NFL Rookie of the Year 2020-21: Award Candidates, Odds and Predictions

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IFebruary 6, 2021

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert warms up before an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

Not every player immediately succeeds upon making the jump from college football to the NFL. However, for some, the transition looks easy.

That was the case for several standout rookies during the 2020 season, as there were quite a few first-year players who had impressive showings in their debut campaign. Two of those rookies will be honored on Saturday, when the Offensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year Awards are announced during NFL Honors, which will air at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.

Here's a look at the odds for both rookie awards (via Sports Betting Dime), along with predictions for who will receive each honor.


Offensive Rookie of the Year Odds, Prediction

Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert: -1200 (bet $1,200 to win $100)

Minnesota Vikings WR Justin Jefferson: +700 (bet $100 to win $700)

Indianapolis Colts RB Jonathan Taylor: +900

Herbert was the third quarterback selected when he was picked by the Chargers with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft, coming off the board after Joe Burrow (No. 1 to the Cincinnati Bengals) and Tua Tagovailoa (No. 5 to the Miami Dolphins). Yet, it will be the former Oregon quarterback who ends up being the 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Los Angeles initially began the season with veteran Tyrod Taylor as its starting quarterback. However, Taylor suffered a punctured lung just before the Chargers' Week 2 game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Herbert got the opportunity to start that contest, and he never relinquished the job.

In 15 games, Herbert passed for 4,336 yards, 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He set the NFL rookie records for passing yards, passing touchdowns and completions (396).

After the Chargers started 3-9, they ended the season with a four-game winning streak. And while they missed out on the playoffs, Herbert's play provided optimism for the future, as Los Angeles appears to have found a franchise quarterback.

Jefferson and Taylor each had remarkable rookie seasons as well. Jefferson was the Vikings' leading receiver, hauling in 88 passes for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns in 16 games. Taylor was the Colts' leading rusher, running for 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns, and he also contributed 36 receptions for 299 yards and a touchdown.

However, it's hard to pick against Herbert, who quickly established himself as a strong NFL quarterback. He passed for more than 300 yards in a game eight times, and he had six games with three or more passing touchdowns (including four straight beginning in Week 4).

Now, Herbert's standout debut season will end with him receiving the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, beating Jefferson and Taylor by a sizable margin.

Prediction: Herbert wins Offensive Rookie of the Year


Defensive Rookie of the Year Odds, Prediction

Washington Football Team DE Chase Young: -375

Carolina Panthers FS Jeremy Chinn: +250

Tampa Bay Buccaneers FS Antoine Winfield Jr.: +1000

Baltimore Ravens LB Patrick Queen: +2500

Expectations were high for Young, who was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. He was the first defensive player to come off the board, and he was joining a Washington team that already had a solid defensive front.

Over 15 games, Young proved he was going to fit in with Washington's other pass rushers quite nicely.

Young quickly proved that he's going to be a defensive playmaker, as he finished his rookie season with 44 tackles, 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. He also scored his first career NFL touchdown, scooping up a fumble and returning it 47 yards for a score in Washington's Week 14 win over the San Francisco 49ers.

It wasn't expected for Washington to reach the playoffs this season, but it did, capitalizing on a down year for the NFC East. It overcame a 2-7 start by winning five of its last seven games, and Young played a major role in helping it do so, even being named a team captain heading into Week 16.

There were several other standout defensive rookies around the NFL. Chinn had 117 tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, an interception and two touchdowns in 15 games for Carolina. Winfield had 94 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception in 16 games for Tampa Bay. And Queen had 106 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, an interception and a touchdown in 16 games for Baltimore.

But Young was the most impressive, becoming a leader for Washington. And even though veteran Ryan Kerrigan may not return to the team next season, Washington is set with Young and 2019 first-round pick Montez Sweat on the edges, potentially for many years to come.

It will be a bit closer than the voting for Offensive Rookie of the Year, but expect Young to receive Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, adding another accolade to his impressive, growing resume.

Prediction: Young wins Defensive Rookie of the Year