The AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year has gone to some clear-cut winners the past three seasons: Justin Herbert, Ja’Marr Chase, and Garrett Wilson. After four weeks in 2023, it’s already a wide-open, more competitive race to win the award.
There have been nine viable candidates to watch this year, with six being selected in the first round of the ’23 draft. The early leader is Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua, a fifth-round pick out of BYU. Nacua is having a historic debut catching passes, with a league-high 39 receptions for 501 yards and a TD on 52 targets.
Nacua now has serious competition from three top-10 overall picks — Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud, Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson, and Falcons running back Bijan Robinson. Also speeding into the conversation (literally) is Dolphins’ running back De’Von Achane.
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Despite Nacua putting up big numbers since his NFL debut in Week 1, he’s not the odds-on favorite. Here’s where he stands in relation to top of the field on BetMGM going into Week 5:
NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Odds 2023
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|C.J. Stroud, QB, Texans +175|
|Bijan Robinson, RB, Falcons +400|
|Puka Nacua, WR, Rams +450|
|Anthony Richardson, QB, Colts +650|
|De’Von Achane, RB, Dolphins +700|
|Zay Flowers, WR, Ravens +1600|
|Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Lions +3000|
|Jordan Addison, WR, Vikings +3000|
|Sam LaPorta, TE, Lions +4000|
Why is Puka Nacua third in the current Offensive Rookie of the Year odds?
Nacua is doing things no rookie wide receiver has done to start their careers, including Randy Moss, Justin Jefferson, and Anquan Boldin. He’s dominated with route-running and massive target volume, operating in a versatile spot in Sean McVay’s offense.
However, Cooper Kupp, the Rams’ superstar No. 1 wide receiver, can return from his hamstring injury as early as Week 5 vs. the Eagles. A healthy Kupp will cut into Nacua’s usage, and his gaudy pace is bound to slow down. Nacua is also hurt a little by the Rams being, at best, fringe wild-card contenders in the NFC.
Wilson and Chase won the award as wideouts in back-to-back seasons, but keep in mind that although Jefferson was named Sporting News’ Rookie of the Year in 2020, he still lost to Justin Herbert in the AP vote. Before the Chase-Wilson receiver repeat, Odell Beckham Jr. was the last wideout to win O-ROY in 2014. Otherwise, the voters have leaned more heavily toward quarterbacks and running backs.
Why is C.J. Stroud the new favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year?
Stroud has shot up the charts quickly, looking for now like a better franchise QB than top-pick Bryce Young, who went one spot ahead of him in the 2023 NFL Draft. Stroud has avoided throwing his first career interception in his first four starts, rare for a rookie.
Stroud already has passed for 1,212 yards at an exceptional 8.0 yards per attempt. He has six TDs to zero INTs, giving him the NFL’s No. 9 passer rating at 100.6. Houston is also a surprise 2-2 and in the mix to win the AFC South after an early upset at Jacksonville. Stroud is thriving in the 49ers-like offense as a pocket passer while aggressively throwing downfield. He will be hard to beat if he can maintain this level of play and the Texans continue to win more than expected.
Can Bijan Robinson win Offensive Rookie of the Year?
Robinson entered the season as the O-ROY favorite, and he’s been no slouch. He’s rushed for 318 yards at a mighty 6.0 yards per attempt. He’s also caught 19-of-22 targets for 134 more scrimmage yards. However, he has started slowly as a scorer for an anemic Atlanta offense overall, scoring just one TD.
Second-year back Tyler Allgeier hasn’t been involved much since Week 1, so Robinson will continue to see a lot of touches in a highly effective, run-heavy offense. That’s why he’s ahead of Nacua as Stroud’s top challenger. The two front-runners will be on the same field in Week 5 when Robinson’s Falcons host Stroud’s Texans
Can Anthony Richardson win Offensive Rookie of the Year?
Richardson and Stroud will play each other twice in AFC South play. They also will cross over and duel Young and the Panthers. Richardson’s Colts are also 2-2, tied with the Texans, Jaguars, and Titans for first (and last) in the division. Richardson will also get a shot at Robinson’s Falcons on the road on Christmas Eve.
Much of the O-ROY competition will play out on the field. It was Richardson vs. Nacua in a dynamic draw in Week 4 in Indianapolis. Richardson needs to keep balling as a dual threat, stay healthy after missing Week 3 with a concussion, and outplaying Stroud head-to-head while the Colts also finish better than the Texans.
Can De’Von Achane win Offensive Rookie of the Year?
Yes, Achane can win O-ROY, too. He has caught up quickly (literally), exploding to rack up 343 scrimmage yards and six TDs for the Dolphins in the past two games. Achane, a third-rounder from Texas A&M, is being deployed well as the latest speedster in Mike McDaniels’ big-play offense.
Achane is still in a committee (for now) with productive veteran Raheem Mostert. Jeff Wilson Jr. (midsection, finger) also might be in the mix when he comes off IR. But Achane did get the edge in all-around usage over Mostert in Week 4 following his four-TD breakout in Week 3.
Between Stroud, Nacua, Richardson, and Robinson, the competition is stacked against Achane, but if he keeps going nuts, watch out.
Who is the best bet for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year?
It’s not looking good for Young to get back in the mix. Stroud and Richardson might be even for a long while as standout rookie QBs in the same division. The Kupp effect is in play for Nacua, That brings it full circle back to Robinson, who’s on pace for 2,034 scrimmage yards. He just needs to ramp up the TDs.
Consider Saquon Barkley won O-ROY with 2,028 scrimmage yards and 15 TDs in 2018. If Robinson hits 2K, too, it will be hard to not give him the award.