The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, but the Offensive Rookie of the Year award isn’t confined to that position specifically. In fact, there have been only two first-year signal callers given the award since 2013.
Quarterback is the position that will get all the hype, however.
Joe Burrow, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, was the heavy favorite before a knee injury ended his season early. Since then, Justin Herbert has taken over as the odds-on favorite (-900) to win the award.
Tua Tagovailoa sits with the third-best odds (+1000), despite playing only five games. It’s hard to argue how Vegas feels about a quarterback winning the award, but there continues to be other quality candidates available.
Yes, Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (+900) is one of those worthy of the award, but I’m talking about the undrafted rookie running back playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
His name is James Robinson, and he has been one of the lone bright spots on that offense.
Despite going seven full rounds in the 2020 draft without hearing his named called, the rookie out of Illinois State has impressed since Day 1. His emergence early in training camp helped Jacksonville feel comfortable enough to cut ties with former No. 4 overall pick Leonard Fournette.
Some questioned the decision at the time, but things are a lot different 13 weeks later.
Coming into this weekend, Robinson was No. 3 in the league in rushing yards (890) and was tied for No. 10 in rushing touchdowns (6). He’s rushed for 100-plus yards in four of the team’s 12 games, and came up just short (99 yards) in another.
But Robinson hasn’t just been the team’s workhorse running back (194 carries coming into Sunday). He’s also been effective as a receiver out of the backfield, hauling in 36 catches for 280 yards and two scores.
The 5-foot-9, 219-pound bruiser added another 108 yards (78 rushing, 30 receiving) and a touchdown to his season totals on Sunday against the Vikings. That means there has now been only two games that he hasn’t gone for at least 90 total yards.
So, why isn’t Robinson getting more love?
His odds for Offensive Rookie of the Year aren’t terrible (+3800), which is good for sixth-best amongst the other candidates. But he has outperformed fellow rookie rusher Clyde Edwards-Helaire (+3000) in a lot of ways.
Jacksonville relies on him more heavily than Pittsburgh relies on Chase Claypool (+1700). So, what gives?
Well, it looks like it could come down to draft pedigree and overall team success. All the other rookies mentioned so far were high-round draft picks, while Robinson is still viewed as an undrafted free agent from a FCS school.
At 1-11, the Jaguars don’t have a record — or an offense — worthy of discussion. The Chiefs and Steelers are considered two of the top teams in the NFL, so their impactful rookies get more attention.
Robinson, on the other hand, is a forgotten man in many circles.
If all candidates and their teams were weighed consistently, then the Chargers’ 3-9 record should also keep Herbert out of contention. However, Herbert carries the quarterback tag and first-round status that will keep him relevant. Don’t get me wrong, he has been fantastic for a majority of this season. So has Robinson.
This isn’t a knock on any of the other guys. It has been a fantastic rookie class for the league, and there are several players who have earned their status.
I just feel like Robinson deserves to be more involved in those Rookie of the Year conversations — or at least more than I’ve seen through the first 13 weeks of the season.
Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.