NFL Betting: 5 Offensive Rookie of the Year Targets
The conclusion of the 2020 NFL Draft meant the end of live sporting events for the foreseeable future. Without much else going on in the sports world, it gives us the opportunity to look to the future and begin speculating -- and betting -- on the upcoming NFL season.
The NFL Draft saw 36 skill position players taken in the first three rounds, many of whom will likely have an immediate opportunity for snaps and touches in 2020. Offensive Rookie of the Year odds have been updated by FanDuel Sportsbook. Before reviewing potential players to target, here are few historical notes to keep in mind.
Since 2000, the Offensive Rookie of the Year has been awarded to nine running backs, eight quarterbacks and three wide receivers. No tight end or offensive lineman has ever won in the award’s 53-year history.
The running backs to win the award since 2000 averaged 291 total touches, the quarterbacks averaged 448 pass attempts, and the wide receivers averaged 129 targets. Opportunity is the most important factor to consider for rookie awards, as there are typically only a handful of first-year players who have immediate impacts.
Furthermore, running backs typically draw the most touches as rookies, as quarterbacks and wide receivers tend to require more of a learning curve. That trend may intensify this year due to the coronavirus as offseason camps and preseason games could be shortened or canceled. If that happens, running backs will likely have an even bigger edge over the other skill position players in terms of immediate impact this season.
With all that being said, here are five players to consider wagering your stimulus check on to win the 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: +220
If you’re going to bet on a quarterback, Joe Burrow is by far the best bet. No other quarterback in the 2020 draft class is expected to play as many games this season as Burrow is, as Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert aren’t favored by FanDuel to start for their respective teams in Week 1. And every other drafted quarterback is, at best, slotted in as backup on their current roster.
Burrow will likely start all 16 games next season for the Cincinnati Bengals, assuming good health, after Andy Dalton was recently released. Last season, the Bengals ranked 28th in numberFire's Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. Burrow should provide an immediate spark to the offense by replacing Dalton and Ryan Finley, who ranked 34th and 52nd, respectively, last season among 53 qualifying quarterbacks in Passing NEP per drop back.
Cincinnati’s offensive line struggled last season, checking in 24th in sacks allowed and 26th in pass blocking grade, per Pro Football Focus. However, the Bengals will be getting back offensive tackle Jonah Williams, who tore his ACL shortly after being selected in the first round of the 2019 draft, as well as one of the more underrated receiving corps in the league. Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Auden Tate, a hopefully healthy A.J. Green and 2020 second-round pick Tee Higgins form a deep and reliable group of receivers.
Burrow owns the best odds to win Offensive Rookie of the Year for good reason. He had arguably the greatest quarterback season in 2019 on one of the greatest collegiate teams of all time. Burrow won the Heisman trophy by the largest margin in history and set the single-season FBS record for passing touchdowns -- among many other records.
We can’t assume that Burrow will seamlessly transition to the NFL, but he’s already proven his ability to drastically improve in a single year and perform impressively against top defenses. If Burrow plays anywhere near as well as he did last season, he should have no trouble securing the Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: +500
The player with the second-best odds to win Offensive Rookie of the Year is Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Thirteen of the last 16 players to win the award have been drafted in the first round, and Edwards-Helaire barely meets that threshold as the only running back drafted in this year’s first round after he was selected 32nd overall. More important than his draft position is the team that drafted him -- the Kansas City Chiefs.
Led by Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs' 2019 offense ranked 29th in Passing NEP per drop back among all offenses in numberFire’s database (since 2000). Edwards-Helaire will be transitioning from the highest-scoring offense in college to the second-highest scoring offense in the NFL.
One of head coach Andy Reid’s many strengths is designing pass plays to running backs. Last season the Chiefs ranked eighth in pass attempts to running backs, but they uncharacteristically ranked 21st in success rate and 25th in yards per attempt on such passes, according to Sharp Football Stats. Enter Edwards-Helaire, who led his draft class in targets, receptions and receiving yards last season at the position.
Edwards-Helaire probably won’t slide right into a workhorse role but should still earn the majority of snaps and touches in the Chiefs' backfield. Kansas City has the eighth-most carries available from last season. Damien Williams will compete for snaps but should be more of a reliever than a lead back as he ranked 40th among all running backs in Total NEP last season and is in the final year of his contract.
Before the draft, Edwards-Helaire was considered by many to be the fourth-best running back in the class, but after landing in Kansas City, he has the potential for elite production and warrants the best odds among running backs for Offensive Player of the Year.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: +1000
Edwards-Helaire likely landed in the best situation in terms of scheme fit, but Jonathan Taylor to the Indianapolis Colts is a close second. Taylor will be transitioning from one of the best offensive lines in college at Wisconsin to one of the best offensive lines in the NFL as the Colts ranked second in run blocking grade last season, per PFF.
Taylor holds the record for yards from scrimmage per season in NCAA history and is one of the best pure runners to enter the league in some time. However, he’s caught a lot of slack for his lack of production in the passing game, which is becoming increasingly valuable in today’s NFL. Taylor had just 26 receptions on 37 targets last season, but that may be more of a scheme problem than a player problem.
Taylor had 42 career receptions, which ranks seventh among Badger running backs since 2000. No Wisconsin running back has surpassed 74 receptions in that period -- including James White and Melvin Gordon, who each went on to catch over 200 career passes (and counting) in the NFL. For comparison, Edwards-Helaire had 55 receptions last season alone. So Taylor hasn’t produced impressive cumulative numbers due to playing for a program that doesn't prioritize passes to running backs, but he has fared well from an efficiency perspective -- his 2.13 yards per route run last season ranked second among all Power 5 running backs.
Additionally, Taylor will now be playing with Philip Rivers, who threw to running backs at the highest rate in the league last season, per Sharp Football. Taylor will face competition from Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines, and Colts coach Frank Reich has leaned toward a running back by committee in the past. But that was before the Colts traded up to draft one of the most productive running backs in college history.
Taylor must fight off competition for touches and prove capable of staying on the field on third downs, but if he does so, it shouldn’t be too troubling for an elite rusher behind an elite offensive line to become the favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Denzel Mims, WR, New York Jets
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: +2000
Denzel Mims doesn’t have the best college production or tape in his draft class, but he arguably has the best opportunity to contribute in Year 1 after being selected in the second round by the New York Jets, a team that ranked dead last in passing offense in 2019, per our numbers.
The Jets have the third-most targets and the most air yards available from last season. Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and Le'Veon Bell and will all see targets, but none of them are true alpha No. 1 receivers. Mims has a real opportunity to not only see immediate playing time but to draw the most targets on his team and potentially among this entire draft class.
Mims has a similar path to success to Anquan Boldin in 2003. Boldin was drafted in the second round by the Arizona Cardinals and went on to receive nearly 100 more targets than any other Arizona wide receiver on his way to winning Offensive Rookie of the Year.
While Mims isn’t widely considered a surefire long-term starter like Ceedee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy, he might have one of the highest ceilings in the draft. Mims ran a limited route tree at Baylor, raising concerns about his route running and versatility in an NFL offense, but he answered a lot of those questions with elite performances at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine.
If Mims is able to turn his athleticism into production at the next level and build a rapport with Sam Darnold despite a likely shortened offseason, he has a fantastic opportunity to put up Offensive Rookie of the Year-quality numbers thanks to volume.
Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: +10000
If you’re looking for a long shot to win the award, Antonio Gibson is your guy. Players with similar odds like Jauan Jennings and John Hightower will likely be too deep on their respective depth charts to see very many snaps, let alone enough to have a chance at Offensive Rookie of the Year. But Gibson has both one of the highest ceilings and better pathways to make a significant rookie impact in his draft class among the long shots.
Gibson played for two seasons at Memphis, AKA Athlete U. Memphis recently produced analytics darlings Darrell Henderson and Tony Pollard before introducing Gibson to the world last season. Gibson had just 33 carries and 38 receptions last year, resulting in one of the smallest sample sizes in his draft class, but he performed as well as anybody with those touches.
Per PFF, Gibson had a ridiculous 61.8% breakaway percentage last season -- for comparison, Saquon Barkley had a 56.6% breakaway percentage in 2018 at Penn State. Gibson averaged 0.46 broken tackles per touch, 2.23 yards per route run and a 16.9% touchdown rate, all of which would have ranked at or near the top of the draft class if he’d had enough plays to qualify.
Washington's running back depth chart is fairly deep, but none of the other players have the receiving chops that Gibson does. No returning Redskins running back had more than 20 receptions last season, giving Gibson an opportunity for touches as a receiving back. That is particularly noteworthy because Washington’s new offensive coordinator is Scott Turner, who fed Christian McCaffrey the most running back targets of all time last season. Additionally, Washington’s wide receiver depth chart is pretty weak, so Gibson could potentially earn snaps split out wide or in the slot, too.
Alvin Kamara won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2017 as a third-round draft pick in large part by tallying 81 receptions. The athleticism and the path is there for Gibson to make a similarly unexpected run at this year’s Offensive Player of the Year.