A pair of former LSU Tigers currently holds the first and second best odds to win the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the first and last selections in the first round of the 2020 draft, are the duo that currently leads the offensive rookie of the year race, which also features fifth overall pick and former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa as well as a pair of running backs in the Colts’ Jonathan Taylor and Rams’ Cam Akers.
Tiger fans should be used to seeing Burrow and Edwards-Helaire tear up defenses at the college level, and what they’re doing at the professional level shouldn’t be surprising either.
Edwards-Helaire displayed his elusiveness and quickness, breaking tackles and juking past defenders to lead the league in rushing in week one, racking up 138 yards and a touchdown on 5.5 yards per carry in a 34-20 win last Thursday night, when the defending Super Bowl champions took on the Houston Texans.
Burrow nearly led his new team to a win as well, leading the Bengals down the field against a strong Los Angeles Chargers defense late in the fourth quarter, passing for 70 yards on the final drive. Cincinnati kicker Randy Bullock missed wide-right on what would have been the game-winning field goal as the clock struck zero, just seconds after Burrow had a touchdown pass that also would have won the game called back for an offensive pass interference penalty on receiver A.J. Green.
Kansas City’s high powered offense should provide the rookie running back with an opportunity to produce a similar stat line throughout the season. Andy Reid’s offense has traditionally gone with the committee approach at the position. The Chiefs have rushed for 1,769 yards on average as a team in the last four seasons, but featured an individual 1,000 yard rusher only once in that span. Edwards-Helaire offers Reid the option to move away from the committee approach and feature a bell-cow and do-it-all back, which the former Tiger was during his junior season, when he rushed for 1,414 yards on 215 attempts, something Kansas City hasn’t had in years.
Edwards-Helaire also flourishes in the passing game. He caught 55 passes for 453 yards last season at LSU and looks to do the same with his new team, a place where running backs received 107 targets last season.
A running back has won the award three of the last five years. The other two, and most recent winners, were quarterbacks.
As the first overall pick, being given the starting job right away is a tall task, as well as a perfect combination for high expectations. Bengals Head Coach Zac Taylor says his new quarterback has exceeded them.
"He's got a full grasp of our offense…You want your quarterback to be the hardest worker on the team and an extension of the coaching staff. He fits both those descriptions for us right now," Taylor said of Burrow before training camp. “He really breathes life into this offense, into this team…He's very confident, he's not arrogant. I think the team believes in this guy right now, but again he's earned that in the way that he's gone about his work."
LSU may very well already have the award locked up, with two former teammates who once worked together to take down opponents now battling it out between themselves for who comes out on top.