Micah Parsons has made life easier for NFL award voters. The Cowboys linebacker is the runaway pick to be named Defensive Rookie of the Year. He is a big favorite that FanDuel bookmaker He doesn’t even have a chance of him winning the award, and he’s only ranked second in overall Defensive Player of the Year odds.
The same cannot be said for the race for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Throughout the season, two former first-round picks have battled to win the honors. Mac Jones was named a starting quarterback in New England to start the year and has helped the team return to the playoffs in his first NFL season. Ja’Marr Chase immediately rediscovered the chemistry he had with his LSU teammate, Joe Burrow, and has been the primary target in the Bengals’ offense heading to the playoffs.
Quarterbacks have taken the lead in the award in recent years, with three of the past five winners being quarterbacks, while one wide receiver has not been named the winner since Odell Beckham Jr. won the honors at 2014. Which player will be finally named? the winner of the 2021 season? Sporting News analyzes the case of each talent.
Hunt for Ja’Marr (-250)
Any preseason concerns about Chase were dismissed early in the season. In his first NFL regular-season game, Chase caught five passes for 101 yards, including a touchdown, to make his presence known.
He continued that success through the first seven weeks of the season, with his 754 receiving yards behind only Cooper Kupp’s 809 to start the season. However, Chase went through a quiet period, catching just 26 passes for 284 yards with four touchdowns in his next seven games.
But with the Bengals’ playoff destiny in a precarious position in the last two games, Chase again took a step forward, catching seven passes for 125 yards against the Ravens to move Cincinnati to first place in the division. He then posted one of the best single-game performances by a rookie catcher in NFL history, catching 11 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns against the Chiefs. His 266 receiving yards was a single game record for a rookie.
Here’s how Chase ranks among NFL receivers entering the final week of the season:
- 79 receptions: 18
- 1,429 receiving yards: quarter
- 18.1 yards per reception – 1st
- 13 TDs Received – Second
That’s not among rookie receivers. Those are all receivers. His 1,429 receiving yards are the most for a rookie in NFL history and his 13 touchdowns are the second most behind Randy Moss’ 17.
Professional soccer approach has him listed as the 11th best wide receiver this season with an offensive rating of 82.8, and ranks him as the sixth best deep threat at 99.5. He also lists his 628 receiving yards as the third-most in the league behind Kupp and the 49ers hybrid threat Deebo Samuel.
Chase has lived up to the hype that led to him being selected fifth in the 2021 NFL Draft, and has established himself as one of the league’s top wide receiver talents. But was his campaign enough to topple Jones?
Mac Jones (+200)
Rookie quarterbacks are often given time before they are handed over to the reins of an NFL team’s offense. But that was not the case with Jones.
The 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft was named a starter before the end of the Patriots’ preseason, prompting the team to cut Cam Newton, who led the team’s offense the previous year.
Jones wasn’t exactly making a great team. New England was 7-9 last season, ranking 30th in passing yards (2,890), 27th in scoring (326 points) and 27th in total offense (5,236).
And yet Jones has helped lead the team to rapid change. Entering the final week of play, the Patriots rank 14th in passing yards (3,612), 8th in scoring (438 points), 16th in total offense (5,629).
Here’s where Jones ranks on the year among quarterbacks:
- 67.6 percent completion percentage: eighth
- 3,540 passing yards: 13
- 21 touchdown passes: T-13
- 2.4 percent interception rate: 18th-lowest
Jones is also tied for the ninth-best offensive grade, according to PFF.
Nor is it that Jones has turned the team around with seasoned talents. His top two receivers this season have been Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne, who entered the season with 222 receptions for 2,857 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in six previous seasons.
Unsurprisingly with a rookie quarterback, Bill Belichick hasn’t often tried Jones’ arm down the field. Jones is ranked 21st in percentage of deep pass attempts (10.6 percent), according to PFF, while he ranks eighth in the middle range (22 percent) and 11th in the short range (47.9 percent). .
He has been especially successful at throwing the ball short, as he is awarded an 84 pass rating by PFF, which ranks third, while his 84.3 pass rating on deep passes is 16th in the league. When prompted, Jones has also been a competent running back, having rushed 41 times for 125 yards.
It quickly became clear that in a draft class that featured a strong quarterback class, Jones was going to emerge as the best rookie. But now it will be up to him and Chase to see if Chase will be the Bengals’ third receiver to win GOLD or if Jones will be the first New England quarterback to take home the award.