Rashee Rice is interesting long shot for Offensive Rookie of the Year

For those who want to back Rashee Rice as a sleeper pick...
Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals
Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals / Michael Owens/GettyImages

Rashee Rice is a longshot for more than one reason.

When it comes to the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, the most obvious honoree(s) over the years have played quarterback, a role so important for a team's success that it makes sense to give them the glory they deserve if they've lifted a team by any considerable level. It's Justin Herbert and Kyler Murray.

From there, the most productive running backs and wide receivers are oft considered as top rookies, players with a wide open path to playing time and/or playing on teams so devoid of talent that they are relied upon early and often in their professional careers. It's Saquon Barkley and Garrett Wilson.

So even right out of the gate, Rice is not exactly the odds-on favorite to win the NFL's Offensive ROY in 2023. He was the seventh wide receiver taken and the 55th overall selection in his draft class with several exciting playmakers poised for early impact taken in front of him.

In fact, let's take a look at the odds for Rice compared to others. Atlanta Falcons running back Bijan Robinson is the favorite via FanDuel at +300 to win OROY this season followed by the two quarterbacks taken at No. 1-2 overall, Bryce Young of the Carolina Panthers (+400) and C.J. Stroud (+1000) of the Houston Texans. The first wide receiver draft, Jaxon Smith-Njigba of the Seattle Seahawks, is at +2100.

Rice's placement with the Kansas City Chiefs is what complicates the picture for him and any potential run at a Rookie of the Year award. On the one hand, being a Chiefs' rookie receiver works against him. It's hard to name many rookie WRs who lit up the stat sheet under Andy Reid, and the Chiefs have a plethora of pass-catching options in an offense that runs through Travis Kelce.

On the other hand, how often have the Chiefs taken top-shelf wideouts in the draft when picking so late year after year? And even with Kelce eating up targets, the Chiefs' prolific offense is going to make a household name out of someone else in this crew with the absence of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman who departed in free agency.

Consider that the Chiefs are having to rebuild a wide receiving corps with Skyy Moore, who had 250 yards a year ago in his rookie campaign, and Kadarius Toney, who is electric on the field but has a hard time staying there. Marquez Valdes-Scantling is the known commodity here and will get his 600-700 yards, to be sure. But there's room beyond that for a real performer to break out: why not Rice?

For those who watched Rice lead the Chiefs in yardage on Saturday against the Arizona Cardinals, it was a glimpse at just how dangerous he can be as a tough, physical target moving the chains. Rice thrives in a battle for the ball and his on-field courage and demeanor is what could help separate him from other rookies from years past. His ability to generate significant yards after a catch further enhances his skill set for a quarterback like Patrick Mahomes.

When it comes to Rice, anything feels possible in 2023. It seems like he could completely surprise by putting up a 1,000-yard season even as a rookie or he could also remain in the shadows for his first season with a committee approach that could keep anyone from putting up dominant stats.

The primary thing for Rice and everyone is winning and no one should be overly worried about their own production. But Rice is an intriguing longshot with a realistic path toward more production that most analysts would believe possible. It could make this a bet worth making.