The 2023 NFL Draft was wild and unpredictable, thanks to annual questions at the quarterback position and a receiving group that seemed to be missing a true WR1 in the class.
Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud are the most game-ready quarterbacks in this draft but need to prove they can thrive without the talent advantages they frequently enjoyed in college. Most of the other names on this list appear very tied to how their quarterbacks and play-callers decide to use them.
However ... throughout the draft process, there was always one player who appeared to be the cleanest prospect and the one most likely to find production and success early in his career. We'll get to him in a second, but let's first take a brief look at historical trends.
- Garrett Wilson was the first New York Jet to win Offensive Rookie of the Year since its inception in 1967.
- No tight end or offensive lineman has ever won the award, but Zack Martin finished second in 2014 with seven first-place votes.
- The last former Big 12 running back to win the award was Adrian Peterson with the Vikings in 2007.
- The 2021 (Ja'Marr Chase) and 2022 seasons (Wilson) marked the first time a wide receiver won the award in back-to-back years since 1984 and 1985 (Louis Lipps and Eddie Brown).
Now, looking ahead to this season, here are my top 10 candidates to take home the 2023 Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Let me begin with one long shot ...
NOTE: The odds below provided by Caesars are current as of 2 p.m. ET on Monday, July 24 unless otherwise noted.
Drafted: Round 1, No. 22 overall
We keep hearing that Lamar Jackson will throw more and run less, but with Rashod Bateman, Odell Beckham Jr. and Mark Andrews also vying for targets, there may not be enough touches and production for Flowers to turn heads as a rookie of the year candidate unless Jackson falls in love with him as a primary target early on.
Drafted: Round 3, No. 73 overall
According to Pro Football Focus, Daniel Jones was next to last in average depth of passing targets last season, but that should change with Jaylin Hyatt on the field. The third-round pick brings premium deep speed and home-run ability to the Giants' offense, and he'll almost certainly have some eye-catching games as a rookie. However, he's unlikely to be a high- or even mid-volume option, so that's why he's considered a bit of a long shot for the OROY award.
Drafted: Round 1, No. 21 overall
Johnston is one of the true wild cards in this category. He's big (6-foot-4, 215 pounds), has shown an ability to get downfield and has some of the best run-after-catch talent in this draft class. Drops can be a problem, which could put him in the doghouse early on, but with a quarterback like Justin Herbert throwing to him and an offense expected to light it up, Johnston is certainly one to watch.
Drafted: Round 1, No. 20 overall
The good news is that Smith-Njigba will play with a quarterback in Geno Smith coming off a career year with 4,282 yards and 30 touchdowns passing. The bad news is that he's going to have to share targets with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Despite the competition for targets, Smith-Njigba has good size (6-foot, 198 pounds) with great ball skills and could evolve into a legitimate weapon as a volume target with red-zone potential, even in his rookie season.
Drafted: Round 1, No. 12 overall
We know Gibbs won't be the primary back, with David Montgomery in the fold as the new RB1 in Detroit. However, Gibbs is an explosive two-way threat with game-changing ability. The Lions have one of the most talented play-callers in the league in Ben Johnson, who should be able to find creative ways to get Gibbs touches and targets, especially out of the backfield. Production as a runner and receiver will help, but he'll need to prove he can find enough touchdowns to win this award.
Drafted: Round 1, No. 23 overall
Sure, we know Justin Jefferson is HIM in Minnesota, but Kirk Cousins has averaged over 30 touchdowns passes and 4,186 yards passing over the last five seasons with the Vikings. There is enough food on the table for Addison to eat and eat early on in his rookie campaign. He's a plus route-runner with the separation potential to make Cousins comfortable throwing his way and has a playing style that fits the Vikings' route structures. If teams go all-out to slow Jefferson, Addison has a very realistic shot at piling up the numbers to challenge for OROY.
Drafted: Round 1, No. 4 overall
It only takes a Google search to find my NFL draft scouting report for Richardson. You'll quickly learn that I believe he is a high-ceiling/low-floor prospect with accuracy issues who needs a long runway to develop into an NFL quarterback. However, if the Colts expedite the process, it's worth noting that Richardson is big (6-foot-4, 232 pounds), fast and has the same coach calling plays for him (Shane Steichen) who called plays for Jalen Hurts in 2022. His rushing numbers and potential short-yardage touchdowns could give Richardson's OROY chances a big boost -- especially if Young or Stroud struggle out of the gate.
Drafted: Round 1, No. 2 overall
In my eyes, Young and Stroud are neck and neck for the No. 2 spot on this list. While most observers are underwhelmed by the Texans’ receiving crew, keep in mind that new offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik is coming over from San Francisco, where he worked on the Niners' quarterback-friendly passing game. Stroud is a very accurate passer with a quality running game, and adding a healthy John Metchie III and rookie Tank Dell into the mix with Robert Woods, Nico Collins and Dalton Schultz, there is a chance that things click more quickly for Stroud than the other quarterbacks in this class.
Drafted: Round 1, No. 1 overall
The Panthers very quietly did a solid job of plugging holes along the offensive line and at the skill positions so Young won't have to fight the fight empty-handed. New offensive coordinator Thomas Brown comes over from the Rams and will certainly utilize Miles Sanders to help reduce the turbulence Young faces as a rookie, but the first overall pick is more than capable of extending plays and creating positive yards outside of structure. His patience and poise should make him the most pro-ready quarterback in this class; playing in the relatively weak NFC South could provide additional win opportunities if he can click with his receivers.
Drafted: Round 1, No. 8 overall
While the hot topic in the NFL surrounds running back value, there will be no doubt about Robinson's value right out of the gate, provided he stays healthy. Robinson is a three-down option with an outstanding blend of vision, contact balance and an ability to create yards for himself. He's an above-average pass catcher with the ability to beat coverage in space, and he can stack up touchdowns in a hurry when his play-caller feeds him and he gets into a rhythm. Only six running backs have won this award dating back to 2003 -- Cadillac Williams (2004), Adrian Peterson (2007), Eddie Lacy (2013), Todd Gurley (2015), Alvin Kamara (2017) and Saquon Barkley (2018) -- but Robinson feels like a big favorite in this spot.