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(Carlos Gonzalez/Star Tribune)
(Carlos Gonzalez/Star Tribune)

The NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Race

This NFL season has been one of the most unexpected seasons yet, and part of this would be the amount of rookies dominating the offensive side of the ball. Multiple names stand out among the pack of first-year contributors, but the following players have shined the brightest, six weeks into the season. 

WR Jordan Addison, Minnesota Vikings

With 22 catches 277 yards and 4 touchdowns, Jordan Addison has been very consistent in the Vikings productive passing offense. Averaging 46 yards per game is a solid number for a rookie, and the former USC Trojan is on pace for 61 catches for 784 yards and 11 touchdowns this year. Unfortunately, for Addison, his numbers are not quite good enough to be a top tier contender for the award, with a returning Justin Jefferson taking so many targets.

RB De’Von Achane, Miami Dolphins

De’Von Achane was on a historically impressive run for a rookie running back to start the season. Unfortunately, he landed on the IR after week 5. If not for the injury, he would be the #1 candidate for this award but with his injury, it looks less likely for him to win considering the antitipcated six-plus weeks he will miss. However, I wouldn’t put it past Achane to come back and still win the award. The odds of him doing so are extremely unlikely, but to put in perspective of how good Achane has been, his 17 game pace puts him on track for 129 carries 1,564 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. Achane is currently averaging 12.1 yards per carry, that’s a first down per every single rushing attempt he’s taken this year. That is something the league has never seen before. Now, there is no guarantee that Achane comes back from injury and plays the way he’s been playing, but if he does, don’t sleep on him winning OROY.

TE Sam Laporta, Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions traded away T.J. Hockenson at the trade deadline last season to the rival Vikings, a move that confused many as the Lions had traded one of their top weapons while steadily improving. It seems as if they had a plan all along, as while Minnesota handed Hockenson a huge contract, Detroit is getting similar production out of Sam LaPorta for significantly less money. Laporta currently has more yards and touchdowns than Hockenson, and Laporta is on pace for 920 receiving yards, which would rank in the top five for most rookie receiving yards ever for a tight end. His 10 touchdown pace would also tie Rob Gronkowski for 2nd most ever by a rookie tight end. Unfortunately for Laporta, tight end odds to win awards are slim to none, but given the stats and the performances to back it up, his name needs to be in the conversation.

RB Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons

The eighth selection in April’s draft, Bijan Robinson came into the league with very high expectations and has delivered. The former tailback from Texas is currently averaging 5.0 yards per carry, with 401 rushing yards on top of 189 receiving yards and 2 receiving touchdowns. While he hasn’t hit paydirt on the ground, Robinson’s usage sugegsts that will change soon. Robinson has shown himself early as an extremely explosive player, and while the numbers aren’t exactly in his favor at the current moment, the talent he possesses is undeniable. With Achane out for at least four weeks, Robinson’s status as the unidsputed best rookie back in the class will pull a lot of weight. If Robinson can stat-pad a little bit more, and with the highlight reel he puts out there every game, don’t be surprised if you see the highest drafted running back add some hardware

WR Puka Nacua, Los Angeles Rams

Puka Nacua was selected in the 5th round of the 2023 NFL draft, and it’s fair to say that nobody had high expectations for him. Currently, Nakua shares the league lead in receptions at 50 with Ja’Marr Chase, fourth in receiving yards with 598, and has two touchdowns to tack onto that. Some may wonder why he is not the clear cut favorite for the award, but the return of All-Pro Cooper Kupp will surely add to a decrease in Nakua’s targets and opportunities. Last week was the first time they shared the field together, and Puka was not completely fazed out of the offensive plan like some thought, but it was clear Kupp was Matthew Stafford's favorite target. As Kupp keeps getting healthier it is expected for Nacua’s target share to decrease, as they did last week. However, he’s still got a solidified role in this offense, and his production before Kupp’s return is a great starting point to build on.

QB C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans

C.J. Stroud has been the best rookie quarterback we have had in the league in the past couple of years. The best part about it? Nobody saw it coming. Now, the casual reader may wonder how the second overall pick was flying under the radar for the award. This is because Stroud was supposedly drafted into one of the worst situations in the NFL. The Houston Texans haven’t exactly been every player's dream landing spot in these past few years. However, Stroud has helped turn this team from one of the worst teams in the entire league, to contenders for the AFC south seemingly overnight. While Tank Dell and Nico Collins aren’t exactly the cream of the crop at wide receiver, it’s fair to say that Stroud has made do with what he was given, as he’s thrown 1,660 yards in six contests. The craziest part of it all is that he has only thrown one single interception in the first 5 weeks. He’s not only the only rookie to do so, but only him and Brock Purdy are the only starters with an interception. Talk about that for a start to the season. And of course, Stroud is a quarterback. Love it or hate it, the NFL is a quarterbacks league. Being the best rookie QB puts him already at high odds of winning the award, but doing it the way Stroud is puts him head and shoulders over the rest of the competition. Stroud’s sizzling start has him in great shape in the offensive rookie of the year race.

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