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Welcome in everyone to the REAL start of the NFL season - the "NFL Draft Season" - bringing about one of the best opportunities you'll all year have to find some bad lines and make some good money. Instead of diving into the draft prospects and picks below, I first want to dive into the season-long player awards for offensive rookie of the year and defensive rookie of the year. Last August I had these same articles published with the goal of informing you to make better decisions in your draft bets and your futures bets for the upcoming season (unlike other articles who just bet a guy just because of his name or popularity). I also have my own bets placed as of this writing, simply because BetOnline has these awards out already.
Next week I will release my official DROY article as well. The answer to why our OROY article comes out pre-draft and DROY comes out post-draft, frankly, is that I have no idea who wins the latter award - we simply don’t have a Chase Young-level type player this year. That DROY award will also be very team and scheme dependent, much so that we truly have to wait for post-draft information to gain any type of value. For OROY, however, we have a good idea where a lot of these guys are going and where we can attack before the market sharpens. This data set goes back to 1995 to give us a nice sample size.
Click here for the full spreadsheet I've put together on this. To no one’s surprise, this award is dominated by running backs. Since 1995, 13 different RBs have won the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, and this isn't surprising either, considering that RBs were the go-to guys back in the day before all the passing took over. If you start at 2005 though, then only six times they've won it, despite four RBs being top 10 picks in Saquan Barkley, Todd Gurley, Adrian Peterson, and Cadillac Williams. All big names coming out of college for sure, with the other two guys being Eddie Lacey - who had the third lowest odds to win it - and the only real surprise RB winning it being New Orleans' Alvin Kamara (no one saw that coming).
Next up is quarterbacks - QBs have won this award nine different times, and similar to RB (if we go back to 2005), QBs have won this award eight times in that span. This isn’t surprising either, simply because of the way NFL games are played nowadays. These QBs are playing a lot of 7-on-7, and a lot of college principles are currently influencing the NFL. My guess is that the largest handle of NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year winners will be on a quarterback, so you definitely will want to bet this one as early as possible.
Next up, wide receivers - this is a "sexy" position, sure, but only four times has a WR won this award. This position is very dependent on the QB throwing them the ball (obviously), but more specifically, in how they will be used by a particular offensive play caller, quarterback and/or scheme. A guy like Ja'Marr Chase will be used a lot if he gets Joe Burrow as his QB, but does he get the numbers needed to push voters to pick him over a QB for this award? A guy like Jaylen Waddle, on the other hand, is a deep threat, and you need a team to throw to him downfield. But I'm not sure if he will rack up enough catches and touchdowns to dethrone a QB for this award either. Lastly, you might be thinking Kyle Pitts here, despite him playing tight end, but both Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley take up too many targets and will hurt his numbers if he indeed goes to the Atlanta Falcons. If you do want to bet WR, they need volume to even have a chance here. This is a position group I advise to stay away from, as it's very unlikely they win it, especially with all the high-end QB prospects expected to be drafted in the first round and rack up the numbers during the season.
Draft position is another big indicator of finding value in our OROY odds. The average OROY winner has a draft position of 31, although this number is skewed up big time by two of the past winners since 2000 in Dak Prescott (2016) and Mike Anderson (2000). If you throw those two out, however, this number goes to a top 20 average draft slot. This also shouldn't be surprising to anyone, as the top big names usually get drafted early. If you break this down by round, you'll notice that 18 winners were from round one while only eight won it outside of round one. Stay away from anyone after pick 20 unless a major role opens up for them during the course of the regular season (obviously dependent on which team/scheme they get).
Wins and losses by a particular player's team, to my actual surprise, doesn’t have a big predictor here. The average OROY winner comes from a team that averages out to about a 9-7 record, but since 2005, only seven winners have actually had winning records (six winners being on teams with double-digit wins). In fact, seven winners came from teams with losing records and the other two winners came from teams that went 8-8. Does winning help? Probably, but it's one of the smaller factors that go into this award.
Lastly, Sports Odd History has player awards info/odds dating back to 2009, and it turns out by taking an even closer look at OROY results that it's usually a top five guy. Justin Herbert had high odds to win OROY, but he wasn’t even expected to start last year and the odds were pulled before the start of the season accordingly. Herbert's odds didn’t move until week 3 and 4, after he started his first game. When you throw him out of the sample, these players generally top out at 10/1, with four of them being greater than that and the other seven being lower. These long shots are just click bait material - don’t bet on it.
So who fits the profile here? Well, we need a QB or RB who will go top 20 and has close to top five odds equating to about 10/1 to win or less. That leaves us Trevor Lawrence (+275), Justin Fields (+300), Zach Wilson (+550), and Mac Jones/Trey Lance (+1200). No one reading this is stunned by this list, I know. But the fact remains that our winner is probably in this bunch, pending a miracle from a skill position group.
There are only two official bets I would make from this list, however, which are Lawrence and Wilson. We know both will start the regular season under center, and that's what's driving me to bet this now. I expect Lawrence's odds to get worse and Wilson’s to get slightly worse as we move forward with the draft next weekend. The other three will most likely be missing some or all of their games this year, and the 49'ers also seem adamant that they will keep Jimmy G as their starter and let Fields/Jones/Lance develop for a year. That eliminates them from winning this award, unless of course we have another Herbert situation.
But what about if they land with another team? Denver is in play for a QB and so are the Patriots. Both have starting guys who will get some/most of the snaps though, too. Denver still wants to see if Drew Lock is the guy (spoiler alert, he isn’t) and the Patriots have Newton for another year (he isn't either). The Bears on the other hand have Andy Dalton, but both Ryan Pace and Matt Naggy are on the hot seat and have to win now to make it to next year. I just can’t touch these other three guys at those odds due to the fact they'll be missing some games and hurting their potential OROY-winning numbers in the process.