The 2020 season has produced several viable candidates for offensive rookie of the year, candidates who don’t play quarterback.
From Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson (52 catches, 918 yards, six touchdowns) to Steelers receiver Chase Claypool (45 catches, 611 yards, 10 total touchdowns) to Jaguars running back James Robinson (890 rushing yards, eight total touchdowns) to Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (692 rushing yards, five total touchdowns) to Washington running back Antonio Gibson (645 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns) to Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb (53 catches, 650 receiving yards, four touchdowns), any could do enough do the stretch to earn, based on their work to do, votes.
As quarterbacks go, Chargers rookie Justin Herbert seems to be running away with it, especially after the season-ending injury to Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.
And Herbert seems to be the safest bet, given that the award gradually has become more of a quarterback award in recent years. Even though no quarterback won it between Bills quarterback Dennis Shaw in 1970 and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in 2004.
Since Roethlisberger in 2004, quarterbacks have won it in 2006 (Vince Young), 2008 (Matt Ryan), 2010 (Sam Bradford), 2011 (Cam Newton), 2012 (Robert Griffin III), 2016 (Dak Prescott), and 2019 (Kyler Murray).
It makes sense that more are winning it. More quarterbacks play right away in today’s NFL, and more of them are playing well. Herbert is playing extremely well. If he keeps it up — and if he stays healthy — he likely will win. Even if there’s a non-quarterback or two who is more deserving.