May 25, 2024

Three dark-horse contenders for 2024 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year

With the 2024 NFL Draft officially in the books, oddsmakers have already started setting lines on the favorites for NFL Offensive Rooke of the Year.

And while quarterback selections Caleb Williams (Chicago Bears), Jayden Daniels (Washington Commanders) and J.J. McCarthy (Minnesota Vikings) are the presumed front-runners for the honor (for good reason), there are some other under-the-radar players who could enter the conversation once the season begins.

Here are three dark-horse candidates for 2024 NFL Offensive Player of the Year.

1. Keon Coleman, WR, Buffalo Bills

Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis – who combined for 241 targets, 1,929 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns with the Bills last season – are no longer in the picture and QB Josh Allen is in need of new No. 1 and 2 receivers. Khalil Shakir and Curtis Samuel have first dibs on the positions, but Coleman could quickly ascend to the top of the depth chart with a strong showing in training camp and during the preseason.

After all, Allen texted Coleman before the Bills drafted him at the top of Round 2 and told him that the FSU standout was the receiver with whom he wanted to play. The 20-year-old wideout has excellent hands and great jump-ball skills (he stands 6-foot-3), wins plenty of contested catches (nearly 50% at Florida State) and is tough to bring down after the catch (he forced 20 missed tackles the last two seasons).

Allen will likely spread the ball out between his new group of receivers, but don’t be surprised if by the end of the year Coleman is flirting with 1,200 yards or 10 touchdowns.

2. Ladd McConkey, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

With receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, running back Austin Ekeler and tight end Gerald Everett all on new teams, the Chargers have to make up for losing 55.9% of their total receptions, 54.2% of their total receiving yards and 50% of their touchdown catches from a season ago.

Though Joshua Palmer and Quentin Johnston are both coming back, it wouldn’t be surprising if McConkey emerged from training camp as QB Justin Herbert’s new favorite target. Allen saw 150 targets as Herbert’s go-to receiver last year and while its unrealistic to expect McConkey to see that kind of volume as a rookie, he will likely get a good portion of it.

McConkey runs strong routes with crisp breaks and he can gain plenty of yards after the catch. The Georgia product had arguably the best hands of any receiver in the draft and he is tough to cover due to his ability to line up all over the field. In Jim Harbaugh’s offensive system, don’t be surprised if McConkey has an 80-reception, 1,000-yard rookie season.

3. Jonathon Brooks, RB, Carolina Panthers

This selection, of course, depends on how Brooks’ recovery goes as he makes his way back from the torn ACL he suffered in November. The 20-year-old running back told reporters at the NFL Combine that he will be ready for the start of training camp at the end of July, so if he’s to be taken at his word, Brooks should be able to play Week 1.

The Panthers prioritized surrounding second-year QB Bryce Young with more talent this offseason and they did just that by drafting Brooks, receiver Xavier Legette and tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders, as well as trading for receiver Diontae Johnson.

In his lone year as the starter at Texas, Brooks rushed for 1,139 yards and 10 touchdowns while adding 25 receptions, 286 yards and another score through the air. His dual-threat versatility will be a welcome addition for Young, who can lean on Brooks to be his safety net. Though the Panthers also hav Chuba Hubbard and Miles Sanders in the backfield, neither possesses the game-breaking potential of Brooks.