Is Mac Jones Frontrunner For NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year?

Photo: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The race for this season’s NFL Offensive Rookie of The Year award is going to be a wild one. The first six picks in the 2021 NFL Draft were all offensive playmakers that will be eligible to take home this prize. With the regular season less than two weeks away, we now know a lot more about some of these players’ situations heading into Week 1. For example, Trevor Lawrence and Mac Jones have officially been named the starters for their teams and Justin Fields has been named the backup (for now).

With this knowledge at our fingertips, I've attempted to forecast who we should consider the favorite to take home the prestigious honor while taking into account the current betting odds provided to us by BetOnline.

The following list is in order of who I think has the best chance to win.

MAC JONES (+250)

There was a shocking development in New England on Tuesday morning when it was announced that the Patriots were releasing former MVP Cam Newton and handing the keys over to their rookie signal-caller.

This news shot Jones up to the top of the leaderboard on BetOnline and we are in full agreement with them. Jones is now my top candidate to take home OROY. Of all the rookie quarterbacks, Jones clearly landed in the best situation. The Patriots should be a playoff contender, he has a plethora of weapons in the backfield to help him carry the load, and an impressive number of pass-catchers including the newly acquired trio of Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, and Nelson Agholor. Jakobi Meyers should continue to take a step forward as well.

Jones is ready to thrive in this offense and we wouldn’t be surprised if he etches his name on some hardware.

TREVOR LAWRENCE (+400)

The facade came to an end last week when Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer named Lawrence the team’s starting quarterback and promptly traded his “competitor” (heavy use of air quotes here) Gardner Minshew to the Philadelphia Eagles in return for a day-three pick.  

Lawrence has to be considered one of the favorites. He was the most talented quarterback in the draft and should put up some excellent numbers with both his arm and legs this season. The Jaguars will likely be playing from behind on a pretty consistent basis, so there’s a chance for some stat-padding here. With that said, wins and losses do matter and so does the offense he plays in. Lawrence recently lost his pal Travis Etienne for the season and while James Robinson is a suitable replacement, this offensive cast is still putting things together. Jacksonville’s growing pains could prevent Lawrence from taking home the award.

ZACH WILSON (+450)

Wilson should be considered a strong candidate because he’s starting the regular season as the guy in New York. It gives him a sizable head start on fellow rookie signal-callers like Fields and Trey Lance (and whatever is happening in San Francisco). 

The reason we’re not listing Wilson in our top two is because he’s in a similar boat with Lawrence, who is our second favorite and a more talented prospect. Wilson plays on a bad team that likely won’t win many games in 2021. It could help his final numbers look better, but we’d be surprised if he took home this honor after winning what will likely be less than seven contests.

NAJEE HARRIS (+1000)

Harris is going to touch the ball a ton in Pittsburgh this season, both as a runner and as a pass-catcher. Players such as Benny Snell Jr. and Anthony McFarland Jr. simply can’t match Harris’ talent. He may go in the first or second round of your fantasy football drafts, but picking Harris to win this award isn’t a smart bet. It’s simple: Quarterbacks are always the favorite to take home this trophy (Kyler Murray won in 2019 and Justin Herbert won in 2020) and there’s no shortage of likely candidates at the QB position this year.

Harris has a chance to light the league on fire this season, but it would take something truly special in order for him to beat out one of the five quarterbacks that were selected in the first round of the 2021 draft. We just don’t see it happening.

JUSTIN FIELDS (+750)

Rounding out our top five is the electric Fields, who looked incredibly capable of winning this award during his three exciting preseason performances. We’d have Fields much higher on our list if Bears head coach Matt Nagy wasn’t hellbent on starting the season with Andy Dalton, but here we are.

It’s tough to forecast when exactly Fields will eventually take the reins from Dalton, but every week that he sits on the bench makes him less and less likely to be a viable candidate to take home this prize.

Written By:

Justin Melo

Staff Writer

Justin Melo is an NFL draft analyst that cut his teeth at The Draft Breakdown and USA Today's Draft Wire. He specializes in interviewing prospects, but also produces big boards, mock drafts, and scouting reports. He also covers the Tennessee Titans nationally for Broadway Sports Media and SB Nation.

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