NFL Betting: Offensive Player of the Year Picks
The AP Offensive Player of the Year may play second-fiddle to the MVP race, but it's still a pretty cool honor in its own right.
It's also something one can bet over on FanDuel Sportsbook at a time when any and all distractions are welcome while the sports world -- and much of the world as a whole -- remains in a holding pattern.
I took a look at Comeback Player of the Year earlier this week and found the positional breakdown of past winners to be a great starting point in unveiling which players we should target.
Dating back to 1972, the Associated Press has chosen 48 Offensive Players of the Year, and it's pretty obvious which positions stand out:
|Position||Number of Winners||Percentage of Winners|
Unlike Most Valuable Player and Comeback Player, where quarterbacks are the most popular choice, it's running backs who have historically held the edge here. In fact, from 1996-2006, we saw 10 of the 11 winners come from the running back position, including a stretch of eight in a row.
That being said, as any fantasy football fan can attest, the number of bell-cow running backs has dwindled in recent years, leading to the pendulum swinging back toward signal-callers. Since that dominating stretch by running backs, quarterbacks have won eight times in the past 13 seasons.
But no matter how you slice it, the two positions have accounted for 45 of 48 wins, and we should feel perfectly comfortable choosing either one in 2020.
On the other hand, wideouts have won the other three times, with two of them going to Jerry Rice, widely considered the greatest wide receiver of all time. As amazing as 2019 winner Michael Thomas (+1800) performed last season, the odds are against a repeat.
Tight end has never won the award, either, so taking a shot in the dark on someone like Travis Kelce (+5000) isn't advisable, either.
Putting it all together, let's see which players have the most potential betting value on FanDuel Sportsbook. Player projections are courtesy of numberFire's Editor-in-Chief, JJ Zachariason.
Patrick Mahomes (+650)
Patrick Mahomes won this award in 2018 -- not to mention Most Valuable Player -- and there's little question that he can do it again. He wasn't able to match his gaudy 2018 numbers this past season, but some regression was always to be expected after accumulating an absurd 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns in his breakout campaign.
Plus, it wasn't like Mahomes' numbers were anything to scoff at in 2019, compiling 4,031 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 5 picks over 14 games while missing some time with a midseason knee injury.
Most importantly, his efficiency numbers remained elite. He averaged 8.9 adjusted yards per attempt, which was equal to MVP Lamar Jackson and behind only Ryan Tannehill and Matthew Stafford, who started only 10 and 8 games apiece. Among quarterbacks with at least 100 passes, Mahomes also ranked third in numberFire's Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back and sixth in Passing Success Rate.
JJ's offseason projections are bullish on Mahomes, too, suggesting he could once again flirt with 5,000 passing yards and roughly split the difference between his 2018 and 2019 touchdown totals. The Super Bowl MVP should have plenty more award-winning seasons ahead, and it's no surprise to see him here as the favorite.
JJ's Projection: 4964.7 passing yards, 38.8 passing touchdowns, 9.8 interceptions, 246.3 rushing yards, and 2.5 rushing touchdowns
Lamar Jackson (+950)
Seeing as Lamar Jackson was last year's Most Valuable Player, he naturally had a rather strong argument for Offensive Player of the Year, too, and finished second in voting. Jackson was a true one-man wrecking crew for the Ravens, leading the team in both passing (3,127 yards) and rushing (1,206) while totaling 43 touchdowns (36 passing and 7 rushing). Incredibly, he also threw just six interceptions.
Jackson shined in his advanced metrics, as well, leading all quarterbacks in Passing NEP per drop back and ranking 11th in Passing Success Rate. In terms of Total NEP, which includes his rushing contributions, Jackson led all players last season.
Between the dominant performances we've seen between Mahomes in 2018 and Jackson last year, you could argue they deserve to be co-favorites, making Jackson a potential value at these odds. The one caveat to this is Jackson's reliance on rushing arguably makes him more susceptible to serious injury, which would clearly derail any hopes of winning the award.
That said, JJ's projection pegs Jackson for more of the same outside of a step back in passing scores. Expect another stellar season from the dual-threat quarterback.
JJ's Projection: 3205.8 passing yards, 25.5 passing touchdowns, 8.1 interceptions, 1126.1 rushing yards, and 8.6 rushing touchdowns
Christian McCaffrey (+1300)
Christian McCaffrey has the third-best odds and rightfully so after finishing third in last year's voting behind Michael Thomas and Lamar Jackson.
Like Jackson, McCaffrey had a pretty damn good argument for that 2019 hardware. He was just the third player in NFL history to tally 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving in the same season and also racked up 19 total touchdowns. In many years, he would've been a shoo-in.
But as one of the few true workhorse backs left in the league, McCaffrey has a good chance of contending again in 2020. No running back saw the field as much as McCaffrey (93.4% snap rate), helping him average a hefty 26.8 opportunities per game (17.9 rushes and 8.9 targets).
This relentless usage does add some concern to McCaffrey wearing down, though. He led all running backs in 2019 with 403 touches and 1,056 total snaps. Only Ezekiel Elliott exceeded even 350 touches (355), and just Elliott and Leonard Fournette surpassed 900 snaps.
We've seen how fleeting a running back's peak is, and McCaffrey will likely be no different at this torrid pace. However, he'll be just 24 years old by the start of next season, so we should feel good about him in 2020 at least.
He'll have a tough time repeating those 19 scores, but with a projection of nearly 2,000 yards from scrimmage and double-digit touchdowns, don't hesitate if you want to side with the star running back.
JJ's Projection: 1231.0 rushing yards, 9.9 rushing touchdowns, 89.1 receptions, 734.8 receiving yards, and 3.3 receiving touchdowns
Kyler Murray (+3200)
I'd argue the aforementioned trio are a "big three" of sorts, so beyond them, you're probably better off hunting for value further down the list.
Kyler Murray is one such player who stands out. Not only is he coming off a solid Offensive Rookie of the Year effort (3,722 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 544 rushing yards, and 4 rushing touchdowns), and he now gets to throw to one of the league's best wideouts in DeAndre Hopkins. A full season with Hopkins, Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, and Kenyan Drake has Murray's arrow decidedly pointing up for 2020.
And yet, he has just the 11th-best odds, and you could argue his outlook isn't all that different from Russell Wilson's at +1600 (4th-best). In fact, JJ's offseason projections have the two in a dead heat, with Murray actually earning the slight edge.
Wilson projects for 4,008.7 passing yards, 30.8 passing touchdowns, 8.8 interceptions, 417.2 rushing yards, and 2.8 rushing touchdowns. As you'll see below, he gets the slight edge in passing numbers, but Murray bests him in the running department, making this ultimately a wash.
Not only does that make Murray the better value based on the odds alone, but you could argue he's the stronger bet for this type of award in general. Wilson is an excellent real-life quarterback and has consistently put up efficient numbers over his career, but in a run-heavy Seahawks offense, his potential to have the type of ceiling campaign needed to win Offensive Player of the Year is less likely.
On the other hand, Murray plays in a fast-paced, loaded Cardinals offense, and Arizona was atrocious on defense last season -- 29th by numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics -- potentially leading to more shootouts for Murray to pile up the stats. With just one year under his belt, he's a high-variance player, but we need to shoot for upside to best the likes of Mahomes, Jackson, or McCaffrey.
Projections are ever-changing throughout the offseason, but the numbers place Murray as the fantasy QB3, making him a fantastic value.
JJ's Projection: 3862.3 passing yards, 27.1 passing touchdowns, 11.0 interceptions, 579.5 rushing yards, and 4.3 rushing touchdowns
Alvin Kamara (+5500)
Among running backs, Barkley has the next-best odds behind McCaffrey, and he's definitely a contender considering what we saw when he burst onto the scene in 2018. JJ's numbers peg him for 1252.5 rushing yards, 8.1 rushing yards, 69.6 receptions, 551.8 receiving yards, and 2.6 receiving touchdowns -- not quite McCaffrey level but still pretty damn good.
That being said, Kamara projects for more touchdowns and similar receiving numbers, with Barkley's main edge coming in rushing yards. That latter fact doesn't come as a surprise, as Barkley averaged 16.7 rushing attempts per game last season, compared to just 12.2 for Kamara. Still, the projections put them on a similar overall level from a fantasy perspective, with Barkley and Kamara coming away as the RB2 and RB3 behind McCaffrey.
That makes Kamara's 24th-best odds a screaming value. Sure, fantasy rankings and projections aren't everything, but to get a comparable player to Barkley so far down the ladder is pretty amazing.
However, Kamara does have some hurdles he must overcome to earn the trophy. Unlike Barkley's every-down role, Kamara cedes touches to Latavius Murray here and there, and even designed plays for gadget player Taysom Hill will siphon away scoring opportunities.
Kamara must be incredibly efficient with his chances, but he's one year removed from tallying 18 touchdowns when he split time with Mark Ingram, so don't discount his abilities. Kamara's due for some positive regression after scoring just six times in 2019, and these odds present us with a great buying opportunity.
JJ's Projection: 956.6 rushing yards, 10.0 rushing touchdowns, 77.1 receptions, 557.0 receiving yards, and 3.0 receiving touchdowns