NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Winner: Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers

In a rookie class filled with talent, Justin Herbert shined above the rest and has been named the 2020 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Where the MVP is traditionally a quarterback award, the offensive rookie of the year award allows for more variety in its recipient. Herbert faced this type of competition from the likes of Justin Jefferson, Chase Claypool, Jonathan Taylor, and others.

Who won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award?

Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers

This was one of the awards that most people saw coming. While Minnesota Vikings’ rookie WR Justin Jefferson made it a race near the end of the year, ultimately, Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert took home the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.

After being selected as the third quarterback in the 2020 NFL Draft, Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert finished better than everyone else. While how he got his start was unconventional, once he took the driver’s seat, he never gave it up. Due to the injury to Joe Burrow, he took complete control of the 2020 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year race.

Herbert set rookie records for total touchdowns (36), passing touchdowns (31), completions (396), multi-passing touchdown games (10), games with 300 yards passing (8), and 3-touchdown passing games (6). He was just 38 yards short of Andrew Luck’s rookie record of 4,374 yards passing.

In 15 games, Herbert completed 66.6% of his passes for 4,336 yards with 31 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions. He also added 234 yards rushing with 5 rushing touchdowns.

In winning, Herbert joins a select group of QBs who have also won this award. Though this award has been presented for a while, it was dominated by RBs and WRs. Thanks to the change in the game, quarterbacks have seen an uptick in the 2010s. Of the last 11 winners of the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award, six have been quarterbacks. This includes Herbert joining Kyler Murray as back-to-back winners.

Other 2020 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Candidates

Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota Vikings WR Justin Jefferson established himself as of the best deep threats in the NFL. Taken with the 22nd overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, Jefferson had massive shoes to fill as he stepped into the role vacated by Stefon Diggs after a trade sent him to the Buffalo Bills. You rarely see a trade work out this well for both sides. I doubt either Buffalo or the Vikings would want a do-over.

The former LSU standout finished the 2020 season with 1,400 receiving yards — a total that set rookie records in both the Super Bowl era and Vikings franchise history.

Jefferson surpassed both Anquan Boldin (1,377 yards) and Hall of Famer Randy Moss’ Vikings record (1,313 yards) with a 133-yard performance in Week 17.

The 21-year-old also tied Odell Beckham Jr.’s Super Bowl-era record of seven games with 100-plus receiving yards by a rookie. He also broke Moss’ Vikings rookie record of four games.

Jefferson led all rookies this season with 88 receptions and tied for second-most touchdowns with 7. If not for Herbert’s incredible season, Jefferson likely could have walked away with the 2020 NFL Offensive Player of the Year award. In doing so, he would have joined 1998 recipient Randy Moss in this accomplishment.

Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Taken as the Steelers’ top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, WR Chase Claypool quickly showed off his versatility. Whether it was in the deep passing game, quick routes and creating yards after the catch, or inside the 5-yard line, Claypool can do it all.

In 16 games, Claypool caught 62 of his 109 targets for 873 yards and 9 touchdowns. He also carried the ball 10 times for 16 yards and 2 more touchdowns.

Claypool’s 9 touchdowns led all rookie WRs, and he was tied for eighth in the NFL amongst all receivers. Selected off the board as the 11th WR in the draft, Claypool was fourth in yards trailing only Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, and Tee Higgins.

The big-bodied receiver will be a threat for years to come for the Steelers and should take a more prominent role in the offense if JuJu Smith-Schuster leaves in free agency.

Jonathan Taylor finished the season on fire

Indianapolis Colts RB Jonathan Taylor could quickly be one of the best RBs in the NFL if not already be there. After a slow start due to a revolving door at running back, Taylor took over the role and proved his believers correct. 

Taylor finished on a high note in his last game of the regular season. He rushed for 253 rushing yards, the ninth-most for a single game in NFL history. In the final six games of the season — he missed Week 12 as a close contact — Taylor rushed for 741 yards while averaging 6.2 yards per carry. The 41st pick in the 2020 NFL Draft ended the season third in the league in rushing yards (1,169) and seventh in rushing touchdowns (11).

Taylor worked efficiently, gaining five yards per carry and only fumbling once on 268 touches. He also added 36 receptions for 299 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown through the air. Jonathan Taylor did all of this while playing on 51.4% of the offensive snaps and seeing 50.5% of the team’s carries. If he could have had this production rate with more volume, Taylor would have been my vote for the 2020 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

UDFA James Robinson was one of the best stories of the season

Jacksonville Jaguars RB James Robinson likely won you several games or leagues for those who played in fantasy football. After the release of Leonard Fournette, the running back job for the Jaguars was up for the taking. Not only did Robinson take it, he ran with it.

Robinson started 14 games in 2020 and finished with 1,414 scrimmage yards (1,070 rushing, 344 receiving) — the most scrimmage yards by an undrafted rookie in the post-merger era.

He was the only rookie in the NFL to average more than 100 scrimmage yards per game in 2020. His 1,070 rushing yards ranked second among rookies and fifth overall. Robinson’s 1,070 rushing yards are the second-most by a rookie in franchise history, trailing only RB Fred Taylor (1,223 in 1998).

The Illinois State product scored 10 total TDs (7 rushing and 3 receiving), tied for the fourth-most among rookies in the NFL in 2020. He also led all rookie RBs this season in receptions (49) and receiving TDs (3). His 49 receptions passed RB Maurice Jones-Drew’s record (46) for most receptions by a rookie running back in Jacksonville history.

Past winners of the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award

1967 – RB Mel Farr, Detroit Lions
1968 – WR Earl McCullouch, Detroit Lions
1969 – RB Calvin Hil, Dallas Cowboys

Winners in the 70s

1970 – QB Dennis Shaw, Buffalo Bills
1971 – RB John Brockington, Green Bay Packers
1972 – RB Franco Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers
1973 – RB Chuck Foreman, Minnesota Vikings
1974 – RB Don Woods, San Diego Chargers
1975 – RB Mike Thomas, Washington Redskins
1976 – WR Sammy White, Minnesota Vikings
1977 – RB Tony Dorsett, Dallas Cowboys
1978 – RB Earl Campbell, Houston Oilers
1979 – RB Ottis Anderson, St. Louis Cardinals

Winners in the 80s

1980 – RB Billy Sims, Detroit Lions
1981 – RB George Rogers, New Orleans Saints
1982 – RB Marcus Allen, Los Angeles Raiders
1983 – RB Eric Dickerson, Los Angeles Rams
1984 – WR Louis Lipps, Pittsburgh Steelers
1985 – WR Eddie Brown, Cincinnati Bengals
1986 – RB Rueben Mayes, New Orleans Saints
1987 – RB Troy Stradford, Miami Dolphins
1988 – RB John Stephens, New England Patriots
1989 – RB Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions

Winners in the 90s

1990 – RB Emmitt Smith, Dallas Cowboys
1991 – RB Leonard Russell, New England Patriots
1992 – WR Carl Pickens, Cincinnati Bengals
1993 – RB Jerome Bettis, Los Angeles Rams
1994 – RB Marshall Faulk, Indianapolis Colts
1995 – RB Curtis Martin, New England Patriots
1996 – RB Eddie George, Houston Oilers
1997 – RB Warrick Dunn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1998 – WR Randy Moss, Minnesota Vikings
1999 – RB Edgerrin James, Indianapolis Colts

NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year winners in the new millennium

2000 – RB Mike Anderson, Denver Broncos
2001 – RB Anthony Thomas, Chicago Bears
2002 – RB Clinton Portis, Denver Broncos
2003 – WR Anquan Boldin, Arizona Cardinals
2004 – QB Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
2005 – RB Cadillac Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2006 – QB Vince Young, Tennessee Titans
2007 – RB Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
2008 – QB Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
2009 – WR Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings
2010 – QB Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
2011 – QB Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
2012 – QB Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
2013 – RB Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
2014 – WR Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants
2015 – RB Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams
2016 – QB Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
2017 – RB Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
2018 – RB Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
2019 – QB Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
2020- QB Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers

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Tommy Garrett is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the NFL and fantasy football. You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.

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