Comparing Justin Herbert and Justin Jefferson’s case for OROY
By Noah Velasco
LA Chargers’ Justin Herbert headlines this year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year race.
The two top candidates for offensive rookie of the year are LA Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert and Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson.
Both players had record-breaking seasons but only one player can win the coveted award. Herbert was taken as the third quarterback and sixth overall while Jefferson was the fifth wide receiver and twenty-second overall pick. Naturally, as first-round draft picks, expectations were always going to be high for these rookies to make an instant impact.
First, let’s begin with Herbert. In Week 2, Herbert got the unexpected start after Tyrod Taylor went down with a punctured lung. How did Herbert get introduced to the league? A division rival game against the defending Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. Despite the overtime loss, Charger fans knew Herbert would be the future of the franchise after his admirable performance.
Even after Taylor recovered it was impossible to send Herbert back to the bench after repeated strong performances against top NFL teams. Herbert went toe to toe with the likes of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Josh Allen, and did more than stand his ground.
Despite not getting his first win as a starter until Week 7, Herbert shone in every loss which isn’t easy to do. Additionally, he showed his perseverance as the Chargers season was once again plagued with one-score losses, as he had a streak of three straight games where he led the team to a game-winning drive in the closing minutes of the game
Herbert finishes his rookie year with just about every record in the book for a quarterback without playing the entire season. Herbert has the most passing touchdowns, most total touchdowns, most completions, most 300-yard games and most games with multiple passing touchdowns. He was also just 39 yards short of breaking the rookie passing yards record.
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Now, let’s assess Justin Jefferson. With Stefon Diggs leaving for Buffalo, Jefferson had big shoes to fill. After his record-breaking season, it’s safe to say Vikings fans are satisfied after Diggs’ absence.
Jefferson was healthy for the entire season and challenged fellow wide receiver Adam Thielen for top wide receiver in Minnesota.
In Week 3 Jefferson stood out and put the league on notice. Hosting a well-coached Titans team, Jefferson caught 7 of his 9 targets for a total of 175 yards. What’s most impressive is how he went for an average of 25 yards for each reception showing his deep ball threat.
He then followed up with another strong 103 yard game with only 4 receptions against the Texans the following week.
These performances were enough to earn him honors as a pro bowl wide receiver.
Jefferson totaled seven 100-yard reception games and seven touchdowns. In the process, he broke Randy Moss’s rookie receiving yards for the Vikings and went on to break that same record but for the entire league.
In conclusion, despite impressive record-breaking stats by Jefferson, it’s Justin Herbert who easily deserves the award. Now you might think just because this is a Chargers site that we would pick Herbert automatically, but he earned this award.
Quarterback is the most influential position in football but that still isn’t an excuse as to why Herbert is the winner. In addition to having arguably one of the best rookie quarterback records in history, it’s the circumstances around Herbert that give him the edge.
Herbert played against the best quarterbacks in the league and kept pace and outplayed them at times. With the injuries to top players on the Chargers, Herbert was throwing deep touchdowns to players from the practice squad. Additionally, working against an incompetent coaching staff displayed Herbert’s natural talent and ability that can’t be coached.
The Chargers would have been a lot worse off if Herbert didn’t play as well as he did. The team was in every game they played this season as a direct result of Herbert’s incredible performances.
Ultimately both the Chargers and Vikings have great players to develop and will be entertaining to watch in the future, in large part because of Justin Herbert and Justin Jefferson.