NFL Betting: 5 Defensive 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.
FanDuel Sportsbook updated its odds for 2020 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Before reviewing a few potential finalists, here are a few historical trends to consider.
Since 2000, DROY has been awarded to 10 linebackers, five edge rushers, three defensive tackles and two cornerbacks. But as the NFL has continued to evolve into a pass-heavy league, players who impact the passing game are getting more credit. In the past five years, DROY has been awarded to one linebacker, two edge rushers and two cornerbacks, as opposed to the mid-2000s, when there was a six-year run of linebacker DROYs.
Additionally, 27 of the last 30 DROYs were drafted in the first round, and the other three award winners were all selected in the second round. The last player to win the award who was drafted after the first or second round was defensive back Erik McMillan in 1988.
Here are a few players to consider betting on for this year’s Defensive Player of the Year, grouped by position.
Chase Young (+350) is one of the best defensive players in recent memory to enter the league and is deservedly the favorite to win DROY. Young, who was a 2019 Heisman finalist and the undisputed best defensive player in college football last season, is joining a Washington Redskins roster that has drafted a defensive lineman in the first round the past four years in a row. Young should be able to profit by seeing many one-on-one snaps after being consistently double-teamed at Ohio State.
A Buckeye has won DROY in three of the last four seasons: Nick Bosa in 2019, Marshon Lattimore in 2017, and Joey Bosa in 2016. Young recorded more career sacks and a higher career Pro Football Focus grade at OSU than both Bosa brothers. It would be a surprise to no one if Young runs away with this year’s DROY, as he is arguably the most talented player in the entire draft class.
Javon Kinlaw (+2600) is another player to consider. Kinlaw is one of the most athletic defensive tackles in this class. He ranked first in PFF pass rush grade and second in pass-rush win rate among all interior defensive lineman last season.
Kinlaw, like Young, should benefit from playing on a stacked defensive line. The San Francisco 49ers ranked second in pressure rate last season despite ranking 29th blitz rate. Kinlaw was drafted to replace recently traded defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, and Buckner was double teamed at a roughly league-average rate last season, per ESPN. Nick Bosa racked up 45 pressures (eighth-most in the NFL) on that same D-line last season despite playing on just 76% of defensive snaps on his way to winning 2019 DROY.
Isaiah Simmons (+850) has the second-lowest odds to bring home DROY. Simmons wore many hats in Brent Venables’ defense at Clemson last season. Per PFF’s draft guide: “Simmons played over 100 or more snaps at edge defender, linebacker, strong safety, free safety and slot cornerback, all while grading out above 80.0 as a run defender, tackler, pass rusher and coverage defender.”
Simmons was drafted eighth overall by the Arizona Cardinals. His versatility may not be maximized at the professional level, but his production should be, as Arizona’s linebackers struggled throughout the 2019 season. That was especially the case guarding tight ends, as the Cardinals allowed the third-most receptions, most yards and most touchdowns to opposing tight ends last season. Simmons will have an opportunity right away to generate DROY-type numbers.
Baltimore's Patrick Queen (+1200), Seattle's Jordyn Brooks (not listed) and Los Angeles' Kenneth Murray (+2100) were late-first-round selections who should be immediate-impact players for their respective teams but probably won’t accumulate enough individual statistics to warrant DROY consideration. Since 2000, DROY-winning linebackers have averaged 128.9 tackles, and Simmons is the only 2020 draftee who is likely to approach that number.
Third overall draft selection Jeffrey Okudah (+2100) has the fifth-lowest odds and first among defensive backs. Okudah is a complete cornerback with few weaknesses who should start immediately in the Detroit Lions' man-heavy scheme. But a better value at cornerback may be Jaylon Johnson (+3100), who was selected in the second round by the Chicago Bears. Okudah is the best coverage corner in this draft class, but Johnson is arguably the biggest playmaker. In his final season at Utah, Johnson had eight pass breakups and two interceptions, plus four dropped interceptions.
Rookie of the Year awards are generally given to players with the most impressive cumulative statistics, so a shutdown cornerback who is rarely targeted may be at a disadvantage to one who makes a lot of splash plays. Marcus Peters won DROY in 2015 after recording eight interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Johnson’s similarly elite instincts make him an interesting bet for this year’s DROY.