We’ve been looking at longshot bets for the last month or so on The Draft Network, including Offensive Rookie of the Year, Heisman, and MVP. Now, we’ll be turning our focus to Defensive Rookie of the Year, which is actually one of the more nicely formulaic approaches we’ve had in this exercise.
We know two things about Defensive Rookie of the Year winners: firstly, they’re either pass-rushers or tackle-getters. Over the last 20 years, 15 of the 20 winners have been EDGEs (6) or off-ball linebackers (9), with a few defensive tackles (Aaron Donald, Sheldon Richardson, and Ndamukong Suh) and a couple corners (Marshon Lattimore, Marcus Peters) rounding out the rest of the group.
The second truth is that they come from the first round almost invariably. Besides Darius Leonard, who was taken at No. 36 overall and was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2019, the most recent non-first rounder to take home the award was DeMeco Ryans in 2006. Furthermore, of the 17 first-rounders to win the award, all but one (Peters) was selected in the top-16 picks. We’re targeting early-drafted players for our longshots here, and we’re circling linebackers and EDGEs as our target positions.
Here are the current DROY odds, as set by BetOnline:
- Washington EDGE Chase Young (+275)
- Arizona LB Isaiah Simmons (+750)
- Baltimore LB Patrick Queen (+1000)
- Buffalo EDGE A.J. Epenesa (+2000)
- Los Angeles Chargers LB Kenneth Murray (+2200)
- Cincinnati LB Akeem Davis-Gaither (+2500)
- New York Jets S Ashtyn Davis (+2500)
- Jacksonville CB CJ Henderson (+2500)
- Miami EDGE Curtis Weaver (+2500)
- Carolina iDL Derrick Brown (+2500)
- Cleveland S Grant Delpit (+2500)
- San Francisco iDL Javon Kinlaw (+2500)
- Detroit CB Jeffrey Okudah (+2500)
- Seattle LB Jordyn Brooks (+2500)
- Detroit EDGE Julian Okwara (+2500)
- Dallas CB Trevon Diggs (+2500)
- Minnesota LB Troy Dye (+2500)
- Chicago CB Jaylon Johnson (+2800)
- Cleveland iDL Jordan Elliott (+2800)
- Jacksonville EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson (+2800)
- Kansas City LB Willie Gay Jr. (+2800)
- New Orleans EDGE Zack Baun (+2800)
- Tennessee CB Kristian Fulton (+3000)
- Atlanta iDL Marlon Davidson (+3000)
- Atlanta CB A.J. Terrell (+3300)
- Minnesota CB Jeff Gladney (+5000)
Considering our limitations, we want only players who were drafted in the first round, especially if we’re looking for bets at defensive tackle, EDGE, or corner. We’ll focus on those in the top half as well.
- Washington EDGE Chase Young (+275) (2nd overall)
- Arizona LB Isaiah Simmons (+750) (8th overall)
- Baltimore LB Patrick Queen (+1000) (28th overall)
- Los Angeles Chargers LB Kenneth Murray (+2200) (23rd overall)
- Jacksonville CB CJ Henderson (+2500) (9th overall)
- Carolina iDL Derrick Brown (+2500) (7th overall)
- San Francisco iDL Javon Kinlaw (+2500) (14th overall)
- Detroit CB Jeffrey Okudah (+2500) (3rd overall)
- Seattle LB Jordyn Brooks (+2500) (27th overall)
- Jacksonville EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson (+2800) (20th overall)
- Atlanta CB A.J. Terrell (+3300) (16th overall)
- Minnesota CB Jeff Gladney (+5000) (29th overall)
Immediately, Atlanta Falcons CB A.J. Terrell should stand out. Terrell was an early-drafted corner who is clearly in line to start for 16 games on the depleted Atlanta secondary, and he has the longest odds of all the defenders who went in the first half of the first round.
While only two cornerbacks have won the award in the last 20 years, both came in the last five seasons. Marcus Peters, the third corner drafted in the 2015 NFL Draft at No. 18 overall, had tremendous early ball production in Kansas City (eight interceptions!) and ran away with the award. Marcus Lattimore, the first corner drafted in 2017 at No. 11 overall, had five interceptions en route to his DROY win.
Both Lattimore and Peters were underdrafted relative to pre-draft expectation, however—Terrell was considered a pretty significant reach. It is worth wondering if Minnesota CB Jeff Gladney, the only other first-round corner with listed odds, deserves a flier here as well. While Gladney is not a top-16 draft pick, Peters wasn’t either. Gladney was considered by many to be a more talented prospect than Terrell, has a similar path to starting early, and plays in a better system for corners in Minnesota under Mike Zimmer. With such an increase in odds, I’m inclined to bet on Gladney over Terrell as my corner longshot, but that has a lot to do with my pre-draft opinions. So feel free to disagree.
However, we should turn our attention from corner and to EDGE. As I said, corner has been a profitable bet recently, but as a position with a ton of volatility, it’s tough to bank on young corners, no matter the talent or situation. Meanwhile, EDGEs have won the award more than defensive tackles and corners combined over the last 20 years.
Here, the clear best bet is K’Lavon Chaisson, the EDGE in Jacksonville who currently comes at a massive discount given the uncertainty around Yannick Ngakoue, the incumbent starter. In the event that Ngakoue holds out—a possibility made only more realistic by the worsening COVID-19 situation in pro sports—Chaisson gets a full year of starting as a highly-drafted in EDGE in a system that has been extremely forgiving to players with his skill set as a rusher: bend, explosiveness, and snap anticipation.
Chaisson and Terrell/Gladney is where I’ll be putting my fliers for DROY this year.