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Offensive Rookie of the Year Award

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Value in Running Back for Offensive Award?

Since 2000 the Offensive Rookie award has been won by a Running Back the same number of times as a Quarterback, with each position scooping the award 9 times. This may come as a surprise with Wide Receiver being the flashier position in a pass happy league these days and Bengals receiver Ja'Marr Chase winning this award last season. However, Running Backs touch the ball more often, are given more red zone touches, and the ones that play for good teams often get more TV time running the clock down late in the game when their team is playing with a lead. Therefore we will focus our attention on the position groups with a historically high chance of winning the award.

  • It is fair to kick the tires on the QB's in the market before ruling them out here. Kenny Pickett is the only one that is favored to start one day. My arguments against Pickett at the current odds are plentiful;
  • Talent-wise, Mitchell Trubisky is an above-average backup QB, and someone that the Steelers could easily turn to if Pickett struggles early, as Miami did with Tua and veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick two seasons ago.
  • The Steeler's offensive line is one of the weaker units in the league. Ben Roethlisberger was clearly regressing in his final seasons, but he was still getting rid of the ball extremely quickly which was helping his O-Line out. If Pickett takes a bit longer to make his reads he will find himself under a lot of pressure which will hinder his playmaking ability.

The AFC North is a murderer's row, while Rookies don't always have to win games to claim this award they generally need to be seen to be improving the fortunes of an ailing franchise. The Steelers' overperformance which resulted in a playoff run last season will be very hard to repeat for Pickett in his debut year.

The only other QB with a realistic chance of significant playing time this season is Atlanta's Desmond Ridder. Atlanta are such a limited team that it's really hard to see Ridder having success. I think it's far more likely that Marcus Mariota is given the unenviable task of navigating 2022 with a receiving corps that looks to be the worst in the NFL, even with the exciting addition of Drake London via the draft.

On to the Running Backs then; Breece Hall of the Jets is the shortest price, likely due to being the first player at the position who was drafted. Two things to note about Running Back productivity; it is tied to the Offensive Line as it relies so much on blocking and also depends on overall team quality, given that teams who trail often don't get much chance to run the football. Whilst the Jets O-Line is slightly above average they are still expected to finish last in a very tough division. I also expect them to feed plenty of carries to Michael Carter, who impressed as a rookie last year in a nightmare year for the team. Therefore I can't support picking Hall at the current odds.

Kenneth Murray, who went to the Seattle Seahawks is next in line; simply put the Seahawks O-Line isn't good enough to block it up well enough for Murray to have production, and they will be playing from behind most weeks in a division containing the reigning Super Bowl champion Rams and the highly-rated 49ers.

Our Top Rookie Of The Year Pick

Step forward Buffalo Bills draftee James Cook (+1600 Fanduel), younger brother of Dalvin who has starred for the past 5 years at Running Back for the Vikings. The Bills have an average O-Line, which should improve with the signing of Rodger Saffold at Guard. More importantly, they are favorites to win the AFC, which means they should be playing in prime time TV spots more often, as well as playing with leads more often.

Cook will compete for carries with Devin Singletary, who had a late-season surge last year but has never really cemented his status as an RB1. The Bills have also talked about featuring QB Josh Allen less as a runner, as they want to protect the investment they have in their MVP candidate signal-caller.

Top Rookie Of The Year Pick

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James Cook @ +1600

Our Longshot Rookie Of The Year Pick

As a longshot, I'd look at Isaiah Spiller (+8000 Unibet) of the Chargers. Anyone who plays Fantasy Football will know two things about Chargers Running Backs; firstly Austin Ekeler is a really talented, somewhat undersized Running Back with a less than spotless injury history.

Secondly, nobody has emerged as a viable complement to Ekeler, meaning the Chargers have at times had to overuse their star man. I think the team had this in mind when they drafted Spiller as what they think will be a complementary piece. He will likely need Ekeler to miss time to win the award outright, but I think he will get goal line carries and weekly involvement early, and would definitely emerge as the lead back in the event Ekeler goes down.

Longshot Rookie Of The Year Pick

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Isaiah Spiller @ +8000