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We have done a bunch of pieces recently, including one on Defensive Player of the Year and one on teams to make or miss the playoffs out of the AFC and one on teams to make or miss the playoffs in the NFC. But today we’re strictly looking at rookies. This past NFL draft class was star-studded, so the Rookie of the Year race should be thrilling.

2021 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year odds

We’ve got plenty of big names, so let’s start by breaking down the odds:

Trevor Lawrence is the clear favorite here, but even he is above 3/1. It’s not surprising to see the 5 first-round quarterbacks toward the top, but it is surprising to see a tight end with such low odds. Then again, Kyle Pitts is a true enigma.

Trey Lance and Justin Fields might have to start the season sitting behind Jimmy Garoppolo and Andy Dalton in San Francisco and Chicago, respectively, but that doesn’t rule them out. Last year’s Rookie of the Year winner, Justin Herbert of the Chargers, began the year behind Tyrod Taylor on the depth chart.

Patriots first-rounder Mac Jones wasn’t considered a top contender for this award, until he suddenly overtook Cam Newton in New England. Jones has now skyrocketed up this chart after the release of Newton on Tuesday.

After the injury to Travis Etienne, Steelers first-rounder Najee Harris is the consensus top rookie running back.

J’Marr Chase, the fifth overall pick, has the best odds of any receiver at 20/1. Only 2 wideouts have won the award since 2003: Percy Harvin in 2009 and Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014. Let’s not waste any more time, let’s get to the fun part: a couple of Offensive Rookie of the Year best bets.

Offensive Rookie of the Year best bet #1: Zach Wilson +800

There’s just too much that can go wrong for me to take Lawrence at only +350ish. If we were talking +550, that would be a different story. But he’s an unproven rookie playing on a team with middling weapons and a middling offensive line. His head coach, Urban Meyer, has never even been an NFL coach before.

Of the rookie quarterbacks, I think Zach Wilson of the Jets has the most value at 8/1. He’s the only passer other than Lawrence and Jones guaranteed to be a Day 1 starter, yet he has higher odds than Lance or Fields. Unlike every single other rookie quarterback, Wilson has been getting all the first-team reps in training camp.

Everybody is overlooking Wilson simply because he plays for the Jets. New York has been dysfunctional in recent years, but that has nothing to do with the second overall pick. The fact of the matter is, this Jets team has absolutely nothing to do with ones of years past. It’s a new core, a new coach (Robert Saleh), and a new culture.

The team upgraded the offensive line by adding Alijah Vera-Tucker in the first round and signing Morgan Moses, and it’s now a really solid unit. Corey Davis is a nice addition to the receiving corps. The Jets play in one of the biggest media markets in the world, and it’s easy to see a Rookie of the Year campaign starting to get a buzz if they just have any semblance of success.

Expectations are low, which means anything Wilson does will seem better if it’s positive. As much as the media will rip him apart if he fails, it’s also easy to envision a Jets redemption narrative getting going if he makes some splash plays early on.

BYU Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson points to receiver during win over Texas State


NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year best bet #2: Javonte Williams +2000

If you’re looking for a Rookie of the Year bet with a little juicier odds, Denver running back Williams makes a lot of sense. If you read this column six weeks ago when I first wrote it, I recommended taking Williams at +2900, but there’s still value at +2000.

There are seven or eight players with odds lower than Williams to take home the hardware, and only one is a running back. Recent history tells us that’s misguided.

A rusher has won Rookie of the Year in four of the past eight seasons. A quarterback has won three times and a receiver has won once. As such, there’s a pretty strong chance Harris or Williams could win the award.

I’m not buying the suggestion that Harris is so much better positioned. The Steelers’ offensive line is a complete mess, and it’s got much worse from the end of last year. They already had no ground game to speak of in 2020, so I don’t see how things are going to get much better for Harris in 2021.

The Broncos are widely expected to have one of the best defenses in the league, and their style of play means they’ll be running the ball a lot. Many Denver beat writers are predicting Williams will have starting duties locked up not too long after Week 1, and veteran Melvin Gordon isn’t much of a threat long-term.

The Broncos traded up to draft Williams, and they didn’t do that just to have him sit. This is a guy who averaged 7.3 yards per carry and scored 22 touchdowns in 11 games at UNC last year. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him win Rookie of the Year, and at 20/1 he’s got serious value.

Pickswise is the home of free Expert NFL picks and NFL odds. Be sure to check out all of our season previews and NFL futures bets leading up to the 2021 NFL season.


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