NFL Rookie of the Year Watch: Week 14
As the NFL season turns to December and teams separate themselves, we discuss some of the league’s most prestigious awards. Of those titles is the quest to become the NFL Rookie of the Year.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Kenneth Walker III, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Starting on offense, there’s no one making a stronger case for Offensive Rookie of the Year right now than Kenneth Walker III.
In his first game as a starter, the Michigan State alum took 21 carries for 97 yards and a score, an impressive statline for the rookie’s first game with a full workload.
The following week was the game that put not only Walker, but the Seahawks, on notice. Seattle routed the Los Angeles Chargers on the road 37-23, led by Walker’s incredible performance. The rookie rushed 23 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 7.3 yards a clip. He capped his best outing of the year with a 74-yard scamper down the right sideline late in the fourth quarter, which sealed the game for the Seahawks.
Due to the injury to Jets running back Breece Hall early in 2022, it seemed like the OROY award was Walker’s to lose. But with Walker being sidelined due to injury last week versus the Rams, his opponents may be able to gain some ground if he misses any time.
Chris Olave, WR, New Orleans Saints
The most productive and consistent receiver of the 2022 class, Olave has been a force for the Saints passing attack. The Ohio State product was drafted in the first round of this past year’s draft, and has lived up to the hype.
Olave has caught five or more passes in seven games this season, including being targeted more than nine times in five of those games. The Saints look early and often to Olave, usually in the slot, and that’s how he’s generated such an impressive statline: 60 catches on the year, for 887 yards and three touchdowns.
One can only imagine how good Olave would be if he had consistent quarterback play. The rookie not only beat out former top target Michael Thomas and veteran Jarvis Landry in target share, but excels for New Orleans.
Christian Watson, WR, Green Bay Packers
Watson might not have the yards production that some of his competitors, but is a scoring machine. Watson has seven total touchdowns in the last three games, and has exploded onto the scene.
The second round pick from North Dakota St. has shown up for Aaron Rodgers in the face of injury this season. When veteran Randall Cobb and rookie Romeo Doubs were sent to IR, Watson became the Packers’ top scoring outlet.
Watson has less of a claim to the throne, but if he can keep the scoring going, he could find himself as a serious contender for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Tariq Woolen, CB, Seattle Seahawks
Moving to the other side of the ball, the Defensive Rookie of the Year seems to be between two top defensive backs, one of which is Tariq Woolen. The UTSA product was drafted in the fifth round in this past year’s draft, and was thrust into a starting role in the Seattle secondary early on.
Woolen has shown up, flashing his sub-4.4 speed and flying around the ball. Woolen is tied for the league lead with six interceptions, adding another 12 passes defensed and 45 tackles on the year.
Sauce Gardner, CB, New York Jets
The other stellar young cornerback vying with Woolen is the one and only Sauce Gardner. Drafted fourth overall from Cincinnati, Gardner was brought into Robert Saleh’s defense to do one thing: lock down opposing receivers.
Sauce has done just that, and the former Bearcat leads the NFL in passes defensed with 15. Gardner flies around the football, allowing the least amount of yards in man coverage among all qualified corners. The first round pick has yet to allow a touchdown in 2022.
Parker Silverman is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.