The 2021 NFL Draft Class featured five first-round quarterbacks and a collection of opt-out players from the previous college season. Most of the quarterbacks didn’t fare well as rookies, but the marquee dropouts were mostly huge. And with the 2021 regular season over, it’s time to create some awards to hand out to deserving freshman pros.
Before we begin, I’ll provide my choices for the official rookie rewards.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Bengals
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Micah Parsons, EDGE, Cowboys
Let’s go now.
Jones’ season was centered around him, methodically exploiting the Conservative game plan, returning the Patriots, and limiting mistakes. Although he threw 13 interceptions – not exactly an insanely low number – he was smart with football and figured out where to go with him below for Josh McDaniels. Unlike some of the advertising, Jones hasn’t had a rookie year looking like Justin Herbert or Kyler Murray. Remember, don’t automatically equate wins with high-caliber quarterback play. However, New England should be encouraged by what their first-round pick has featured in the majority of their outings this season, especially compared to other rookie passer.
Best Offensive Lineman
Slater is already a top 10 left tackle in football, so it was a pretty easy decision. He stepped in in Week 1 protecting Justin Herbert and played with effortless poise and power all season. As solid as his reputation for blocking passes already is, Slater has also switched to the running game. His athleticism and natural strength allow him to play so calmly amid the play-to-play chaos that occurs in the trenches. The Chargers got their quarterback in the first round of 2020 and their franchise left a tackle last April.
Best outdoor pass
Parsons is an instant superstar. Seriously. And he will remain an edge rusher for the rest of his career. He was on the edge of unblocks for the last three months of the season and at times played the role of a lanky linebacker without a ball. Parsons had 67 presses out of just 307 precipitation snaps (astonishing 21.8% pressure creation rate). He had three forced fumbles, three breakage passes, 13 sacks, 84 total tackles and led the NFL with 20 tackles for a loss. And did it all in 16 games.
Best Indoor Pass
The Patriots picked Barmore in the second round, and he provided first-round caliber productivity as a rookie. Out of 396 quick snaps, the former Alabama star racked up 47 presses. A nearly 12% pressure build rate in a first season in the NFL is pretty darn good for a defensive tackle. Like Parsons, Barmore appeared early in college and did the same in the NFL. He turned 22 just two months into the season and looks set to be one of the AFC’s toughest pass-blocking missions for crosses and goalies going forward.
The most reliable cover linebacker
Owusu-Koramoah was the top rookie linebacker this season, and he’s particularly thrived in cover. After watching him at Notre Dame, it seemed obvious that Owusu-Koramoah was going to thrive in the pass space. Although he didn’t manage an interception, he defended four passes while allowing only one touchdown in his coverage area on 33 targets. Speaking of targets, Owusu-Koramoah has limited a lot of them – games that will never reach the stat book – due to his contraction, speed, and knowledge of the road.
Biggest gem of day 3
Until September, St. Brown had six catches for 43 yards. Then he went mad. In the last 14 outings, St. Brown has 84 receptions for 869 yards with five touchdowns, including a winner against the Vikings.
Now, the fourth-round first pick was averaging just 10.1 yards per catch, which seems weak at first glance, but given that it served as the Lions’ possession window, it comes down to makes an impressive average. Only two drops out of 115 targets call out a reliable option in any passing offense. The polished road racer will be an integral facet of Detroit’s attack going forward.
Most valuable undrafted free agent
Not a big pick to choose here, but Jacobs had the most impressive UDFA season of 2021, with seven breakouts and a forced fumble in 13 games before landing on IR with a ripped ACL. The Arkansas State and Arkansas product was an irregular outside corner in Dan Campbell’s offense, an apt style for a team looking to bite their opponents’ kneecaps every week.
Most impactful defensive back of play
Patrick Surtain II had a great rookie season – four interceptions including a six pick – but Holland had a more consistent impact in every phase of the game. The first safety off the board in the 2021 NFL Draft was deployed in various roles by Brian Flores, smart considering all the hats Holland wore in Oregon. And the second-round pick produced in a major way – 69 tackles, 2.5 sacks, three loss tackles, 10 breakouts and two interceptions. In addition, it generated 16 taps out of 62 snaps as a blitzer. Holland were everywhere for Miami this season.
Best performance out of nowhere
Week 15. Home. Against Justin Jefferson and the Vikings. Graham finally got the chance to get out of the practice squad and make a few plays in the Bears defense, which featured a high school that has struggled with the cornerback all year. And has the boy made a few plays already – four tackles and three break-ups. All of the forced failures occurred during throws on the field, and one of them was a diving effort in the end zone. The Bears have a gem in Graham.