Posted on May 24, 2017, by Travis Pulver
The NFL is a star-fueled league, and as much as fans love and adore the current crop of superstars, they are always looking for new ones. Now that the 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone, fans know who the candidates are, but now the question is who will step up and who will not.
It’s impossible to know for sure who will do well. But the NFL off-season is all about speculation. So, let’s speculate on the potential candidates for offensive rookie of the year.
Last year it was won by a quarterback, but historically, the award has favored running backs. This year there are plenty of running backs that will vie for the year-end honor.
Leonard Fournette is considered the early front-runner with 7/2 odds followed by Christian McCaffrey (5/1), Dalvin Cook (8/1), and Joe Mixon (12/1) (SI). With the college careers each had, it is easy to see why they would be the favored running backs. But each has a lot of factors working against them.
Fournette is playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Defenses are going to do whatever it takes to stop him and force Blake Bortles to win the game. Now if Fournette can break through defenses as he did in college then he will win. But he is not going to see a single defense like he did in college.
McCaffrey stands to have a good shot if the Carolina Panthers use him as Stanford did. If he can impact the game as a running back, receiver, kick returner, and punt returner as he did in college he’ll win. But will the Panthers actually put the ball in someone’s hands other than Cam Newton that much? Doubtful.
Minnesota was a running back away from relevance last season. But if the offensive line has health issues like it did last season, it is hard to see Cook making a big enough impact. Besides, with Latavius Murray also in the lineup, will he be able to get enough carries?
Joe Mixon was a beast in college and has an insane combination of speed and size that could prove to be deadly for the Bengals next season. But the Bengals like to use the running back by committee approach. Will he get enough touches?
A couple of wide receivers have been given decent odds, Tennessee’s Corey Davis (8/1) and San Diego’s Mike Williams (12/1). If Davis and Marcus Mariota can get on the same page early and often, he may have a shot. But many will want to give the credit to Mariota over him.
Williams will play in the kind of offense a rookie wide receiver needs to have a shot and with a great quarterback (Phillip Rivers). But there is already talk about him falling behind during OTAs due to an injury.
That leaves a trio of quarterbacks among the favorites: Houston’s Deshaun Watson (6/1), Cleveland’s DeShone Kizer (12/1), and Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky (14/1). All three are going to get a shot at the starting job, but are not guaranteed to get it. Of the three, the most likely candidate to start the season is Watson. Even if the other two start, they are on really bad teams which will make it hard for them to play well enough to be worthy.
If he does and can connect with DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller early and often, he could have a great shot at winning the award. He’ll at least be in the conversation. But two running backs are in ideal situations that could lead to them jumping to the head of the pack—Houston’s D’onta Foreman and Washington’s Samaje Perine.
Foreman will compete for the No. 2 spots behind Lamar Miller. But if he gets in better football shape like Bill O’Brien wants him to, and can run like he did at Texas, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him take over the No. 1 role. If he does, he could become a good candidate for OROY.
As far as situations go, Perine is in a great one to have an award-worthy impact as a rookie. Defenses are going to key on the passing game and make the Redskins win with the running game. Robert Kelley was a surprise last season, and there is no guarantee “Fat Rob” will be able to take up where he left off—which could mean Perine getting a shot sooner rather than later.
Even if Kelley does play well, the Redskins will look for another guy to contribute in the running game. Perine may not have the speed that his former Oklahoma teammate, Mixon, does, but he is a tough, strong, physical runner that will be hard to bring down. He may not add a different dimension than Kelley, but he’ll allow Washington to keep pounding on opponents.
Should Perine find the magic that worked in Oklahoma with the Redskins, it would not be shocking to see him be worthy of OROY honors at the end of the season.