Last year, Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III (R2.41) started 11 games, carried the ball 228 times, piled up 1,050 rushing yards, and scored 9 touchdowns on the ground. That performance earned him enough votes to finish 2nd in voting for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Walker’s teammate, Tariq Woolen (R5.153), was originally viewed as a project.
In hindsight, that’s a strange sentence to write.
Not only did Woolen win the starting job at RCB in training camp, he also established himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league. He finished the year tied for the league-lead in interceptions (6) and came in 3rd in the Defensive Rookie of the Year voting.
Expect more of the same this year.
Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba (R1.20) is listed at +700 to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. His former teammate, Garrett Wilson, won the award last year and, for what it’s worth, Wilson thinks JSN is “the best I’ve ever seen.”
On the other side of the ball, DraftKings has Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon at +900 to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
Personally, I think DraftKings may be underestimating the situations that Witherspoon and JSN are walking into.
Witherspoon is going to have last year’s 3rd-place finisher in the DROY voting, and the league’s co-leader in interceptions lining up opposite him. Opposing quarterbacks can’t avoid BOTH outside corners which means that Witherspoon should have plenty of opportunities to make his mark - especially early in the season.
JSN’s situation is even more enticing since he’ll be the third option behind DK Metcalf (90-1,048-6 in 2022) and Tyler Lockett (84-1,033-9).
If you’re worried that having DK and NoE ahead of him means JSN won’t get a lot of targets, don’t be. You see, JSN isn’t really WR3; he’s more like WR1C to DK’s WR1A and Lockett’s WR1B. All three players are going to see plenty of targets.
In fact, the situation JSN finds himself in in Seattle is eerily similar to what he had in 2021 at Ohio State when he had Garrett Wilson (R1.10) and Chris Olave (R1.11) as his wingmen. All JSN did that year was set an Ohio State record with 1,606 receiving yards. The final 347 yards came in the Rose Bowl.
If 347 yards sounds like a lot, it’s because IT IS. Not only is that the most receiving yards in Rose Bowl history, it’s the 5th-most receiving yards in ANY bowl game EVER.
“I just try to take advantage every time the ball is in the air, and I feel like I did that today.” - Jaxon Smith-Njigba after his Rose Bowl performance.
For what it’s worth, the Super Bowl record is 215 receiving yards (Jerry Rice, SB XXIII).
I’m not a betting man, but if I were, I’d be inclined to believe that JSN (at +700) and Witherspoon (at +900) were worth considering.