Wilson: 2 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Bets to Make Right Now
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Tua Tagovailoa #13 of the Alabama Crimson Tide
As the NFL inches closer to releasing its 2020-21 schedule in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the gambling world got a Thanksgiving-sized portion of wagers through the draft.
Players who have been winning college football bets for a number of years ascend to the professional level in hopes of being the next generational talent.
Oddsmakers across the nation have posted odds on the next NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year as voted by The Associated Press.
The Action Network’s NFL team did a masterful job creating the latest Dynasty Rookie Ratings for fantasy drafts. But betting on an individual award is much different than a capping a fantasy league or analyzing a point spread.
College football has the Heisman, where regional and position bias play a large factor. The NFL awards have different statistical trends to determine a winner.
This article will look at the past 20 years of offensive rookie winners in contrast with this year’s crop of talent to determine where an investment is needed.
To start, we looked at the each of the past 20 winners for trends among the AP voters.
There are plenty of takeaways from the Offensive Rookie of the Year award list. The biggest to note is a simple question: Did your team win?
Over the past 20 years, ROY winners have accumulated 72 more wins for their respective franchises than the previous season. Ben Roethlisberger and Dak Prescott were able to increase their teams’ win total by nine a piece in their rookie seasons.
Another look at recent winners shows only three wide receivers have taken honors in the past two decades. In the lifetime of the award since 1967, wide receivers have accounted for nine wins while a tight end has never won the award. There has been an even split among running backs and quarterbacks since 2000.
There is an argument that this is still a quarterback award. In the years a non-quarterback won, running backs or wide receivers had draft classes lacking talent at the signal-caller position.
In 2017, Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt surpassed Deshaun Watson thanks to injury. The quarterback class was so depleted in 2014, Odell Beckham Jr.’s biggest competition was an offensive lineman.
Beckham was not that close to unanimous in rookie OROY voting. Beckham got 42 votes, Zack Martin got 7, Mike Evans 1.
— Gregg Rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) February 1, 2015
The factors above layout our system for making investment. A team must win more games than the previous season, while looking at quarterback first and running backs second. To determine which team is projected to win more games this season, we looked at 2019 final standings versus the current win total for the 2020 season.
Filtering the 2020 Draft Class
There are only 11 teams with current win total odds to surpass their 2019 win total by more than one game. Of those teams that meet the criteria, the Giants do not have a player eligible for the award.
Filtering out wide receiver and tight end removes a large chunk of the list, including Hunter Bryant of the Redskins, CeeDee Lamb of the Cowboys and Michael Pittman Jr. of the Colts.
We also remove names that are above 150-1 to win the award. There is a path for Ben Dinucci and Jacob Eason to lead their respective teams into the playoffs, but injury and accelerated play make the scenario a true longshot.
Ball distribution is another important factor. While the world raves about Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a rookie’s limited opportunity will factor in AP voters’ critical thinking.
That is an issue for Eno Benjamin of the Cardinals, Ke’Shawn Vaughn of the Bucs and D’Andre Swift of the Lions. Much like an MLB hurler having a pitch count, an increased workload can result in injury. Even Edwards-Helaire struggled with hamstring issues late in LSU’s championship run.
Joe Burrow’s odds of +250 give no value to the overall No. 1 pick. The LSU quarterback has to dodge injury behind an offensive line that ranked 30th in pass blocking by PFF. The Cincinnati Bengals did nothing in free agency or the draft to beef up their interior defense, which gave up a league-worst 2,382 rushing yards.
Burrow is talented enough to hit AJ Green and Tee Higgins on explosive plays, but a win total increase of just one game for the Bengals will not get the rookie to the window.
Justin Herbert is another quarterback who can be taken off the list. Some NFL scouts had issue with pocket presence. A look at Herbert’s numbers with and without pressure are astounding.
The Ducks signal-caller had an efficiency drop from 56.7% to 32.4% when under pressure. Denver, Kansas City, Carolina and Jacksonville make up six spots on the Chargers’ 2020 schedule and all ranked top 11 in adjusted sack rate last season.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Tua Tagovailoa +1000
Miami is projected to win 6.5 games and increased from the 2019 win total of 5. The general consensus is that Tagovailoa will “redshirt” the 2020 season because of last year’s hip dislocation suffered against Mississippi State, which Nick Saban called “a freak thing.”
Tagovailoa fell to fifth in the NFL Draft, creating plenty of value for the Miami Dolphins. The injury created a narrative around the Alabama quarterback and diluted his extreme talent.
Like Burrow, Tagovailoa was one of the most accurate passers in recent college football history. The Alabama offensive line had issues in protection the past couple of seasons, but that did not deter Miami’s rookie from posting big numbers.
Tagovailoa posted a 13-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio when blitzed during 2019. With a quarterback rating virtually the same with or without pressure, Tagovailoa is plenty prepared to play behind a Dolphins offensive line that added talent through free agency after finishing dead last in pass protection in 2019 via PFF.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen are also on the depth chart, but the Dolphins organization truly believes it can compete for the division. Tagovailoa may sit the first three games as a study of Chan Gailey’s scheme with Ryan Fitzpatrick, but if the Dolphins have any shot at an eight-win season, expect to see Tua play.
The Dolphins are currently at 9-1 to win the AFC East, but a wild-card run led by Tagovailoa during the second half of the season will easily net an Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Jonathan Taylor +1200
When the Colts selected Jonathan Taylor in the second round of the NFL Draft, my instincts flew off the radar from a fantasy and Rookie of the Year perspective. Indianapolis finished a disappointing 2019 with seven wins, but a projection of nine this season will have the Colts contending for the AFC South.
Taylor was an every-down back at Wisconsin as he became more integrated with the passing game in 2019. The Badgers product falls to a team with Philip Rivers as the quarterback. Melvin Gordon was the beneficiary running back playing alongside Rivers, averaging more than 50 targets out of the backfield per season.
Highest percentage of "checkdowns" over last two seasons (screens are play calls, not checkdowns):
1. Bortles 11.2%
2. Kizer 10.4
3. Eli Manning 10.2
4. Osweiler 9.7
5. Brissett 9.3
6. Alex Smith 9.1
6. Flacco 9.1
8. Tyrod Taylor 8.7
8. Rivers 8.7
10. Carr 8.4
11. Prescott 8.2
— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) July 23, 2019
Taylor is a bruising first- and second-down running back and will be a plus-runner in red zone situations. He was also sneaky as a receiver out of the backfield for Wisconsin. With fewer than 30 combined targets through his freshman and sophomore year, Taylor had 39 targets with 26 receptions during the 2019 Rose Bowl run.
Of the 13 balls that were not caught, seven were poorly thrown and only four were drops.
Philip Rivers is one of the highest check down quarterbacks in recent history, making Taylor a prime candidate for receptions outside of play-action and screen pass attempts. Marlon Mack has not had impressive numbers in the passing game out of the backfield, with his longest reception being 14 yards in 2019.
The Colts offensive line ranked second in rush blocking in 2019 per PFF. Expect a versatile Taylor to be a three-down back, racking up numbers on a team that is projected to make the playoffs.
For all of those reason, I like the value of Taylor at 12-1 available at Circa Sports.