The Offensive Rookie of The Year is one of the most talked-about and coveted awards in the National Football League. It is also one of the more popular future bets to make early on in training camp and before the season starts. Often times you can get yourself extremely great value on the player from the 2021 rookie class that you think will shine above the rest.
2020 OROY Aftermath
The 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year race was one for the ages, with both Justin Jefferson and Justin Herbert vying for the award. Justin Jefferson made a strong case as he smashed the rookie record for receiving yards totaling 1400 exactly on the year. He did that on 88 receptions and found the endzone 7 times. For all intents and purposes, it was one of the best rookie receiver performances the NFL has ever seen, maybe only second to Randy Moss’s rookie season.
However, the victor would be Justin Herbert. Herbert did not just have a good rookie season, he had one of the very best for a quarterback. Herbert finished the season with the rookie record of 31 total touchdowns. He also threw for 4,336 yards which is second only to Andrew Luck. So, in the end, both Justin Jefferson and Justin Herbert put up all-time great rookie seasons for their position, and the award went to the more valuable position at quarterback.
How to Approach 2021 OROY Voting
After what we saw last season, my number one piece of advice is to fade all non-QBs. Now, this is not because I think a non-quarterback can ever win the award again, Herbert had a very good season which was unfortunate for Justin Jefferson. However, I think what we did see is that as long as a QB has a very good season, even an all-time best season will not win the award at another spot.
When looking at the 2021 draft class, there are 2 locked starters in Lawrence and Wilson, 2 QBs who will probably start in Fields and Lance, and another 1st round selection who might start in Jones. With so much talent at the QB spot, there is no way that none of these guys come close to Herberts’ performance and steals the OROY award away from even a historic season from an RB, TE, or WR.
Which QB Should You Choose?
The odds on favorite early on in the offseason is to no surprise Trevor Lawrence, a generational QB prospect who draws comparisons to Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, and even John Elway. A GM famously said that they would have drafted+ Lawrence 1st overall out of High School. With that much talent, it almost does not matter who picks you, but the Jaguars’ spot is not a bad scenario.
Trevor Lawrence should have a ton of offensive weapons between DJ Chark, Marvin Jones Jr., Laviska Schenault, James Robinson, and his fellow Clemson teammate and rookie Travis Etienne. Another bonus for Lawrence is that the defense for the Jaguars is not that good. This means that there will be more pass attempts for the generational prospect.
The next favorite is the 49ers quarterback out of NDSU. Now, Lance only played one full season in college, but in that season at NDSU he threw for 28 touchdowns and 0 interceptions while leading the team to an FCS title. The 49ers traded a king’s ransom to move from 12 to 3, basically investing three first-round picks for Lance. This tells you that Kyle Shanahan thinks Lance is the missing part for this offense.
Lance will most likely not put up the craziest passing stats on a rush-first offense with an incredible defense. However, Lance has the best chance of leading his team to a playoff birth and could tear up the NFC West on the ground. If you believe in this 49ers team, I could see betting on Lance just due to the fact that the team could finish 1st in the entire NFC. A finish like that could warrant the award on its own.
Justin Fields was another quarterback that saw multiple first-round selections used to go and grab him. The Bears traded next year’s first as well as their 1st rounder in 2021 to move up with the Giants and draft Justin Fields. It was clear that the Bears needed a quarterback, and they went and got one that many feel should have gone earlier. Before Zach Wilson’s fantastic season, many projected Fields as the #2 overall selection.
Justin Fields is another player who may not put up the craziest stats due to the offensive system, but the team is good enough to get into the playoffs, which can help mightly when trying to win OROY. My biggest worry with Fields is Matt Nagy’s playcalling, as it simply has not been good in previous years, and this could cause Fields to struggle, especially early on. I think this is my least favorite out of the four wagers at the moment.
Zach Wilson was the 2nd overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. Wilson was able to raise his stock in 2020 with an unreal performance for BYU, where he simply dominated in every aspect of the game. Wilson showed off elite arm talent, scramble ability, and a deep understanding of the game. Due to that 2020 tape, the new coaching staff in New York, led by Head Coach Robert Salah and Offensive Coordinator Mike LaFleur have taken the chance on him being the future.
I absolutely love the Zach Wilson wager at +700. Not only do I believe that Zach Wilson is the only rookie quarterback comparable in talent to Trevor Lawrence, but he has the weapons around him to succeed. The left side of his offensive line may be one of the best in football with Becton and Vera-Tucker. Then, his receiving weapons include Denzel Mims, Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, Elijah Moore, and Chris Herndon. That is a ton of very very promising young talent.
The defense still has a ways to go, which means a lot of passing game scripts for the young quarterback. Which, combined with my belief in the talent of Wilson and the play-calling of Mike LaFleur, sounds like a recipe for an OROY season from the former BYU quarterback.