It’s every college athlete’s dream of getting drafted in the early rounds and making it big under the bright lights. As the NFL is the ultimate meritocracy in professional sports, not every rookie has found the success on the big stage that they would have liked. But every so often, first-year prospects seize their chances and get everybody talking about them.
Today, we will be looking at the 2023 rookie class and see who has began their professional careers on a high note, starting with some candidates for this season’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Race for 2023 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year
C.J. Stroud: Houston Texans
We really can’t blame people for instantly thinking of Texans quarterback, C.J. Stroud, when they hear the words “Offensive Rookie of the Year.”
The second overall pick of the 2023 draft has jumped to a much hotter start than most people have anticipated. The Houston Texans are still undergoing a rebuild after a couple of disastrous campaigns. But even they seem to have underestimated Stroud’s dedication, poise, and ability to read defenses at such a young age. Stroud has yet to throw an interception after five games as a starter. Not to mention he has tallied the third most passing yards by any quarterback in the NFL.
His pass completion percentage may be lower than desired (61.3%). But that will surely improve over time.
Sam LaPorta: Detroit Lions
It goes without saying that head coach, Dan Campbell, has done a tremendous job in changing the culture of Detroit Lions football. Their 4-1 record and lead over the NFC North are testaments to his work and a bright future ahead. As for rookie tight end, Sam LaPorta, his role in Detroit’s potent offense is nothing to sneeze at.
LaPorta currently leads all tight ends in receiving yards coming into week six. It may sound odd to nominate a tight end for Offensive Rookie of the Year. But he is starting to put defensive coordinators around the league on notice. He has been providing quarterback, Jared Goff, with even more options. If LaPorta keeps at this pace, he could find himself on the 2023 Pro Bowl roster in just his first season in the pros.
De’Von Achane: Miami Dolphins
Standing five-foot-nine, weighing in at 188 lbs., De’Von Achane has quickly become a staple in Miami’s blazing-fast offense. The football world got to know the rookie speedster out of Texas A&M during the Miami Dolphins‘ week three dismantling of the Denver Broncos, where he accumulated the first 203 of his 460 rushing yards on the season. Only San Francisco’s Christian McCaffery has recorded more rushing yards in 2023. But Achane’s 460 yards came from playing only three games.
Unfortunately for both him and Dolphins fans, Achane sustained a knee injury during Miami’s 31-16 win over the New York Giants. He will most likely stay on the IR for four weeks, leaving starter Raheem Mostert with a bigger workload. These four weeks, plus the Week 10 bye, will give Achane much-needed time to concentrate on getting healthy again.
Puka Nacua: Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams are still in the middle of the same funk that carried over from their dismal 2022 campaign. Not to mention Super Bowl MVP, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, has been fighting injury for the better part of this outing. Fortunately, one rookie is starting to make a name for himself and help turn things around. His name is Puka Nacua.
The 177th overall pick out of BYU hit the ground running almost immediately, marking over 20 receptions and over 250 yards in his two games. In addition, his 576 receiving yards on the season trails only Miami’s Tyreek Hill. With Kupp getting back into the mix, Nacua can help expand the offense moving forward. As for the rest of the team, there is still more work to do to regain their status as a playoff contender.
Bijan Robinson: Atlanta Falcons
Drafting a running back within the Top 10 of the draft would be a bone-headed move by today’s NFL standards. But the Atlanta Falcons were determined to make Texas Longhorn star, Bijan Robinson, a focal point in Atlanta’s return to contention. Needless to say, it’s starting to work.
Robinson has tallied 364 yards on the ground on 5.4 yards a carry. He also has 146 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns to his name. Many skeptics raise the fact that he has yet to record a rushing touchdown this season. But Falcons fans must be patient as Robinson continues to develop. At the same time, head coach, Arthur Smith, needs to re-invigorate an Atlanta offense that only averages 16.6 points per game (6th lowest in NFL).
Check in next week as we talk about some favorites to win “Defensive Rookie of the Year” for the 2023 season.
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