Summer is often the time for predictions — as we in the draft business know a lot about, being the nature of the job and all. Experts, analysts, talking heads, whatever you want to call them, they all fire up their cameras, recorders and social platforms and proclaim what is going to happen in the upcoming NFL season, knowing full well they’ll probably end up being dead wrong but will never revisit such takes.
I’m not one of those people who doesn’t listen. I actually like to hear the opinions of others in the field. I like agreeing and disagreeing, seeing how things play out and perhaps learning a thing or two. But, at the end of the day, those people don’t have a crystal ball in their closet just like I don’t.
There is one area of predictions I do pay attention to more than others, though. That would be what the fine folks over in Las Vegas say before the season.
You see, those big giant buildings with all the lights and gold in them, they didn’t pay for that themselves. In fact, if you’ve ever been over there, you’ll know that you’re actually the one who paid for it. Vegas is in the business of making money, and in order to do that they need to be calculated and correct more than they’re not.
So when it came to who Vegas believed would have the best rookie season in the NFL this year, I certainly made note of it.
These were Vegas’ odds at the beginning of September right before Week 1 of the 2018 NFL season began to win Offensive Rookie of the Year.
- Saquon Barkley +170
- Baker Mayfield +600
- Sam Darnold +600
- Josh Rosen +950
- Josh Allen +1000
- Rashaad Penny +1500
- Lamar Jackson +1600
- Sony Michel +1800
- Ronald Jones II +2000
- Nick Chubb +2500
- DJ Moore +3000
- Calvin Ridley +3000
- Royce Freeman +3000
- Courtland Sutton +3500
- Kerryon Johnson +4000
- James Washington +5000
- Anthony Miller +5000
- Christian Kirk +5500
- Michael Gallup +6000
- Braxton Berrios +6500
- Dante Pettis +6500
- DJ Chark +7000
- Nyheim Hines +9500
- Mark Walton +10000
- Dallas Goedert +10000
- Antonio Callaway +10000
Giants running back Saquon Barkley was the hands down favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year by a wide margin, and so far he’s lived up to that. Right now Barkley is just shy of averaging what would be a 1,000-yard rushing and 1,000-yard receiving season. If he does it, Barkley would be only the third player ever along with Marshall Faulk (1,381 rushing and 1,048 receiving in 1999) and Roger Craig (1,050 rushing and 1,016 receiving in 1985) to do so.
If he can get anywhere close to that, he’s rookie of the year for sure. So the odds matched the output.
But that one is obvious. Let’s dive into some others.
Baker Mayfield being second on the lists also made sense. It seemed as though Vegas was predicting that it was only a matter of time before Mayfield took the reigns, and with Vegas also saying Hue Jackson had the highest odds to be the first coach fired, it’s safe to say they was totally right on everything that has happened in Cleveland this season.
The next three were all quarterbacks as well, which makes sense, since they have the highest variance of impact on a team. Sam Darnold got the most starts, but has not put up big numbers, Josh Rosen is a starter but playing on an awful team, and Josh Allen, is, well, not good. But the only one not in that group with them in a row was Lamar Jackson. Jackson’s lower numbers were likely due to the solidified Joe Flacco in front of him, but now we’re about to see Jackson unchained. He may even be the best of the bunch when the year is done.
The next three running backs on the list? Rashaad Penny, Sony Michel and Ronald Jones…
It has taken Penny 10 games to really even be worth a start in fantasy football, let alone be considered a top rookie. Penny has just 254 yards on the year, 108 of which came last week. Michel has been fine, though in a cluttered backfield in New England. And, as for Ronald Jones, well, if you thought Penny was an oversight, Jones has yet to record 50 total yards this season. If you bet any money on Jones’ odds, kiss them goodbye.
Within the next bunch of names you have Nick Chubb, D.J. Moore and Calvin Ridley, all names who look like the only players with outside shots to catch Barkley, at this point, which would have been great bets looking back. Chubb is really coming into his own in a starting role with Carlos Hyde out of the picture, Moore is taking advantage of Norv Turner’s hands in Cam Newton’s offense, and Calvin Ridley has the third-most receiving touchdowns in the league — a JuJu Smith-Schuster kind of impact season.
At the end of the day, this was and is Barkley’s award to win. So, in that sense, I suppose Vegas will be the victors in all this yet again. But, as for the rest of the list, there are some rookies that well out-performed what their odds were going into the season, and guys like Phillip Lindsay weren’t even listed.
If you have money on Ridley, Chubb and I’ll even throw in Lamar Jackson, maybe you have a shot.
If not, there’s always next year.