Early 2021-2022 NFL Rookie of the Year Candidates

Following a 2021 NFL Draft that saw several top offensive players selected, who are the leading candidates for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award? Let’s take a look at the candidates and their odds to win the award in 2021.

NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Candidates | Quarterbacks

Unsurprisingly, a number of quarterbacks feature as potential Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates for the 2021 NFL season.

Trevor Lawrence, QB | Jacksonville Jaguars

There is no surprise that Trevor Lawrence will start as many people’s favorite candidate to win Offensive Rookie of the Year in the 2021 NFL season. Lawrence was the No. 1 overall selection in the draft and is a virtual lock to open the season as the starter.

While we do not know exactly what the Jaguars’ offense will look like under Urban Meyer, the expectation is that they will be trailing in several games this season. Last year, the Jaguars threw the seventh most passes in the league with 616. If Lawrence throws the ball over 600 times, he has a great chance to win this award.

Zach Wilson, QB | New York Jets

Zach Wilson is the only other rookie quarterback that is currently penciled in as the Week 1 starter. That alone should put Wilson above most other candidates in terms of the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

However, Wilson will be operating in an offensive system that traditionally tended towards a run-first unit in San Francisco. That could limit his opportunities to make splash plays in 2021.

Still, the Jets are expected to be behind in several games this year. With this in mind, we saw a more balanced 49ers’ offense when they struggled to win games. As the former passing game coordinator in San Francisco, Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur may be more pass-heavy with his offense.

Justin Fields, QB | Chicago Bears

The chances of Justin Fields being named as the Rookie of the Year in 2021 largely depends on when he starts. The early signs out of rookie minicamps were good, but the Bears may still decide to let Andy Dalton begin the year. If Fields starts fewer than 10 games, it could be tough for him to measure up to Lawrence and Wilson should they start every week.

Trey Lance, QB | San Francisco 49ers

The same situation is the case for Trey Lance. The expectation is that Lance will spend a good portion of this season backing up Jimmy Garoppolo. If Lance sees the field early as a rookie, he could certainly be a candidate for the award. His ability both in the running and passing games makes him an ideal candidate to win this award if he plays enough games.

Mac Jones, QB | New England Patriots

The New England Patriots have revamped their offense this past offseason, which should give a considerable boost to their passing game. Mac Jones currently sits second on the Patriots depth chart behind Cam Newton. Yet, if he does get the role as the starter, he is surrounded by additional talent compared to what we have seen in New England in recent years.

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Offensive Rookie of the Year Candidates | RBs, WRs, & TEs

With several skill position players selected early in the 2021 NFL Draft, could we see one take home the award?

Najee Harris, RB | Pittsburgh Steelers

The situation for Najee Harris could not be more perfect. The Pittsburgh Steelers have no clear competition with Harris for touches, and he has an excellent skill set for a starting back. Harris is a skilled runner who can also contribute in the passing game. He has 11 receiving touchdowns and 729 receiving yards on 70 receptions in his final two seasons at Alabama. There is no surprise he is one of the top candidates for the NFL Rookie of the Year award in 2021.

Travis Etienne, WR | Jacksonville Jaguars

While the situation is not ideal for Travis Etienne in Jacksonville, he has the traits to succeed. The presence of James Robinson will prevent Etienne from commanding a significant market share in the run game. Nevertheless, the Jaguars appear keen to use Etienne in the passing game. If he succeeds in his dual role, then he could be a potential candidate for the award.

Ja’Marr Chase, WR | Cincinnati Bengals

Being reunited with his college quarterback in Joe Burrow gives Ja’Marr Chase an advantage over other NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates in 2021. Usually, a rookie receiver needs to build chemistry with his new QB, but Chase and Burrow already have that chemistry from their time at LSU. Chase could step in and immediately receive the majority of the 100 targets vacated by A.J. Green from 2020.

Jaylen Waddle, WR | Miami Dolphins

Jaylen Waddle may have been the most explosive receiver selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. During his career at Alabama, Waddle averaged 18.9 yards per reception on over 100 catches. He finished with 1,999 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns on 106 receptions. He can also contribute on special teams, which can add to the overall image of a successful first season for Waddle.

DeVonta Smith, WR | Philadelphia Eagles

It is difficult to know what to make of the situation in Philadelphia for DeVonta Smith. We saw Jalen Reagor struggle as a rookie, and there is uncertainty over how the Eagles’ offense will shape up.

Can Smith receive enough targets in 2021 to place him among the top candidates for the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award? There is the opportunity for him to receive a number of the 146 targets that went the way of Greg Ward and Travis Fulgham last season.

Kyle Pitts, TE | Atlanta Falcons

Kyle Pitts is the only tight end in serious consideration among the candidates for the 2021 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Pitts put together a fantastic performance in his final year at Florida. Now, he joins one of the most exciting offenses in the league.

Pitts could take over Hayden Hurst’s role as the No. 1 tight end. Last season, Hurst saw 88 targets, and Austin Hooper saw 97 the year before in Atlanta. The biggest question mark is whether Pitts can wrestle enough of those targets away from Hurst to place himself in contention.

NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Odds

The following odds for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates are from DraftKings and are correct as of May 28 at 5 AM ET.

Quarterbacks

Trevor Lawrence +300
Justin Fields +600
Trey Lance +600
Zach Wilson +700
Mac Jones +1000

Running Backs

Najee Harris +800
Travis Etienne +2000
Javonte Williams +2000
Trey Sermon +2500
Michael Carter +3300

Wide Receivers

Ja’Marr Chase +1100
DeVonta Smith +1400
Jaylen Waddle +1600
Rashod Bateman +3300
Kadarius Toney +3300
Elijah Moore +4000
Terrace Marshall Jr. +5000
Rondale Moore +6600

Tight Ends

Kyle Pitts +800

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Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN.

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