NFL Rookie of the Year Predictions
Offensive and Defensive ROTY
With the Superbowl upon us, it is the perfect time to reflect on the unprecedented NFL season and evaluate which rookies should get the honors of being the Rookie of the Year.
As many know, the Rookie of the Year Award is won by two players in the NFL. One from the offensive side of the ball and one from the defensive side. Here are my candidates and ultimate winner to take home Rookie of the Year on both sides of the ball.
Offensive Rookie of the Year Candidates
Justin Herbert — Los Angeles Chargers
Although the Chargers record does not justify Herbert being on this list, his stats speak for themselves. Herbert was thrown into the starting quarterback role way earlier than expected after Tyrod Taylor suffered a collapsed lung from a botched injection from a team doctor. Herbert immediately made an impact in the Chargers offense. His leadership was evident from the moment he stepped onto the field. Herbert had the attention of his Charger teammates from the get go which doesn’t usually happen for rookie quarterbacks. Herbert finished the season throwing for 4,336 yards while completing 396/ 595 pass attempts. He threw for 31 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. He added 234 yards and 5 touchdowns on the ground.
Very impressive numbers for Herbert who was thrown into the fire unexpectedly, but rose to the occasion. He deserves to be in this conversation and should be the centerpiece of this Chargers team for many years to come.
Justin Jefferson — Minnesota Vikings
Justin Jefferson was easily the most electrifying offensive rookie this season. His swag and personality on the field was unmatched. He was not the highest ranked receiver coming out of the draft, but he will be a guy that teams look back on and kick themselves for passing up on him. Jefferson broke rookie records set by the likes of Randy Moss which should tell you all you need to know about his rookie season.
Jefferson finished his rookie season with 88 catches for an even 1,400 yards and 7 touchdowns. He did a phenomenal job filling the void at wide receiver left by Stefon Diggs who was traded to Buffalo in the offseason. Justin Jefferson is the frontrunner in my eyes to win the offensive Rookie of the Year award and his stats justify that. Jefferson will be an integral part of the Vikings offensive scheme for the foreseeable future.
Jonathan Taylor — Indianapolis Colts
An early season injury to Marlon Mack made Jonathan Taylor a prime candidate to win the offensive Rookie of the Year award. Taylor started the season out a little rocky. He had the highest expectations of any running back from the 2020 draft class, but looked hesitant when getting the ball in the beginning of the season. A bit of an injury forced Taylor to miss a couple of weeks in which the other running backs on the Colts shined bright. When Taylor got back, the Colts ran a 3 running back committee which hurt Taylor’s productivity.
In the ladder portions of the season, Taylor showed why he was so highly regarded coming out of Wisconsin. He started running through people rather than dancing with them. He took over the clear RB1 role in the offense and began his ascent up the Rookie of the Year rankings. Jonathan Taylor finished his rookie campaign rushing for 1,139 yards on 232 carries and 11 touchdowns. Taylor added 299 receiving yards and 1 receiving touchdown as well.
Had it not been for the early season injury that kept him out of the lineup, he would be a top candidate for Rookie of the Year honors. Expect Jonathan Taylor to be the bell cow back next season for the Colts.
Defensive Rookie of the Year Candidates
Chase Young — Washington Football Team
The #2 overall pick from the 2020 NFL draft was as advertised in his rookie season. Chase Young is a defensive playmaker in the purist form. He covers the football field sideline to sideline. That Washington defensive front will be a force to be reckoned with for seasons to come. It will be anchored by Chase Young of THE Ohio State University. It is a scary proposition to think that he was so dominant in just his rookie season. Imagine what he will look like 2 or 3 years down the line. Chase Young has potential to become the best defensive end in the league.
Throughout his rookie season, Chase Young amassed 44 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 12 QB hits, 4 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries and 1 touchdown. He did miss a few games due to injury, but was still a dominant force that opposing offenses had to plan for. He is the type of guy that needs to be double teamed because he can easily get into the backfield and disrupt plays. Chase Young has a very promising future ahead and is my frontrunner for defense Rookie of the Year Honors.
Patrick Queen — Baltimore Ravens
I am going to come out and say it… I had no clue Patrick Queen was a rookie until I looked it up to make this article. Patrick Queen was an absolute playmaker for the Ravens defense. That defensive unit would look a lot different without the services of Queen. He is the prototypical modern NFL linebacker. A guy that can guard slot receivers with his speed and agility, but also a guy who can fill the gaps inside and create havoc for opposing rushing attacks. He does need to fill out his body a bit more in order to take on blockers more effectively, but he should have no problem putting on mass in the NFL with their trainers and nutritionists.
Patrick Queen finished his rookie season with 106 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 10 QB hits, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recovery and 1 touchdown. Queen will have a nice offseason to put on some weight and be ready for his 2nd year in the NFL. I expect him to be a pro-bowl player next season if his development continues as it did through his rookie year.
Isaiah Simmons — Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals got a gem when they drafted Isiah Simmons out of Clemson. His versatility on the defensive side of the ball is incredible. He has the size, strength, and quickness to play any linebackers spot, but also has the speed, football IQ and toughness to play safety. Truly a multi-faceted athletic freak of nature. I would compare him to a Jamal Adams type of player, but with better size which makes him a valuable option at both safety and linebacker. You don’t see many types of NFL athletes that can play both of those positions.
Simmons finished his rookie campaign with 54 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery and 1 interception. While he did underperform stat-wise in his rookie season, the potential is there. With another season or two under his belt, Isaiah Simmons will be a top defender in the league and in the conversation for Defensive Player of the year.