is the 4th rookie QB in NFL history to win 5 consecutive games and post over a 100 QB Rating. The other 4 won ROTY (Prescott, Roethlisberger, and RGIII). The issue for Jones will be numbers and the thought that his defense carries him. Is it enough to win the award?
Harris was the top RB drafted, but the Steelers offense has held back the numbers he may need to squarely win the award. 685 rushing yards at this point of the season just doesn’t quite cut it. Harris’ 49 catches for 337 receiving yards is what puts him in the top 3 as he is up over 1,000 total yards for the season and has more catches than Chase does at this point. 7 total TDs is pretty solid as well, but more are expected from the RB position. It likely takes a few big performances to get him over the top.
Chase has cooled off after an explosive start. In his first 7 games, Chase had 35 catches for 664 yards and 6 TDs. He was on pace to shatter rookie receiving records and sweep the ROTY award. His last 3 games he has cooled off a bit with 12 catches for 113 yards and 2 TDs. Compared to Beckham in his first 10 games, Chase is a step behind, so it may take a few more big games to win.
It’s close between Chase and Jones, but I expect Jones to stay consistent while Chase has a few more explosive games in him to impress.
Prediction: Ja’Marr Chase
Defensive Rookie Of The Year
Odafe Oweh, LB, Baltimore Ravens
Micah Parsons, LB, Dallas Cowboys
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Denver Broncos
The defensive award acts differently, and position is less taken into account. Over the past 6 years, a CB has won it twice with a pure LB winning it once. The other 3 times have been pass rushing DEs. Oweh and Parsons are intriguing with how they are utilized often as pass rushers, though Parsons plays some traditional LB as well. Surtain has been a starter for most of the season and pretty lockdown.
Oweh is a longshot. He had 3 sacks in his first 5 games as a situational pass rusher, but only 1 sack in the last 5. It would take a few dominant games for the Penn State first rounder to take home the award and he could easily be passed as a finalist by players like the Giant’s Azeez Ojulari or the Browns Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah if he comes back healthy.
Parsons seems the most likely, especially after racking up 5.5 sacks over the last 3 games. His usage on the defense makes him a stat machine, as he is rushing off the edge often while still playing inside enough to rack up tackle numbers. He’s only 6.5 sacks off of the rookie sack record (14.5 and Eagle Jevon Kearse) and may approach that by season’s end.
Surtain II is the classic example of a great player who is deserving of the award, but great CBs don’t get the stats to justify it. He has one interception all season and 9 passes defended all year. His 61.4 PFF grade isn’t overwhelming enough to grab the analytics side of voters either, though he has been improving throughout the year.
Prediction: Micah Parsons