NFL Rookie of the Year Watch: Week 4
For the most part, Week 4 was one of the tamer weekends of football in 2019 when it came to rookie performances. The big names mostly had solid, but un-flashy performances, but there were some important takeaways for those paying attention to the Offensive Rookie of the Year (OROY) race. numberFire's metrics can help us identify those under-the-radar takeaways.
In this column, we analyze the 2019 batch of rookies through numberFire's metrics -- specifically Net Expected Points (NEP). NEP measures how much value a player adds to or subtracts from his team's expected points total, using historic down and distance data as a reference point. You can read more about that metric and others in the Terms Glossary.
Week 4 Rookie NEP Leaders
|Player||Current NEP||Week 4 Odds|
This week's biggest stud was Tennessee Titans second-round pick A.J. Brown. Brown burst onto the scene in 2019 with 100 receiving yards in Week 1, but had been relatively quiet since then. The Titans have seemed content to ease Brown into the season -- likely due to the hamstring issue that kept him sidelined for a significant part of the offseason -- resulting in the young receiver playing on under half of the Titans offensive snaps in each of their four games this year. That could change quickly after Brown's monster performance this weekend. He corralled all 3 of his targets for 94 yards and 2 touchdowns. His first score came on a slant route he housed from 55 yards out, and his second came on an impressive route in the red zone. Things are certainly trending up for Brown, who had the second-biggest jump in NEP in Week 4.
Daniel Jones' Week 4 win might not have looked very pretty -- what with his pair of interceptions -- but he led all rookies in total NEP in Week 4 with 13.82. Outside of those picks, Jones had another solid performance, completing 23 of his 31 attempts for 221 yards and a score. For a second straight week, Jones boosted his total NEP with impressive rushing production. In Week 4 he added an additional 4.11 rushing NEP to the New York Giants' expected points total -- excluding his kneel-downs to close out the game, Jones rushed 3 times for 33 yards, successfully adding positive NEP with each attempt. Jones' solid performance was reflected in his rise to the front-runner position in the Week 4 OROY odds.
Gardner Minshew is making a case for himself not just as an OROY contender, but as a starting quarterback going forward in the NFL. Week 4 wasn't Minshew's prettiest performance, but he did showcase some highlight-reel playmaking ability throughout the game and managed to put together a game-winning drive with under two minutes left to play. His 5.28 NEP in Week 4 was the third-most of all rookies, and his come-from-behind win vaulted him up to the third-highest odds of taking the OROY title in 2019.
You have to feel sorry for Dwayne Haskins, who was thrown into a building that was already on fire and was asked to put it out. Unsurprisingly, he struggled in his debut, entering the game shortly before the half with Washington already down 14 points. Haskins completed just 9 of his 17 attempts, throwing 3 interceptions while taking 2 sacks for 21 yards. It was an ugly performance, as evidenced by Haskins' -10.11 total NEP in Week 4. Here's hoping he can turn it around going forward.
David Montgomery's owners in fantasy football are likely celebrating -- the young running back had a season-high 24 touches on Sunday, and firmly established himself as the lead back in Chicago after a head-scratching game last Monday night. But Montgomery wasn't all that impressive on Sunday, actually losing 6.57 NEP for the Bears on his touches. Montgomery gained positive NEP on a paltry 19.05% of his 21 carries in Week 4 -- not good. The Bears were playing against a stout Minnesota Vikings defense, and Montgomery was a target in the passing game, but he'll still need to show improvement if he wants to have a realistic shot at the OROY title.
A.J. Brown (+2600) didn't see his odds move at all despite his impressive Week 4 performance. This could be a potential bet-low opportunity on a wide receiver with high draft capital working his way back from an off-season injury that delayed his integration into the Titans offense. The situations aren't exactly identical, but Brown's rookie season does bear some resemblances to Odell Beckham's rookie season, in which Beckham missed several weeks before eventually winning the OROY award.
Kyler Murray (+360) took a backseat to Daniel Jones as the frontrunner in Week 4, with his odds dropping for the first time all season. If you have faith in the first overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft, this could be a good time to place your bet now that his odds have dropped slightly. Murray wasn't great on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, but he is beginning to showcase the rushing upside that produced over 1,000 rushing yards for the Oklahoma Sooners in 2018. There's still plenty of time for Murray and the Arizona Cardinals to fix themselves up, and this is the lowest Murray's odds have been all year.
Gardner Minshew (+400) is now a legitimate contender for the OROY award. As I mentioned earlier, his Week 4 performance wasn't his best on paper, but featured the kind of electric plays you'd see on a rookie of the year's highlight reel. On his touchdown toss to Ryquell Armstead, Minshew broke or evaded three tackles while navigating the pocket, releasing the ball just moments before a Denver Broncos defender could bring him down. Fourth-rounder Dak Prescott won the award in 2016, so there is some precedent for later-round quarterbacks winning the title.