Now that the draft is behind us, it’s time to look forward. What better way to do that than to look at the players just selected and try to guess which of them will take home hardware at the next NFL Honors? I’m going to do my best to project the upcoming rookies of the year on both offense and defense. To do so, I’m going to consider their likelihood of quickly acclimating to the pro game, the situations they find themselves in, and their odds of generating strong counting stats. I’ll also provide a couple of sleeper picks for each category.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: WR Christian Watson, Packers
This award has mostly become “Rookie QB of the Year”; if two players are close but one is a quarterback, the QB will win it. However, this year projects to be an exception, much like last year with Ja’Marr Chase. It was been well documented that the 2022 QB class was poor, and I don’t see any opportunities for a rookie QB to start the majority of the season outside of Pittsburgh and maybe Carolina. I’m not banking on Kenny Pickett or Matt Corral to put up gaudy numbers a la Justin Herbert in 2020. As good as some of the rookie offensive linemen may be, WR and RB are much flashier positions, so they’re more likely bets. At RB, Breece Hall is likely sharing time with Michael Carter, while Kenneth Walker should expect to split time with Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny. Thus, I’m going to be picking a receiver. In particular, I think Christian Watson of Green Bay might be the guy. Of all the WRs selected, nobody has a better QB throwing to him. His great size and speed might endear him to Aaron Rodgers quickly; aside from Allen Lazard, he doesn’t have much competition for targets either, clearing the way for him to compile great counting stats.
Sleepers: WR Skyy Moore, Chiefs (Replacing Tyreek Hill is a great opportunity to rack up yards and TDs); WR Treylon Burks, Titans (Ryan Tannehill likes to focus on a particular player, and Burks could take over that role from AJ Brown)
Defensive Rookie of the Year: DE Aidan Hutchinson, Lions
Edge rushers who produce high sack totals, linebackers/safeties who compile a lot of tackles, and cornerbacks who intercept a bunch of passes are the best bets to win this award. Sadly, interior players at the DT spot don’t usually have a shot unless they do Aaron Donald-type things. If an edge rusher posts double-digit sacks, the other positions are typically eliminated barring a generational performance. With that said, Aidan Hutchinson feels most likely to hit that benchmark. Pass rushers often take a while to get their feet wet at the NFL level, and Hutchinson is widely regarded as the most pro-ready player at the position. If he can hit the ground running, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to get after opposing QBs. As the Lions don’t have too much star power, he’ll be getting the bulk of the media attention in Detroit as well, amplifying any production he does end up providing.
Sleepers: CB Derek Stingley Jr., Texans (If he’s the shutdown corner he was in 2019, he might make things hard on the voters); DE George Karlaftis, Chiefs (With Frank Clark lined up against opposing left tackles, Karlaftis could see 1-on-1 matchups on the easier side of the line, especially since the Chiefs might hold a lot of leads)