The NFL Draft literally just ended yesterday and already the sportsbooks are taking wagers for who will be the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2021. With such an immense group of special offensive talent in the draft this year, it can be hard to figure out who will break out and have that crazy rookie season that we have seen in the past. Last year, it was Oregon QB Justin Herbert, who broke out in a big way after being thrust into the starting job in Week 2 of last season for the Los Angeles Chargers. LSU WR Justin Jefferson danced his way to an incredible rookie season which saw him snag seven touchdowns and rack up 1,400 receiving yards for the Minnesota Vikings. The key is to analyze who is the best fit with their new team, and who will get the most playing time in year one.
Let’s take a look at the latest OROY odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook, where we can get a good idea of who the oddsmakers in Vegas think will dominate the field in their rookie season.
Trevor Lawrence The Obvious Favorite
I think literally anyone who watches NFL football could guess that the No. 1 overall pick in the draft will probably always be the favorite to start the year to win ROTY unless he’s a non-skill position player like an offensive lineman. So it wasn’t too difficult to predict that Trevor Lawrence would be the favorite here at +270. The Jacksonville Jaguars made the easy pick in history Thursday night, but they also reunited their new QB with his Clemson teammate and star RB Travis Etienne, who adds a versatile weapon in the backfield and should make Lawrence more comfortable.
The Jags were horrific in 2020, going 1-15 and having holes all over their roster. The team focused mainly on offensive weapons in the draft and should be much better on that side of the ball in 2021. The defense though will likely be pretty awful once again, which begs the question of if Jacksonville will win enough games to compete next season. They are still a much-improved team, and will probably finish third in the AFC South due to the Deshaun Watson and the Texans debacle.
The main problem with betting Lawrence at such a short number is that his offensive line is one of the worst in football. They won’t be able to consistently protect him, which leads to injury concerns and interceptions. There is just not enough value here for me to put money down on Lawrence, no matter how good the guy actually is.
Vegas Must Not Like Andy Dalton
By some miracle, the Chicago Bears were able to draft one of the most talented QB’s in the draft at #11 overall in Justin Fields. This is a guy who was lighting up legitimate college defenses on a weekly basis, and for most of the NCAAF season, everyone thought it was a foregone conclusion he would be the 2nd overall pick. After some concerns about his love for the game, work ethic, and ability to read through his progressions, he fell to the eleventh pick for the Bears to swoop in and grab him. Fields said all the rumors about his passion for football and work are “Mind-boggling” and flat-out lies. There is hope once again in Chicago.
However, Fields will not be starting right away according to Bears general manager Ryan Pace. Andy Dalton, who signed a $10m deal with the Bears this off-season, will still be the starting QB of the team while they develop Fields. Well, the oddsmakers must think we are in another Mike Glennon-esqe situation, where Dalton will play for the first few games before ultimately failing and forcing the Bears to make a change. If Fields really were to sit for the entire 2021 season, it’s pretty obvious that his odds would not be this short to win OROY at only +550. Vegas is banking on him starting for the majority of the season, and they believe that he will look like he did at Ohio State when he does get to see NFL action.
Value Plays in Ja’Marr Chase and Najee Harris
I think there are a few players here that offer up great value based on the action they will see and the team around them. Bengals’ new WR Ja’Marr Chase will see a ton of targets and action during his first season in the NFL. He replaces A.J. Green, who was once a superstar but age has caught up to him. Chase already will have immediate chemistry with QB Joe Burrow, as the two played together down at LSU. He is an insanely talented receiver with excellent ball skills, route-running, and quickness. At +1500, I could see him having a Justin Jefferson type of rookie season for the Bengals, which makes him a great play at that number considering Jefferson would have won the award if it was almost any other year.
Najee Harris is yet another insanely talented Alabama RB who scores TD’s like Booger McFarland states the obvious: constantly. He was a machine for the Crimson Tide. Now he brings his talents to Pittsburgh, where he hopes to become yet another great Harris to occupy their backfield. One thing is for sure though, and that’s the fact that he will be getting a massive amount of carries for the Steelers this upcoming season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he saw 300 carries and over 1,200 rushing yards in his first season. It was plain to see that future HoF QB Ben Roethlisberger is starting to lose some of that magic he had earlier in his career. He struggled mightily down the stretch last season, and I don’t see things getting much better in 2021. That means more of a relience on the run game, which is where Harris will star.