NFL Rookie of the Year Odds & Picks: Offensive & Defensive Standouts of 2021 Draft Class
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images. Pictured: 49ers rookie QB Trey Lance
Two hundred and fifty nine picks later, the 2021 NFL Draft is officially in the books, and the real fun begins: Projecting this class.
Before we dive into even deeper fantasy and betting analysis of these rookies, we asked our staff to cast their early picks for Offensive Rookie of the Year (OROY) and Defensive Rookie of the Year (DPOY). Find their favorite bets for both markets below.
NFL Rookie of the Year Odds & Picks
|OROY: 49ers QB Trey Lance (+1000)|
|DROY: Dolphins EDGE Jaelan Phillips (+1000)|
|DROY: Giants EDGE Azeez Ojulari (+1500)|
Offensive Rookie of the Year Picks
49ers QB Trey Lance (+1000) at BetMGM
Stuckey: Back in 2012, Washington traded up to draft Robert Griffin III with the second overall pick. RG3 started Week 1 and went on to win OROY.
The offensive coordinator for that team? Kyle Shanahan.
Well, Shanahan is now the head coach for the 49ers, who traded up to draft Trey Lance with the third overall pick. Could history repeat itself? I think it’s worth a shot at 7-1 or better.
San Francisco gave so much away in that trade for a reason — Lance can elevate the offense to the next level running Shanahan’s preferred RPO scheme much more effectively than Jimmy Garoppolo. (This is obviously predicated on Lance starting, but he has a great shot of doing so from the jump.)
As for the other quarterbacks who are primary OROY candidates, the Bears’ Justin Fields and the Jets’ Zach Wilson are interesting since they also have good chances to start right away, but I have questions about both staffs and supporting casts. The Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence will also be in discussion, but he’s priced correctly (+225 at BetMGM). That leaves the Patriots’ Mac Jones, who I doubt starts right away.
You could also look at running back candidates considering 10 of the past 11 and 24-of-28 OROY awards have gone to either a QB or RB. There’s Najee Harris, who should get the volume in Pittsburgh, but there are still major offensive line questions with the Steelers.
Given all that, I’m taking the potential value with Lance at 7-1 or better given his situation.
Defensive Rookie of the Year Picks
Dolphins EDGE Jaelan Phillips (+1000) at BetMGM
Darin Gardner: Phillips was the first edge defender taken in the first round, and I really like his outlook in Miami.
For one, there’s a good chance that he’s the best pass rusher on the team the second he steps on the field. Gone is Kyle Van Noy, who finished last season third on the team in sacks, so the top two returning pass rushers are Emmanuel Ogbah (nine sacks) and Jerome Baker (seven sacks). I don’t see anyone really taking snaps away from Phillips, so he should have a significant role from Day 1.
Phillips will also benefit from having an aggressive head coach in Brian Flores. Miami was second in the NFL in blitz rate last season, which will definitely benefit a guy like Phillips. He’s walking into a great situation and could very well be the best pass rusher on a defense that loves to blitz.
Looking past the situation, there’s also the fact that Phillips is an absolute alien at the position. He was the highest-ranked recruit in the country in 2017 for a reason. Concussions sidelined his career for a while in college, but he was every bit as explosive when he finally returned.
At his pro day, his 4.58 40-yard dash was 94th-percentile for the position. He also had a 92nd-percentile broad jump and 91st-percentile 20-yard shuttle, per MockDraftable. He also checks the box in terms of size at 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds.
Despite the time off because of injuries, he came in and produced right away at Miami. He had eight sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in just 10 games. He has freaky measurables, great production and would likely have been taken even higher without the concussion concerns.
There’s also the fact that pass rushers tend to win this award. Since 2010, seven of the DPOY winners have played on the defensive line. Phillips is probably the most likely to come in and produce immediately in this edge class, due to his tools and college production. I’m really excited about what Flores can do with a guy like Phillips.
Giants EDGE Azeez Ojulari +1500 at FanDuel
Brandon Anderson: This is a light defensive draft, so DROY feels up for grabs.
We know at this point that voters prefer to reward splash, which means we need some serious numbers from a DROY winner. As great as Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn are, only two corners have won DROY since Charles Woodson in 1998.
Three of the last five DROY winners have been pass rushers, and that makes sense — it’s easy enough for a rookie to rack up a big sack total, even if they don’t play a ton of snaps and even if they don’t dominate, since 10 sacks just means 10 flash plays over a whole season.
Sacks are how Chase Young and Nick and Joey Bosa won this over the past five seasons, and Ojulari is arguably the best pure pass rusher in the draft. Even if he is a bit small and ends up a situational pass rusher, he’ll catch voters’ attention if he gets to eight or 10 sacks.
Ojulari led the SEC in tackles for loss, forced fumbles and sacks, and he’s my early pick for DROY straight up, let alone at +1500 odds.