NFL Rookie Of The Year Predictions -- Against The Spread

Photo: Aug 30, 2018; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) on sidelines during second half against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Let's lose some money!

I love betting on sports. It's the best. It's the best because I know, deep down in my heart, that I can't actually predict anything and the world is chaos and everything is futile. But I also know, on the surface level of my heart, that I really can figure everything out and make perfect bets for the rest of time.

It is in this spirit that I present to you my bets for Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Quarterbacks always win the MVP, right? But it's not so with Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Across the last 15 years of football, quarterbacks have actually won the OROY award less than 50% of the time (7/15), and only one of the last five. That winner was Dak Prescott, a 4th-round selection -- and he's quite the aberration. He's the lowest draft selection to receive the award -- only four non-first rounders have won OROY in that 15 year time span.

So quarterbacks really aren't the safest bet -- despite the fact that four of the top five and five of the top seven odds (per Bovada) are the rookie quarterbacks. I'm fading all of them -- only Sam Darnold has a clear choice of starting. Furthermore, four of the past six offensive rookie of the year winners have been on playoff teams -- and that's not the Jets.

Giants RB Saquon Barkley is the odds-on favorite, given his unbelievable talent and big-time draft pedigree. It's clear that the Giants want him to be a focal point of their offensive attack -- at least, that's what their general manager believes.

Now, the past three RB winners all put out at least 1300 scrimmage yards, which is round about 80 yards per game. That's definitely a reasonable figure for the amount of touches Shurmur's offense looks to feed Barkley, both on the ground and in the air. He's a good bet.

Now, no TEs and only 3 WRs have won the award this century -- and when it comes to the WRs, it's mighty tricky to project. Odell took it most recently in 2014, but he was only the third receiver off the board. Next was an '09 Percy Harvin who put out over 1,000 returning yards; and then Anquan Boldin back in '03, a second-round pick.

There really isn't strong precedent for wide receivers winning the award, and the signals are super weak. The best WR odds are Calvin Ridley and DJ Moore at +3000 -- I don't think either of those guys will see huge volume in their offense. Hard pass.

So is Barkley our only interesting bet? Not necessarily. Among the first-round backs, Sony Michel and Rashaad Penny both are shaky bets -- both currently have injury and timeshare concerns.

We have seen non-first round running backs successful in recent history (Eddie Lacy was a second round pick; Alvin Kamara was a third-rounder). Nick Chubb is backing up Carlos Hyde, Royce Freeman needs to pry reps from Devontae Booker, Derrius Guice is out for the season...

Oh, hello Kerryon Johnson!

Kerryon Johnson, who has a clear path to significant touches in Detroit's shifting running back room, has more profitable odds than any other running backs listed (save for Guice), as well as three receivers. At +4000, he's my value pick.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

DROY is cut along some different lines than its offensive counterpart. Across the last 15 years, one (1) defensive rookie of the year has been selected outside of the first round. It was DeMeco Ryans, a verifiable god among men, back in 2006.

So we're looking exclusively at first-rounders as good bets here -- and we can rule out safeties, as they have it won it since 1990. Sorry Minkah; sorry Derwin.

So that leaves us with 13 options -- an inauspicious start. But hey! After going on a four-player streak from 2006 - 2009, a linebacker hasn't brought the award home since Luke Kuechly in 2012. All it took was the second most single-season tackles since '07 to pull it off.

Interestingly, three of the top five odds are LBs (Roquan Smith, Tremaine Edmunds) and a S (Minkah Fitzpatrick). Fade, fade, fade!

The positional help ends there, I'm afraid. two DTs, two EDGEs, and two CBs have won it -- along with Sheldon Richardson, who danced between EDGE and DT. Now, the two CBs were most recent (Marcus Peters in '15, Marshon Lattimore last year), so let's begin there:

Lattimore and Peters both blew the doors off when it comes to gross statistical production, which is the key to winning these awards. Peters led the NFL in interceptions in his winning season with eight, while Lattimore was T-3rd with five.

As such, it's tempting to like Josh Jackson's odds (+1100), given his excellent ball production in college. But 1) he doesn't have a clear path to starting on the current roster and 2) he was drafted after Green Bay already took a corner in Jaire Alexander, who has worse odds (+1300). With Tramon Williams and Kevin King penciled in as the starters, I think we're more likely to see Jaire than Jackson this season. I'd lay money on Alexander first between the two.

But really, the best money should be Denzel Ward. He has +650 odds, even with Minkah and more profitable than Roquan or Bradley Chubb (we'll get to him). He's a clear starter, and though the ball production wasn't so much there in college, the path for his production is easier than that of, say, a Bradley Chubb.

The profile for EDGEs and DTs alike isn't good in this year's DROY race. Chubb will enter a timeshare opposite Von Miller with Shaquil Barrett; Marcus Davenport has always profiled as a project player and shouldn't be expected to produce early. On the interior, the high-pedigree DTs -- Vita Vea and Da'Ron Payne -- do not profile as high sack-number players, while Taven Bryan has to break a thick rotation in Jacksonville (and is also a bit of a project).

Of the last five pass-rushers to win the award, only Sheldon Richardson did it with less than nine. Is Chubb hitting nine sacks this season? I'd be surprised. I'm fading across the board.



Saquon Barkley, RB, NYG; Denzel Ward, CB, Cleveland (Ugh, early picks. So boring.)

Sleeper/value plays

Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit; Jaire Alexander, CB, Green Bay

Written By:

Benjamin Solak

NFL Draft Analyst

NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Deputy Editor of Bleeding Green Nation. Undergrad at UChicago.