Who Will Win NFL Offensive & Defensive Rookie of the Year?

Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett
via TigerNet.com / CC BY-SA 2.0

The NFL is back and we’ve already been graced with some fantastic matchups. With so many contests decided by the finest of margins already, franchises will have to dive deep into their rosters in search of that competitive edge as the season goes on. With that in mind, there are a number of rookies that could provide the much-needed advantage by the business end of the year and see their teams through to the postseason. We have only had a brief glimpse at this year’s field of rookies during the preseason and opening round and there’s still not a lot to go off in all honesty, it’s a wide-open contest for both Rookie of the year contests. Here’s a look at some of the most likely contenders for each prize once we reach the end of the 2022/23 season. 

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Breece Hall – NY Jets, RB 

The Jets didn’t allow Breece Hall to stretch his legs much in his first taste of the NFL during the preseason with just 14 carries for 29 yards to his name leading into the season. Regardless, he is a potential superstar in the making. He had an outstanding college career at Iowa State and is more than capable of making it big in the NFL. The Jets’ offensive line is in position to take a noticeable step forward, and Hall should benefit from it. There is a question mark over how many snaps he’ll get because of Michael Carter’s standout performances but either way, Hall will still likely be right in the middle of the fight for Rookie of the Year provided Zach Wilson can grow into his role at quarterback. 

Kenny Pickett – Pittsburgh Steelers, QB

The new Pittsburgh Steeler is the current favourite at +600 but always check which operator offers the best odds when comparing betting sites. Three of the last six offensive rookies of the year have been quarterbacks so Pickett is a good pick before the season gets into full swing. Standing in Pickett’s way initially is the presence of veteran Mitchell Trubisky. The Steelers were quick to sign Trubisky at the start of free agency but had an uninspiring performance in week one. We could be seeing Pickett as the starter sooner rather than later, and if Pickett starts before October he’ll have plenty of time to become a prime Rookie of the Year contender. He does not possess the physicality of Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Justin Herbert, but he is an excellent pocket passer and is great at thinking on his feet. For sheer passing ability and athleticism, Pickett is one of the favorites. 

Treylon Burks – Tennessee Titans, WR

Burks is not the same standard of player as the departing A.J. Brown quite yet, but it opens up a great opportunity for Burks in Tennessee. He struggled initially with reports circulating of breathing issues in preseason but those concerns are long gone now. He has demonstrated the size and strength to win contested catches, and he’s extremely athletic with the ball in his hands. Burks can play outside but seems to excel from the slot, which will help him with Ryan Tannehill as his quarterback. Tennessee is a run-first offensive unit, but if Burks can get the service and settle in quickly he has the potential to step into Brown’s shoes and produce a standout season.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Travon Walker – Jacksonville Jaguars, LB 

Walker was the top overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft and with good reason. It doesn’t guarantee being in contention for Rookie of the Year, but he has the tools to become an excellent addition to not only the roster but the NFL as a whole. Walker had no trouble getting his first sack in the preseason and the 21-year-old delivered again in Week 1 when he faced up against a suspect Washington Commanders offensive line. An interception and a sack in his first NFL start is the stuff dreams are made of and he’ll hope to keep that momentum going. He might need to become a bit of a better pass rusher, but he’ll work on that throughout his inaugural season. For the time being though he has shown a lot of promise and is certainly one to watch. 

Aidan Hutchinson – Detroit Lions, DE

Aidan Hutchinson could have easily been picked first in this year’s NFL Draft after a remarkable year for the Wolverines but he has to settle for only second instead. Hutchinson was living in the backfield during the preseason as he adjusts from college to the pros. He was an All-American performer for the Wolverines and was considered one of the better edge pass rush prospects in years leading up to the annual event. After all the promise of an excellent college year, he got off to a good start in preseason bringing down Falcons running back Qadree Ollison for a two-yard loss in his first set of reps on defense. His ability to quickly get past his blocker seems to have translated well and as the focal point on the Lions’ defensive line, it won’t be surprising to see him establish himself as a Rookie of the Year candidate. 

Sauce Gardner – NY Jets, CB 

Gardner will be looking to become the third cornerback since 2000 to win defensive Rookie of the Year, joining Marshon Lattimore in 2017 and Marcus Peters in 2015. He will be seriously tested in his own division along the way, lining up opposite the likes of Stefon Diggs and Tyreek Hill four times a year. However, if he can hold his own against Diggs and Hill and have a few interceptions and big plays, you have to like his chances of winning defensive Rookie of the Year. His interceptions and deflection stats will have to be up to scratch but he has all the traits to be a shutdown corner, even from day one. He has the potential to go toe-to-toe with the game’s best receivers and Gardner will be relishing the challenge.