In one of the closest races, with one of the most obscure finishes in NFL history, Jets wideout Garrett Wilson won Offensive Rookie of the Year over Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker in 2022 despite the Seattle ball-carrier receiving more first-place votes than the Gang Green pass-catcher.
Either way, both were the most dynamic first-year pros in football a season ago.
Ja'Marr Chase ran away with Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2021. Justin Herbert and Justin Jefferson battled for the NFL OROY in 2020, with the electric Chargers passer ultimately winning in large part because he set the NFL record for touchdown passes thrown by a rookie.
Let's rank the likely Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates for the 2023 season.
Before I begin, I felt compelled to make the proclamation that I've smartened up with these rankings. Only five of the last 21 Offensive Rookie of the Year winners were not picked in the first round of the draft. It's been six consecutive years in which the OROY was a first-round pick. Before that, Alvin Kamara and Dak Prescott -- who were selected in third and fourth rounds, respectively -- took home the trophy in back-to-back seasons (2016 and 2017). Also, neither an offensive lineman nor a tight end has ever won the award.
8. Jordan Addison, WR, Vikings
While a small, average athlete, Addison does have uncanny ability to get open at all levels of the field -- particularly underneath and at the intermediate level -- and he's rather nifty after the catch. He won the Biletnikoff as a 19-year-old in 2021 when he caught 100 passes for nearly 1,600 yards from Kenny Pickett at Pitt. In 2020, I was far, far too low on Justin Jefferson. For as much I learned my lesson on his exquisitely complete game, his superstar presence is the reason Addison is lower on the list than you probably expected.
Jefferson saw 184 targets and led the NFL in catches and receiving yards in 2022. Of course, Addison will likely lower some of Jefferson's elementary volume stats this upcoming season, but make no mistake about it -- Jefferson is the sure-fire focal point of the Kevin O'Connell/Kirk Cousins offense. Addison won't get the looks -- Wilson saw 147 targets on the Jets as a rookie -- to garner serious OROY consideration.
7. Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Lions
Gibbs is a turbo-charged rocket who accelerates like an electric car. Effortlessly. Hence why he averaged 5.6 yards per carry across nearly 400 carries in the SEC. Remember, he ran 4.36 at the combine, faster than the likes of wideouts Darnell Mooney and Chris Olave among many other recently drafted receivers. In terms of running style, he's the quintessential complement to lateral jump-cut maestro David Montgomery in Detroit.
And Gibbs lands in a tremendous rock-toting situation behind the Lions lane-paving offensive line featuring three Pro Bowlers. I fully expect Gibbs to start as the distinct backup to Montgomery then take over as the feature back by November at the latest. He'll make a little push for Offensive Rookie of the Year
6. Quentin Johnston, WR, Chargers
Everyone will be quick to point to Johnston's inability to dominate in contested-catch scenarios despite his 6-foot-2 plus, 200-pound plus frame. I don't really care about that. He's a freaky YAC weapon, precisely what the Chargers offense has needed in the early stages of the Herbert era.
Keenan Allen's been the super-crafty route runner. Mike Williams is a Ben Wallaceian rebounder on the outside. And Los Angeles has tinkered with a variety of small, super-fast vertical threats. Johnston brings A.J. Brown-type balance through contact and explosiveness after the catch. Given Herbert's presence, Johnston will be part of one of the NFL's most dangerous offenses, which will help his OROY candidacy.
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5. Zay Flowers, WR, Ravens
Baltimore will still run the football plenty with new offensive coordinator Todd Monken -- check the rushing volume for his Georgia Bulldogs teams -- but with the signing of Odell Beckham Jr. and Flowers in Round 1, Eric DeCosta and Co. are sending a clear message to the rest of the league that they've turned the page and will feature the pass game in 2023 with Lamar Jackson under a long-term deal.
While Flowers isn't special in any one area, he's high floor across the board. Beating press with feet and physicality, sharp route running, enough vertical juice to threaten defenses deep, and he plays bigger than his small size because of strong hands.
If Baltimore suddenly is consistently effective through the air, Flowers will be a big reason why and, rightfully, get plenty of the credit for the turnaround.
4. Anthony Richardson, QB, Colts
Richardson was my QB1 in the 2023 class, and. Despite those two things, I have to acknowledge the growing pains we'll likely witness from Richardson early in his NFL career. The Colts had a large, quality draft class, yet the receiver group is still underwhelming compared to the majority of the teams in the AFC. That fact will make things more of a challenge for Richardson as he's learning to master his footwork, and quickly reading complex coverages and blitz packages on the fly.
While I expect passing flashes to occur later in the season for Richardson, I have no doubt he'll drop jaws when running with the football instantly. Across 22 games at Florida, Richardson ran for 1,116 yards on 161 carries -- 6.9 yards per. And, remember, sack yards lost are subtracted from quarterbacks' rushing totals in college! He's already a unicorn with the ball in his hands.
Richardson could get some OROY votes, but the slower start will be the reason he doesn't win the award.
3. C.J. Stroud, QB, Texans
Stroud was my QB2 in the 2023 class, ever so slightly ahead of Young. I liked his natural abilities as a pure pocket passer a little more. And for as much as I'm a firm believer that your quarterback has to be a plus athlete to truly thrive in today's NFL, passing from between the confines of the tackles is still the most important skill.
Stroud will make plenty of wow throws as a rookie. There'll be some times when we all wished he was a touch more dynamic gliding away from oncoming defenders. Finally, the Texans appear to be moving in the right direction after two years of total stagnancy, yet the receiver group is far from menacing. Stroud will elevate those around him often but not frequently enough to garner major OROY consideration.
2. Bryce Young, QB, Panthers
Young is creative and ultra-poised when there's chaos around him. He's a springy athlete with awesome body control too. And he's on the Panthers team that lost D.J. Moore but added Adam Thielen and D.J. Chark in free agency and Moore-like wideout Jonathan Mingo in the second round of the draft. Don't sleep on YAC monster Laviska Shenault Jr. entering his contract year either.
The offensive line is on the rise -- I loved the fourth-round selection of wide-bodied athletic freak Chandler Zavala at guard. And the NFC South looks like the weakest division in football in 2023. While I'm concerned about Young's lack of pure speed and explosion while scrambling and average arm talent, he is actually in a prime situation for a rookie quarterback who was selected with the first overall pick. Having Frank Reich as his head coach -- along with the likes of Jim Caldwell and Josh McCown on staff -- will certainly help Young's acclimation process.
1. Bijan Robinson, RB, Falcons
I have a feeling the Falcons are hoping to run the football 600 times in 2023. Yes, you've read that correctly. No eye test required after reading.
Last year, Atlanta led football with 559 rushing attempts and was damn good on the ground, finishing as one of five teams to accomplish a rush EPA above 0.0 -- which is telling for how inefficient running is, but that's for another story. Enter Robinson, a thick, bouncy back with supreme contact balance and scat-back-like cutting capability. He's a fine pass-catcher too and runs with some juice through the second level.
Atlanta didn't pick him inside the top 10 to hand the ball to Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson 20-plus times a game. Robinson is likely to become the total center point of the offense instantly. And he has the tackle-breaking goods to be an instant star in the NFL. Given the Falcons' dedication to running the rock and Robinson's elusiveness -- he forced 104 missed tackles on 257 carries in 2022 -- he'll win the 2023 Offensive Rookie of the Year award.