NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award Odds: Don’t Bet This Award Before the Season

NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award Odds: Don’t Bet This Award Before the Season article feature image

Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Cooper Kupp.

We're continuing our series digging into season-long awards bets for the 2022 NFL season.

I’m previewing each awards market for the year, and we'll be returning to these all season. But today will be something a little different. We're looking at Offensive Player of the Year (OPOY).

But rather than narrowing the field and recommending my top bets like usual, I'm here to tell you why you should not bet this OPOY race before the season.

Be sure to check out all the other award picks if you haven't already:

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Who Wins Offensive Player of the Year?

Let's take a look at the 10 most recent players to win OPOY and the numbers they put up in their winning seasons:

  • 2021 — WR Cooper Kupp: 145 catches, 1,947 yards, 16 TDs
  • 2020 — RB Derrick Henry: 2,141 scrimmage yards, 17 TDs
  • 2019 — WR Michael Thomas: 149 catches, 1,725 yards, 9 TDs
  • 2018 — QB Patrick Mahomes: 5,097 yards, 50 TDs
  • 2017 — RB Todd Gurley: 2,083 scrimmage yards, 19 TDs
  • 2016 — QB Matt Ryan: 4,944 yards, 38 TDs
  • 2015 — QB Cam Newton: 4,473 pass/rush yards, 45 pass/rush TDs
  • 2014 — RB DeMarco Murray: 2,251 scrimmage yards, 13 TDs
  • 2013 — QB Peyton Manning: 5,477 yards, 55 TDs
  • 2012 — RB Adrian Peterson: 2,314 scrimmage yards, 13 TDs

Normally this is the part of the article where we talk about everything we just learned above. Let's see what we can come up with…

1. The OPOY winner position is unclear and wide open.

Over the past decade, we've seen four QBs, four RBs and two WRs win the award. Not particularly helpful.

Even the limited number of WRs relatively speaking isn't super enlightening, considering the leap in passing and scoring the league has seen over the past four seasons. Of course, that leap also hasn't ruled out RBs either because Derrick Henry just won two years ago and Jonathan Taylor nearly won last fall.

2. OPOY is not an MVP consolation prize.

That's the popular narrative, that we just give out OPOY to whoever was really good but not quite the MVP. It's basically what voters did with Drew Brees for years. But that hasn't been the case for a while now.

Actually, five of the last 10 OPOYs also won MVP — Peterson and all four QBs. There was only one MVP runner-up and one third-place winner.

You usually get a far better price on OPOY than MVP. If anything, you might consider OPOY as a better-priced MVP proxy, but not a consolation prize.

3. OPOYs win a lot.

This shouldn't come as a huge surprise. Offense wins, and these guys are putting up monster numbers. If you play well enough to rack up this many yards and TDs, your team will probably win a bunch of games too, by definition.

Every OPOY over the last decade won 10 games, and all but one won 11. The average OPOY won 12.0 games. Again, not a shocker considering half of them won MVP too, but that does help narrow the field a bit.

4. The OPOY needs to put up outrageous, outlier, totally unpredictable stats.

This is the key takeaway. Just look at the average OPOY production by position:

  • Quarterback — 4,998 yards, 47 TDs
  • Running back — 2,197 scrimmage yards, 15.5 TDs
  • Wide receiver — 147 catches, 1,836 yards, 12.5 TDs

That's some truly outrageous production. And remember, most of that came in 16 games, so the numbers will be even higher now.

If you bet on a quarterback to win OPOY, you're effectively betting on him putting up 5,000/50. Bet on a running back and you're projecting 2,500/17. For a receiver, you need a tidy 150/1,800/13.

You need monster, outlier stats, and that's what this award is. They might as well just call it the Most Shockingly Great Stats Award.

So what are we looking for in an Offensive Player of the Year?

We need the best stats, period. They need to win, but other than that, it can be pretty much any player from any position on any team, as long as they put up wild, outlier numbers — and that's why you shouldn't be on OPOY preseason.

Why You Shouldn't Bet on OPOY… Yet

It should be apparent by now that OPOY is wildly unpredictable by definition. This is not an award for winning or team performance, it's not consistent from one year to the next, and it has no real pattern by position or otherwise. The only consistent pattern is outlier stats.

The entire point of this series has been pointing bettors in the right direction by looking at historical patterns and trends, and we just don't have enough to go on here.

You can probably rule out a few names. No RB or WR has won OPOY a second time since Marshall Faulk in 2001, so you probably shouldn't bet on Kupp or Henry. We probably need 11 wins, so you likely want to stay away from guys on bad teams. That could knock out guys with top-10 odds like Nick Chubb and Christian McCaffrey. Beyond that… you need lots of stats. Big stats.

Got your pick figured out? Me neither.

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Look, if you could really predict which guy would put up the sort of outlier stats you need to win OPOY, you should be getting rich off fantasy football instead. This is essentially the Fantasy Football League Winner award. But fantasy football is hard because it's unpredictable.

If you want to sprinkle a couple small, fun-size bets on long shots — we're talking 50-to-1 or longer — sure, have a little fun.

I'll sprinkle a bit on Tom Brady at +5000. The man led the league in passing attempts, completions, yards, and TDs last year and has won this twice before. Of course he also got only five OPOY votes last year despite racking up 5316/43 at age 44, because Kupp and Taylor were even better.

I can't stress enough what sort of outrageous numbers we need to win OPOY, and just how irresponsible it is to bet on anyone shorter than 50-to-1 when we know so little right now.

In a few weeks, that'll change. We'll circle back then, when we have more data about play calling, usage rates, tempo, what new offenses look like, and more. At that point, we can start projecting with at least a modicum of confidence.

But for now, save your money. OPOY is all about wild, outlier statistical production, and until we have some actual game data this year, it's a fool's errand to think you can predict the completely unpredictable.

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