Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Ranking the 2024 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates: Receivers galore, two quarterbacks in top 3

C.J. Stroud got into the driver’s seat then set it to cruise control on his way to the Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2023, making himself the first quarterback to win the coveted hardware since Justin Herbert in 2020.

The year before, 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 that season. 

Let’s rank the likely Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates for the 2024 season. 

Before I begin, I felt compelled to make the proclamation that I’ve smartened up with these rankings. Only five of the last 22 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. Keon Coleman, WR, Bills

I have this theory that after the past four years being justifiably centered around Stefon Diggs, the Bills’ new offensive plan — particularly through the air — is a three-headed WR2 monster and Dalton Kincaid

And, of course, they hope and expect Coleman to be part of said WR2 trio — alongside Khalil Shakir and Curtis Samuel — that’ll disallow defenses from zeroing in on one central pass-catching figure. 

While I wasn’t high on Coleman during the pre-draft process, I can’t ignore who will be throwing him the football. Allen is as aggressive as any passer in football with otherworldly arm talent. Coleman better be ready for back-shoulder rockets in his direction, particularly in the red zone. Because of his size, athletic ability, and Allen’s brilliance, Coleman will be able to make an impact as a rookie in Buffalo. There’ll just be too many targets toward his teammates for him to garner serious Rookie of the Year hype.  

7. Ladd McConkey, WR, Chargers

McConkey enters a totally revamped Chargers receiver room, and there’s a path for him to earn 100-plus targets as a rookie. Now, that’ll be a far cry from how he spent his days at Georgia as a highly efficient, low-volume feature in what was part of a run-heavy philosophy that clearly worked tremendously for the Bulldogs. 

McConkey’s route-running capability is, vitally, two-pronged. He can win with sheer athleticism and speed alone — 39.5-inch vertical and 4.39 40-yard dash — or a fun mix of subtleties in the middle of his route to get open with consistent regularity. 

And his quarterback, Justin Herbert, is quite obviously one of the most physically talented passers in football. The Chargers have to replace the most targets (395) and percentage of targets (63%) in the NFL. The main reason McConkey isn’t much closer to one, his offensive coordinator. Greg Roman’s offenses historically finish near the bottom of the league in pass attempts [insert sad trombone here].

6. Drake Maye, QB, Patriots

Maye was my QB2 in the 2024 draft, ever so slightly behind Williams. Essentially, I was as high on him as any other draft analyst. With my love for what Maye could become, I did realize he probably needs a little time to acclimate to the NFL. In essence, I envision some growing pains early on. 

And he’ll find himself in a quarterback competition with steady journeyman Jacoby Brissett. It’d be somewhat of a surprise if Maye doesn’t win the gig right out of camp or the preseason, but crazier things have happened, and Brissett has a history with Patriots new offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt. 

Even when Maye takes over, which will probably be sooner than later, New England will be trusting two talented rookie pass-catchers and second-year pro Pop Douglas in the receiver room to aid Maye’s development. 

We’ll see freaky flashes from Maye — he demonstrated that ability time and time again in his two full seasons as North Carolina’s starter — but they won’t be frequent enough for the strapping quarterback to get a serious amount of Offensive Rookie of the Year votes. 

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5. Xavier Worthy, WR, Chiefs

Worthy enters what I’m labeling as the best scenario for a rookie receiver. He’ll be catching passes from Patrick Mahomes in Andy Reid’s offense without an established, go-to target in the wideout room. Yeah, Travis Kelce’s presence still looms large, but the future first-ballot Hall of Fame tight end does turn 35 in October. 

And in the post Tyreek Hill era in Kansas City, Reid and Mahomes have instituted an ingenious offensive plan that keeps defenses guessing by routinely spreading around the football. That is bad and also good for Worthy. It’s bad because it’ll likely put a cap on how frequently he’ll see the football. But it’s good because he’ll find himself in a variety of favorable matchups and, really, even if he only has three grabs for 115 yards and a touchdown, he will have made a sizable mark on that contest, presumably due to his record-breaking speed. 

4. Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Cardinals

Harrison Jr. is one of the most polished, NFL-ready receiver prospects we’ve all had good fortune to witness in quite some time. Feels like just about everyone agreed on that, and collective agreeance never happens in the NFL Draft industry. 

The Cardinals are sixth in “available” targets from a season ago at 217, and Harrison Jr. could eat around 125-150 of those. That’s how ready he has physically and as a route runner thanks to not only his supreme natural gifts but the amazing tutelage the Ohio State receivers get in that program in Columbus. 

I have reasonable faith in Kyler Murray. I don’t know how much Harrison can create after the catch in the NFL, though. He’s much more big and fast with impeccable route-running skill and ridiculous ball skills than a bendy, rugged, contact-balance type with dynamic cutting skills after he’s caught the football. That latter observation of his game at Ohio State is the reason he’s lower than you probably expected on these OROY rankings. 

3. Jayden Daniels, QB, Commanders

Daniels has the highlight-reel creation type of talent. Running, throwing deep, cranking the velocity on a throw that needs plenty of it through a tight window. And for as much as the Commanders are likely going to be better in 2024, they’ll still find themselves in ample situations in which Daniels can show off for everyone. They’ll need him too. 

Sure, Washington made a conscience effort to add new talent to the defense, but this unit was 31st in Aaron Schatz’s all-encompassing defensive DVOA in 2023. Daniels will find himself in plenty of high-scoring affairs as a rookie in the nation’s capital. 

And while the Commanders don’t boast a luxurious receiver room, Terry McLaurin has long been a receiving star who could never quite move into the superstar realm because of how the quarterback play held him back. His career 1.84 yards-per-route run is an incredible number given the group of passers who’ve thrown him the football since he entered the league in 2018. For perspective, any reason with a YPRR figure over 2.00 is magnificent. 

Daniels may take sacks at a higher rate than most first-round rookie passers, but he’ll also counter with effortlessly fast scampers and dropped dimes down the field. 

2. Malik Nabers, WR, Giants

Nabers can be the central reason the Giants aerial attack transforms in 2024. Can be. Doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to happen, because a receiver’s production is highly contingent upon the quarterback throwing him the football, and I don’t have a whole heck of a lot of faith in Daniel Jones. And I’m not alone there. 

But that’s exactly part of why I have Nabers ranked so highly here. His supreme YAC gifts can elevate lesser quarterbacking, turning, easy, high-percentage throws into large gains, and those plays are easily traceable to the receiver doing the heavy lifting. At LSU in 2024, Nabers registered a 33.7% forced missed tackle rate, a spectacular rate — 30 missed tackles forced on 89 receptions last season. 

Yet his game isn’t fully predicated on what he does with the ball in his hands. Nabers is a serious vertical threat. He caught 19 of 29 deep targets from Daniels in 2023 for nine touchdowns and has sub 4.40 speed. He tracks the ball like an All-Star center fielder. If the Giants suddenly become dynamic through the air, Nabers will likely be the main cause, which will coincide with serious OROY consideration. 

1. Caleb Williams, QB, Bears

Williams was the best prospect in the 2024 class. Positional value considered or not. What I found interesting during the pre-draft process was the onus on his out-of-pocket mastery seemingly took away from how stellar he is as a thrower within the structure of the play, from the friendly confines of the pocket. 

In his “down 2023, Williams still posted the fourth-highest completion rate (73.5%) among quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts with 19 touchdowns, three picks, and a hefty 9.4 yards-per-attempt average from inside the pocket. 

He has a live arm, capable of ripping rockets all over the field. His arm talent — the ability to make accurate throws from a variety of lower-body platforms — is outrageous, and has always played with close to surgical accuracy. Then you add in the playmaking talent, and you understand why Williams went first overall. 

And the skill-position talent around him has been well-documented. A receiving winner at all three levels, plus an ascending young talent at tight end down the seam. Chicago’s offensive line should be one of the best groups in the NFC too. Williams has the goods and the Bears have already built around him enough for the former Oklahoma and USC to win Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2024. 

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