Rookies are supposed to struggle during their first year in the NFL. The competition is greater, the play is more physical, and the speed of the game is faster. However, despite what is generally expected to happen, things don’t always work out that way. In fact, not only do some rookies — specifically on the offensive side of the ball — hold their own, but they also manage to thrive.
It’s always exciting to see young players step up early in their careers and show they belong at the sport’s highest level. As fans, we feel fortunate to know that the league has a fresh crop of talent just waiting to make their mark on the game. Through Week 12 of the 2015 NFL season, we have seen countless examples of players doing just that. And when the year is over, one of these special individuals will be rewarded for his efforts.
While plenty of rookies show exceptional offensive skill this season, a few of these players have distinguished themselves from the rest. And wouldn’t you know it, the oddsmakers in Vegas noticed and determined the individuals they believe stand the best chance at receiving recognition at the year’s end. With just a few weeks left in the 2015 NFL season, here’s a look at the five players with the best odds of winning Offensive Rookie of the Year.
5. Marcus Mariota, quarterback, Tennessee Titans
While the Tennessee Titans may arguably be the worst team in the NFL — they are sitting at 2-9 after all — the good news is that they seem to have found their franchise quarterback. Since being the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft, all Marcus Mariota has done is complete 62.8% of his passes, throw for 16 touchdowns (versus just eight interceptions), and accept the title of AFC Offensive Player of the Week twice. Not bad for someone who’s game at Oregon wasn’t supposed to translate to the NFL.
4. Thomas Rawls, running back, Seattle Seahawks
Former Central Michigan running back Thomas Rawls has gone from undrafted rookie to the second coming of Beast Mode. In his 11 games with the Seattle Seahawks — five as a starter — No. 34 has rushed for 685 yards, is picking up 5.6 yards a carry, and has four total touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving). Whether Marshawn Lynch returns to Seattle in 2016 or not, one thing remains certain: Thomas Rawls is there to stay.
3. Amari Cooper, wide receiver, Oakland Raiders
The consensus prior to the 2015 draft was that Alabama standout Amari Cooper was the most polished receiver in the entire class — and the No. 4 overall pick is living up to the hype in his rookie year. Through 11 games, Cooper has 58 receptions, 851 receiving yards, and four touchdowns. With quarterback Derek Carr making big strides in his sophomore season and Cooper clearly playing beyond his rookie label, the Oakland Raiders must feel pretty good about the direction the franchise is heading.
2. Todd Gurley, running back, St. Louis Rams
Todd Gurley doesn’t look like a player who tore his ACL last November. Then again, the former Georgia running back and No. 10 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft is not your average player. In just nine games, the St. Louis Rams back has carried the ball 164 times, rushed for 794 yards (fifth in the NFL), is averaging 88.2 yards per game (fourth in the NFL), and has six rushing touchdowns. Any way you slice it, Gurley is already one of the best running backs in the NFL. Soon enough, he’ll be in a category all by himself. You can take that to the bank.
1. Jameis Winston, quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It may have taken him some time to adapt to the NFL game, but quarterback Jameis Winston has slowly showcased the goods that made him the No. 1 overall selection in the 2015 draft. Not only has the former Heisman Trophy winner out of Florida State thrown for 2,650 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions (while also running for four scores), but through 11 games, he’s led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 5-6 mark. Considering that the Bucs won a total of two games all of last season, clearly Winston proves to be the ultimate difference-maker. Based on that alone, it should come as no surprise that the odds have shifted in his favor.
Odds courtesy of sportsbook.ag.