Best Bets for 2017 NFL Rookie of the Year
All Rookie of the Year odds come from Bovada and are accurate leading into games on Week 11. Like usual, please double-check all odds before making a decision, as they’re subject to shift this late into the year. Also be sure to place a wager as soon as possible, since certain sportsbooks will pull candidates off the board as the schedule nears its conclusion.
5. DeShaun Watson, Houston Texans (+2000)
Yes, we know DeShaun Watson tore his ACL, an injury he suffered back in Week 8. And yes, we know he’s done for the season, having underwent surgery shortly thereafter.
But the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year race isn’t exactly littered with booming options. If you’re a long-shot connossieurr, and your favorite sportsbook is still offering odds on Watson, he’s not a bad dark horse to target. He was piloting one of the 10 best offenses in football at the time of his injury, overcoming a shoddy defense to put the Houston Texans on the peripherals of the playoff conversation.
Watson, in all likelihood, won’t take home the annual new-kid-on-the-block honor. He probably needed to last through Week 10 to really be a threat to some of the other candidates who follow. Nevertheless, he looks like a future superstar under center, and voters love nothing more than to recognize that when they get the chance.
4. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars (+250)
Leonard Fournette headlines what might be the best rushing attack in football with the Jaxsonville Jaguars, which is no small feat as a first-year ball-carrier.
The Jaguars are first in rushing attempts, first in total yards on the ground, second in yards per carry and fifth overall in rushing touchdowns. Fournette himself has seen the endzone more times than veteran Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh, yet another significant accolade.
Still, his case feels like it’s built on a house of cards. The Jaguars’ offensive line is to-die for, but their quarterback situation, currently headlined by Blake Bortles, is a disaster. And that, in theory, makes them easier to defend and read.
That Fournette has enjoyed this much success to start his career is equal parts shocking, impressive and, most troublingly, unsustainable. He could, and probably should, experience a deep downtick in production by season’s end.
3. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers (+1000)
Running back Christian McCaffrey was a frequent preseason Rookie of the Year pick by both fans and pundits. Plenty believed he would join the Carolina Panthers and immediately usurp incumbent Jonathan Stewart on the snap count, due to his pass-catching ability not only as a bail-out option for former MVP Cam Newtown, but as a screen receiver who could often turn small-yardage plays into big-time games.
That didn’t happen. Not right away anyway. McCaffrey struggled to get his footwork down, didn’t seem in sync with the Panthers’ offensive line and committed a couple fumbles that didn’t sit right. Carolina still deployed him as a pass-catcher, but it didn’t ask him to do much else aside from block out of the back field.
Except, well, that’s mostly changed through Weeks 9 and 10. McCaffrey is getting more touches on the ground and looks a lot more comfortable trying to burst through seams. He ranks 27th in the league overall in yards from scrimmage, and his role as a quasi-receiver has him second in reception yards among running backs.
Don’t sleep on him climbing up this ladder over the final five or six weeks, as the Panthers look to clinch a playoff berth and continue leaning on him to carry their piddling offense over his backfield compatriot Stewart.
2. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints (+1000)
Certain people will be reluctant to include Alvin Kamara this high on the ladder. You needn’t be one of them.
The New Orleans Saints‘ high-powered offense has allowed him to form a lucrative timeshare in the backfield with veteran partner in crime Mark Ingram. The latter still gets more of the snaps, and he has been used as a rusher himself more frequently, but dual-running back sets help ease the difference.
Case in point: Kamara ranks 10th among running backs in total yards from scrimmage. He won’t always be an option in the redzone (he has four touchdowns), but he’ll be a driving force until the Saints get there. That he ranks so high on the total-yards scale despite being buried in the depth chart for the first couple weeks is nothing short of astounding. There’s a chance he works his way into the top five by season’s end.
Capitalize on his long-shot odds while you still can.
1. Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs (-400)
Kareem Hunt’s Rookie of the Year odds aren’t great, but only because he’s the overwhelming favorite of the pack. He’s so far ahead of his peers that we cannot even bring ourselves to penalize his paltry -400 return.
Todd Gurley is the only running back in the NFL to amass more yards from scrimmage. Not rookie running backs. Not running backs under the age of 25. But all running backs in the league. He also ranks sixth among all ball-carriers in total touchdowns, a truly impressive standing knowing the Kansas City Chiefs don’t use him as a consistent passing option.
As long as he finishes the season healthy, he will run away with this award. Kamara is the only one with the ability to catch him, and he’ll need to score a touchdown in every week from now until year’s close to really make this a battle.
Note: All stats courtesy of Pro-Football Reference unless otherwise cited.
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