Jacksonville Jaguars v New England Patriots
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The NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year race is one of the more interesting head-to-heads that we have this award season. As we close out the 2021 regular season, it's currently a two-player race between Patriots quarterback Mac Jones and Bengals receiver Ja'Marr Chase. Currently, the oddsmakers at Caesars Sportsbook have given Chase the edge as he is the betting favorite at -220 to win OROY, while Jones is behind him at +180. 

Both have put together extremely impressive seasons during their first year in the league, but only one will be able to take home the honor. Who will it be? That's what we'll try to figure out below as we make the case for each.

The case for Mac Jones

Mac Jones
JAC • QB • #10
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Of the five quarterbacks taken in the first round of last year's draft, Jones' production is head-and-shoulders above his classmates. He's also rivaling to have one of the most accurate rookie seasons for a quarterback in NFL history. Jones' 67.6 completions percentage coming out of Week 17 is better than Justin Herbert's from his OROY campaign in 2020 and just 0.2% behind Dak Prescott's all-time record from his OROY season in 2016. It also currently ranks 8th in the entire NFL. 

With still one more game left to play, Jones owns the sixth-best passer rating among rookie signal-callers in league history at 92.5, which is higher than previous OROY winners like Kyler Murray (2019) and Cam Newton (2011). He is also currently tied for the 10th-most passing touchdowns (21) ever in a rookie season and could climb even higher in Week 18. In terms of franchise records, Jones has more passing touchdowns than any Patriots rookie that came before him along with the most passing yards. 

However, the biggest feather in Jones' cap this season has been his ability to help the Patriots win. He quickly retained a complex playbook constructed by Josh McDaniels and has helped lead the team to a 10-6 record. If he gets a win in Week 18, Jones would be tied for the third-most wins by a rookie quarterback. Dating back to 2013, no first-round quarterback had even been able to go above .500 during his first season (minimum 10 starts) until Jones. He's also the first first-round rookie quarterback to lead his team to the playoffs (minimum 10 starts) since Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III both did it in 2012. 

The case for Ja'Marr Chase

Ja'Marr Chase
CIN • WR • #1
REC YDs1429
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Chase did solidify himself as the favorite to claim OROY with his historic performance against the Chiefs in Week 17. His 266 receiving yards in that division-clinching win by Cincinnati is the most in a single game by a rookie in league history. However, Chase's claim to the OROY award goes beyond a single performance as he's put together arguably the greatest rookie season in league history at his position. 

Chase just needs 45 more yards to break the all-time receiving yards record for a rookie that has been held by Bill Groman since 1960. His 79 receptions currently ranks seventh on the all-time list but trails Michael Clayton by just one catch. Chase's 13 receiving touchdowns is tied for the second-most all-time by a rookie receiver with Billy Howton and trails only Randy Moss, who had 17 scores in 1998. As it relates to the 2021 season, Chase is second in the entire NFL in receiving touchdowns and fourth in receiving yards, while his 18.1 yards per reception lead the league. 

The No. 5 overall pick's impact does go beyond gaudy numbers, though. He's also been a key piece to why the Bengals have been able to win 10 games so far this season and clinch the AFC North title. During last week's historic showing against Kansas City, arguably Chase's most important contribution came on a third-and-27 play on what would prove to be the game-winning drive. He was able to bring the Bengals back to life with a 30-yard reception that kept the drive moving and eventually resulted in the clinching field goal as time expired. Coming up big on those moments in such a pivotal game at the end of the season is what has now put him in the driver's seat to win OROY.


While both Jones and Chase have put together remarkable seasons, there's also some nitpicking we can do to both of these campaigns. In the case of Jones, he did seem to hit a rookie wall following New England's bye, which contributed to back-to-back losses that saw the team fall out of the top seed in the AFC and first place in the division. As for Chase, he also seemed to go cold for a period of time this season. From Week 8 to Week 15, Chase averaged just 40.6 yards receiving as the Bengals went 3-4 over that seven-game stretch. 

That said, you can't ignore what the young receiver has been able to accomplish just one year in. Chase has not only put together one of the greatest rookie seasons by a receiver of all time, but he's already rivaling to be considered one of the best pass-catchers in the entire league. Jones has a tremendously promising career in front of him, but he's not already pushing towards being one of the top-five quarterbacks in the league like Chase is at his position, which gives Chase the edge in this head-to-head for OROY.