Welcome back to our NFL rookie award futures betting series! This article below is specifically looking into the defensive rookie of the year (DROY), and the goal here is actually pretty simple. First off, we want to
help you avoid losers, while also narrowing down the list of potential winning candidates for the year.
The reasons why I phrase it that way is because this past NFL Draft simply didn’t have a Chase Young or Nick Bosa-level player. Because of this "open field" of candidates in 2021, we will go back to 1995 to examine past winners and look for interesting trends and betting opportunities to attack - whereas almost all other betting websites/picks just give you a big name and say “my model has it higher”. That's fine to do, except for the fact that without past history those articles are just more noise and not backed by anything real. One of the most important aspects to remember when betting this award is that the media picks the winner, and that, my friends, is what we are betting on. Past winners give us a pretty good idea of what/who voters have gotten behind and why. This will help us to create a bigger edge for our ROY bets.
Author's Note: Click here to view the full spreadsheet I put together for this article and our recommended picks below. The positions are via pro-football-reference while past odds are via sports odd history.
Let’s start with going position by position here first. This past draft we saw the defensive backs go high and be generally viewed as the best overall defensive players and prospects in 2021. Unfortunately - or fortunately for us bettors to know - is that defensive backs rarely win this award. So who has won DROY?
Edge (DE/OLB) – 10
"Off Ball Linebacker" (ILB/LB) – 10
Defensive Tackle – 3
Defensive Back (S/CB) – 3
No one is probably surprised by this positional breakdown above. Defensive backs just don’t get the stats or a lot of love form the media early on in their careers compared to their defensive counterparts. Yes, they have won in the past, and yes, the click bait material will say something along the lines of “Lattimore and Peters have won this award, therefore Surtain/Horn can win this.” The problem with Lattimore winning it is that he was such a long shot - some books didn’t even have him listed to bet, and Peters had the 15th best odds. Two long shots that are outliers, despite what people tell you, I just have no interest in backing.
Defensive tackles are very difficult to have an early impact in the NFL as well. That's why this position is so low on the list, and two of the players (Suh and Donald) were big time college stars coming out and the media had some background info on them before the season. This past NFL draft, however, was a very weak DT class in general. The edge and off-ball linebackers is where the money is at here - 20 of the last 26 winners have come from this group. The problem is we have to pick one, or several. Players who go very high tend to be the winners, and 23 of those 26 winners went in round 1. Of those round 1 picks:
Top 5: 9
Picks 6-10: 4
Picks 11-15: 7
Pick 16+: 6
A whopping 13 winners have been drafted in top 10 (50%) while a total of 20 winners have been top 15 (76.9%). That almost narrows down our entire list, because of the winners to be picked after 16 AND still be drafted in round 1, then the highest round 1 pick to win this award was 18 when Peters won in 2015.
Lastly, the average winners have been on 8-8 teams. Winning doesn’t help this award and has no predictive power. It helps the narrative later in the year, but as of now it doesn’t help us predict a winner.
Players who could win
The problem with this year is we don’t have a clear cut guy based on the data. The aforementioned DB's went top 10, and either of them winning is highly unlikely. Only one player actually fits the criteria who went top 15 and is a prime position, and that's Micah Parsons of the Dallas Cowboys. The books have him set for the lowest odds accordingly, at roughly 4/1, depending what book you look at. The next best options are Jaelen Phillips (Dolphins), Jamin Davis (WFT), Kwity Paye (Colts) and Zaven Collins (Cardinals).
Jaelen Phillips goes to a team which was ranked T-8 in the NFL in averaging 2.6 sacks per game. The Dolphins don’t have a clear cut pass rusher though, and the pressure has to be dialed up. Kwity Paye, meanwhile, goes to a Colts team which was T-12 in the NFL in averaging 2.5 sacks per game. The upside with Paye is that he has DeForest Buckner, who will command double teams and thus create a lot of one-on-one situations for Paye to have success early on in his rookie season and accumulate decent stats.
For Jamin Davis and Zaven Collins, they should see the field plenty as well. Davis goes to a loaded WFT defense, but that will take away from his possible stats. Collins, on the other hand, goes to a Cardinals team which desperately needs help on all three levels, and he will definitely be able to rack up some stats.
At the end of the day, the only players I would even consider betting are Micah Parsons and Zaven Collins.
I am not dying to bet them though, at least not yet - Micah Parsons was a stud in 2019 and opted out of 2020. He does have the big name, and if didn’t have the off-field issues in college then he most likely goes top 10. The media members are aware of his situation and know about him. Zaven Collins was nice player in college, but he frankly doesn’t have the name recognition like Parsons or the big school pedigree either.
I haven’t bet this award yet, and I am still deciding if I even want to bet it. The only upside to betting Parsons right now is that I expect this line to drop by the time the 2021 regular season rolls around. Regardless, if you agree with my analysis, make sure you sharp around in any of these award markets. You'd be surprised of some of the stark differences between players you'll see between different books.