NFL Rookie of the Year Watch: Week 9
Minshew-mania has been cancelled. The Offensive Rookie of the Year (OROY) race has been narrowed down to essentially two contenders, with a handful of underdogs keeping their bids alive.
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. All odds are taken from FanDuel Sportsbook.
Week 9 NEP Leaders
|Player||Current NEP||Week 8 Odds|
D.K. Metcalf absolutely crushed it in Week 9. His 6 receptions, 123 yards, 1 touchdown and 2-point conversion on 9 targets were good for a week-high 11.09 total NEP. He dominated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' struggling secondary, taking a relatively routine slant route to the house and getting wide open for the team's two-point conversion play. He displayed the kind of freak athleticism every team wishes their receivers had on his multiple impressive sideline grabs. All in all, it was a monster performance for Metcalf in Week 9.
Kyler Murray had yet another solid performance in terms of total NEP. His 9.96 total NEP were the second-most among true OROY contenders in Week 9, but ultimately Murray couldn't do enough to get his team a win over the vaunted San Francisco 49ers defense. His end of game stats look decent, but were buoyed by Andy Isabella's long touchdown grab. He also cost his team 5.11 NEP on his three sacks, which lost significant yardage, but overall it was another solid game for the young rookie.
Gardner Minshew face-planted in arguably the most important game of his season -- Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone announced that Nick Foles would resume his role as the starting quarterback when the team comes back from its bye. Minshew was awful in this one, costing the Jags 8.11 NEP while failing to muster up more than 3 points against a Houston Texans defense missing most of its secondary and pass-rusher J.J. Watt. This is likely -- and unfortunately -- the last we'll see of Minshew in 2019.
Daniel Jones just hasn't been able to put it back together after the scorching start to his career. This week, he cost the New York Giants a whopping 10.84 NEP, mostly on the back of his turnovers. His interception near the end of the first half essentially turned into three free points for the Dallas Cowboys, and the second of his two lost fumbles was returned for a touchdown (though the game was already well out of hand at that point). Jones has struggled to muster up a realistic bid for the OROY award after hitting the ground running back in Week 3.
At this point, the OROY race has essentially become a head-to-head race between two contenders: Kyler Murray (+150) and Josh Jacobs (+100). The NEP metrics numberFire uses favor Murray heavily for a couple reasons. First, Murray plays the quarterback position, which more directly influences the outcome of games. The quarterback touches the ball on nearly every offensive snap of the game, and since NEP is a counting statistic, quarterbacks generally have more opportunities to add value to their own NEP totals.
Second, Jacobs plays the running back position and does not really catch passes. While he does boast a solid 40.79 Rushing Success Rate -- the percentage of a back's carries that add positive NEP to his team's total -- those rushes don't add as much value as a completed pass. Even with Jacobs' two touchdowns in Week 9, he only added 1.9 NEP to the Oakland Raiders' expected points total because a significant number of his other rushes actually cost the team expected points.
Now, with that being said, there's a reason Jacobs is listed as the frontrunner. Running backs have won the OROY award in three of the previous four seasons, and as the only back drafted in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Jacobs receives a fair amount of media attention. He's also been heating up recently, with over 120 rushing yards in three of his last four games and 4 touchdowns in that span. As the icing on the cake, the Raiders also have the ninth-easiest rest-of-season schedule for running backs according to Warren Sharp of SharpFootballStats.com. If he can stay healthy, he'll have a good chance to keep up his pace -- and we know how important a strong finish can be.
Murray has a more difficult road ahead of him -- he'll face the 49ers again in two weeks and sees some other stingy pass defenses -- but plays the more valuable position. We saw what happened last year when Saquon Barkley won the award on the 2-14 Giants over Baker Mayfield, who led his Cleveland Browns to their best record in multiple seasons. Jacobs is certainly no Barkley, but Murray also hasn't found quite the success Mayfield did a season ago -- at least not in the eyes of the masses. Still, he's neck and neck with Jacobs for the award, and the others behind them aren't particularly close.