A year ago around this time, Kyle Pitts was viewed as an obvious choice for Rookie of the Year. He was joining a stacked passing offense under a new head coach with a strong background on that side of the ball, and his skills were readily evident. It didn’t seem like a slam dunk—Trevor Lawrence went first overall to the Jaguars, and there were other intriguing players in that first round—but Pitts was viewed as a strong bet for a reason.
He finished the year as one of the finalists for the award—he was 24th in the NFL in receiving yards and put together plenty of highlights—but the Falcons traded away Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley was not available much of the year, and the offense bottomed out as Pitts found himself the focus of every defense’s attention. He still had a terrific rookie season, but it was Ja’Marr Chase who took home the award in the end.
This year, we’re already getting the same kind of buzz for Drake London. Will he get it?
Falcons' Drake London is the betting favorite to be offensive rookie of the year. https://t.co/Rna8rj1X08— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) May 1, 2022
It’s going to be an interesting journey to follow. London is getting this buzz for obvious reasons: He’s the top skill position player on offense chose in this class, he’s joining a team trying to build a passing attack to suit his strengths, and he’ll be joining a coaching staff hopefully finding its footing in their second season. London will have a ton of vacated targets to soak up—Russell Gage left in free agency, Ridley is suspended, and the team’s receiving corps is beyond suspect—and also get to work alongside Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson. There’s a lot to like about his fit in Atlanta and his chances of winning Offensive Rookie of the Year, in short, assuming this offense is even halfway capable.
What’s working against him? The sheer number of receivers taken in the first couple of rounds is one thing, with players like Jameson Williams in Detroit, Treylon Burks in Tennessee, and Christian Watson with the Packers likely to get significant target shares in their respective landing spots. Another is that if all goes well in Atlanta, this will not be a pass-heavy attack, which may limit the number of targets and thus production headed London’s way. Obviously, if Kenny Pickett wins the job in Pittsburgh, the high-profile nature of that gig with the Steelers and the possibility that he’ll be pretty productive as a starter would work in his favor, which is likely why he’s being given the second-best odds behind London.
I do genuinely like London’s chances of going from odds-on favorite to actual Offensive Rookie of the Year, because I think he’s good enough to do it and the opportunity will be there for him in Atlanta. We’ll see if the circumstances wind up being more favorable for him than they were a year ago with Pitts