It’s the question that’s been on sports pundits’ lips across the nation. Who’ll win this year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award: Ja’Marr Chase or Mac Jones?
The two hotly-tipped contenders both put in prolific seasons meriting a place on the prestigious shortlist. But the award can only go to one, and votes will have to eventually decide.
So far, Ja Marr Chase is the betting favorite, having orchestrated one of the greatest rookie seasons by a wide receiver of all time. It’s worth noting though that the distinguished award has historically favored quarterbacks.
This is based on the supposition that this position carries more significance than all others in football. The proper parameters for deciding the OROY, however, clearly dictate that it ought to be the player who proved himself most dominant in his position.
Sports betting in Ohio won’t be legal until 2023, but let’s consider the case for each player for the Ohioans near a retail sportsbook in a neighboring state.
When asked earlier this week by MMQB’s Alber Breer whether he thought he’d be the next winner of the award, Chase responded with,
“I better be.”
Is the 2021 5th round draft pick from LSU just being cocky or does he have a case?
For a lot of football fans, the answer is obvious. When you break a rookie record and position yourself as a top 10 wide receiver of all time in your first year, you deserve to take the award home. And that’s exactly what Chase did in his first 17 weeks of play.
With 1,429 yards, the Bengals star wide receiver already has the single-season rookie receiving record in the history of the Superbowl. Justin Jefferson, last year’s OROY, produced 1400.
Among all the wide receivers this season Chase ranks fourth in total yardage. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, he also managed 13 touchdowns – the second-most by a rookie. In that respect, he trails Randy Moss who achieved 17 his first year with the Vikings.
For a little perspective, here’s a list of first-year rookie wide receivers with the highest yardages nominated OROY:
- 1,429 – Ja’Marr Chase (2021)
- 1,400 – Justin Jefferson (2020)
- 1,377 Anquan Boldin (2003)
- 1.313 – Randy Moss (1998)
- 1,305 – Odell Beckham Jr. (2014)
Currently, Chase is averaging 18.1 yards per catch – the all-time most among rookie wide receivers with at least 50 catches. And somehow he managed to do this all with 124 targets.
To be exact, that’s 16 on the opportunity list among all wide receivers in the NFL.
If there’s an ace up Mac Jones’ sleeve, it’s the fact that his position as a quarterback may be more highly regarded than Chase’s as wide receiver. This might seem a little biased since everyone on the team pulls together. But besides that quasi advantage, Jones’ stats certainly hold their own.
In 2020, before Jones joined the Patriots, they had won seven games and missed the postseason. Fast forward to 2021 with Jones on Josh McDaniel’s roster, and they won ten games and secured a spot in the playoffs.
That makes him the first first-round rookie quarterback to lead his team to the playoffs since Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III both had the honor in 2012.
It can be said that Jones is gunning for one of the most accurate rookie seasons for a quarterback in NFL history. At 67.6% he has the second-best completion percentage for a rookie, behind Dak Prescott who holds the title at 67.8%.
He has the seventh-highest quarterback rating and the top ten in touchdown percentage for any rookie who played more than 10 games. No Patriot rookie did that before him.
Strong points in favor of both contenders
Still, it’s important to keep in mind that three of the last five OROY awards went to quarterbacks. And since 2009, only two wide receivers have won it – Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014 and Percy Harvin in 2016.
If, however, you were to juxtapose Becham’s stats with Chase’s, you’d find Odell had more catches but Chase has him beat in yardage and touchdowns.
Now let’s put Jones’ stats side by side with quarterback Justin Ferber, recipient of the award in 2020. The data shows Ferber having 800 more yards, 10 more touchdowns, yet two fewer interceptions, and six points higher than Jones in the quarterback rating.
A tough call for the award voters as they mull over their decision. But upon closer analysis of each player’s stats, it may become apparent who truly deserves it. Mac Jones was certainly the early-season favorite, overtaking Chase in October.
Yet, despite a shaky midseason, Chase’s explosive last few weeks will in all likelihood see him clinch the highly-coveted accolade. It’s an interesting bet for Ohioans who are rooting for their Bengals star to win.