NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year: The major contenders

Cleveland Browns v New York Giants

The new NFL season is just one solitary day away and this week we're taking a look at the top contenders for some of the game's yearly awards.

Yesterday, we kicked things off with a look at the main contenders to win Most Valuable Player in 2018. That included the rare defensive candidate in Aaron Donald as well as Carson Wentz who will be looking to claim what was just a Week 13 ACL tear away from him. You can take a look at that here...

Today we're moving on from the old-heads aiming for MVP and taking a look at the future of the NFL. Yes, today we're going to be getting to know some of the top candidates looking to emulate  Alvin Kamara and win Offensive Rookie of the Year. Let's get into it.

Alvin Kamara took home the award last year, becoming a key part of the New Orleans' Saints offense and finishing the year with more than 1,500 all-purpose yards as well as putting 13 touchdowns on the board. 

Let's take a look at those in the best spot to replicate him...

3) Royce Freeman - Denver Broncos

Picked in the third round out of Oregon, Royce Freeman was expected to challenge and become a part of the Broncos rushing attack. No one expected him to become the starter straight out of the blocks - which is exactly what he's managed by being named RB1 on the Broncos depth chart. 

This is due to Freeman's great form in the preseason, where he logged 15 rush attempts for 84 yards and three scores in three games.

With Case Keenum in charge of the offense in Denver, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders split out wide to keep defenses keen, and an upgraded offensive line - Freeman has the chance to become an above-average starter from week one. 

A star running back has been sadly missing for the fans who got to witness Terrell Davis play, but there could finally be a proper successor in Mile High.

Denver Broncos v Washington Redskins

2) Sam Darnold - New York Jets

The only quarterback from this draft's bumper crop to land a starting job, Darnold beat out the veteran Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater - who has since been traded to the Saints for a third-round pick. 

Coming out of USC, Darnold was seen as the next superstar QB prospect back in 2016 after an incredible redshirt freshman season where he completed 67.2% of his passes for 3,086 yards, 31 touchdowns and just 9 interceptions.

Things dropped off a bit in 2017 (63.1%, 26 TDs, 13 INTs) which is why Baker Mayfield ended up going first overall, but if Darnold can lead the Jets to literally anything better than their 4th place in the AFC East from last year then he'll be a major contender.

New York Jets v Philadelphia Eagles

1) Saquon Barkley - New York Giants

If you didn't see this coming then I have no hope for you. 

Saquon was taken 2nd overall. There's a reason he went that high. The New York Giants haven't given up that draft capital on a running back just to have him become part of a committee and shine in limited snaps. 

Barkley is going to be a minimum 20-touch a game workhorse. He's going to be out on the field for first, second and third downs. Who's going to take meaningful touches off him, Wayne Gallman? I don't think so. 

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With the sheer amount of volume he's going to see, Barkley has to be the favourite. That volume combined with his elite athleticism and traits? It could be unstoppable.

Barkley finished 2017 with 1,800+ yards and 21 touchdowns while running for 5.9 yards per carry. Imagine if he did the same as a rookie...

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