My pick for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year is running-back Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings. I think all signs point to a spectacular breakout for Cook. His situation in Minnesota could not be better. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur made superstars out of RBs Steven Jackson in St. Louis and LeSean McCoy in Philadelphia, as in all of the seasons he coached those RBs, they each ran for over 1,200 yards and 5 TDs. In each of his final two seasons at Florida State, Cook ran for at least 1,600 yards and 19 TDs, so it’s safe to say Shurmur has another stellar protégé in his arsenal. Minnesota’s schedule also sets up beautifully for a Cook breakout, ranked 27th-toughest based on 2016 winning percentages. The team that had the 27th-toughest schedule last year? The Dallas Cowboys, who had a rookie RB by the name of Ezekiel Elliott, and he did … pretty well.
Defensive Rookie of the Year is much tougher to predict, but I’ll go with edge rusher Takkarist McKinley of the Atlanta Falcons. The popular pick here is #1 overall draft pick Myles Garrett, but it’s actually quite rare that the top draft selection wins DROY. With a blazing 40-yard dash time of 4.69 seconds and imposing size, McKinley’s skill set is perfect for Dan Quinn’s brutally aggressive pass-rush and bears a strong resemblance to all-pro teammate Vic Beasley.
Generally, this type of article forces us to predict something which none of us could possibly have a better idea of than the others. So to avoid looking foolish, it is safe to go with a player who was great in college, was a high draft pick and has some sort of flash. However, I don’t mind looking foolish.
I believe this year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year will be Browns starting quarterback DeShone Kizer. Having beaten out veteran Brock Osweiler, and essentially having him cut from the team, Kizer is in a position to flourish. I know, being the starting QB for the Browns generally is associated with bedlam but this team has an unbelievable offensive line and potential for a productive offense. Rookie receiver Corey Coleman will hope to make an impact, and the duo of Duke Johnson Jr. and Isaiah Crowell will provide aid in the backfield for Kizer. If Kizer can lead the Browns to around six to eight wins, it means he did his part and could be in the running for Offensive ROY.
In their rookie campaigns, defensive players tend to have trouble adjusting to the NFL. Quarterbacks are smarter and receivers are faster, blockers are bigger and running backs are more reliable with the ball. So making plays and filling up the stat sheet is difficult. I’ve got Washington Redskins defensive end Jonathan Allen out of Alabama, the former SEC Defensive Player of the Year, taking home Defensive ROY. His quickness and power off the end will give linemen trouble and quarterbacks nightmares. If he can stay disciplined and healthy all year, he’s got a good chance at the hardware.
My prediction for the 2017 NFL Offensive MVP is Leonard Fournette. According to the betting odds, Fournette is the favorite; this is for a multitude of reasons. Fournette has landed himself in a franchise desperate for a marquee running back, the Jacksonville Jaguars. With none of the running backs eclipsing 465 yards last season, there is little competition for a blue chip running back like Fournette. Unlike his fellow rookie running back, Christian McCaffrey, Fournette will not be playing alongside an elite quarterback like Cam Newton who deserves control of the offense. It is no secret that with an improved defense and unreliable quarterback, the Jaguars will be looking to pound the ball on the ground.
Another reason I am confident choosing Fournette is his confidence level. There is no way to truly predict how a rookie player will mentally handle the change to the professional level, but Fournette squashed any worries I had with his statements following his first preseason game. He told the press, “I’ve had pressure my whole life,” Fournette said. “I’m built for it. No matter what the circumstances … A lot of people were like, ‘It’s going to be fast.’ But by me playing in the SEC that kind of helped me a lot. I think to me it was really easy.”
On the defensive end, the clear front runner in my opinion is Myles Garrett. Garrett was selected first overall after a stunning career at Texas A&M and an even more stunning performance at the NFL Combine. The defensive end stands at 272 lbs and posted a 4.64 40 yard dash along with a 41″ vertical leap.
If those numbers don’t scream ROY, then I don’t know what does.