2023 Season-Long NFL Props: Could Tony Pollard Score Most Rushing Touchdowns?
As the effectiveness of longtime starter Zeke Elliott waned, Dallas Cowboys fans clamored for more Tony Pollard. As the 2023 NFL season begins, they’ll finally get their wish. Can bettors find any value in NFL props involving the ascending star? Let’s take a look at one market in particular: most rushing touchdowns. We’ll evaluate whether there may be value in Pollard’s number as a bit of a longshot here.
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Keys To NFL Rush TD Props
When looking for a player who might lead the NFL in rushing TDs, we want to consider a few factors.
Obviously, player talent is one. Sure, there are exceptions like Jamaal Williams last season. But, most NFL rush TD leaders are among the best backs in the league. Recent examples include Jonathan Taylor, Derrick Henry and Todd Gurley.
Next, we want opportunity. Generally speaking, these players come from the higher-scoring, more efficient offenses in the NFL. Fewer opportunities for touchdowns means the player must convert at a higher rate. Conversely, the more often his team finds the red zone, the more chances he will have to score.
Along that same line, we don’t want to see a situation where the backup running back or the quarterback — “the vulture” — will steal rushing scores. Teams that throw often at the goal line — think Tom Brady’s Buccaneers — also fall under this category.
Does Pollard Fit?
No doubt, Pollard has the talent. He’s been one of the most dynamic and efficient runners in recent years, easily outperforming Elliott. Dallas fans have been waiting for the day Pollard took over for good reason.
What really catches my eye here is the opportunity, however.
Dallas had one of the best offenses in the NFL last season, averaging 27.5 PPG (fourth). Little should change on that front. In fact, this unit may be arguably more dynamic with Pollard at the forefront, Brandin Cooks essentially replacing Dalton Schultz as the third pass catcher, and the offensive line kicking off the year healthy.
The latter unit missed key starter Tyron Smith for much of last season and enters 2023 as PFF’s sixth-ranked group.
Furthermore, only the Eagles ran the ball in more often than Dallas’ 24 times. The Cowboys love leaning on their elite offensive line when spacing gets tight. That only promises to become more true with the exit of play-action aficionado Kellen Moore from the staff.
And the Cowboys depth chart offers very little in terms of competition for Pollard. Rico Dowdle and Deuce Vaughn are listed as Pollard’s backups. For those keeping track at home, that’s a man with zero NFL carries and a sixth-round rookie. Sure, Prescott will plunge in a few times, but he’s hardly a major rushing threat in the days since his broken ankle.
Pollard looks to be in a tremendous spot to rack up rushing scores. Even baking in some regression for Dallas’ rushing TD production, Pollard getting a mere 60% of those scores would have him around 13. Just two or three more than that generally leads the league.
Evaluating Pollard’s Competition In NFL Rush TD Props
Of course, Pollard figures to have some competition around that number even assuming he gets there. However, some of the projected rushing leaders have real question marks that could drag down their production.
Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb are each legitimate bellcows with big-time talent who could put up huge numbers. They rate as the top favorites for a reason. However, Henry plays in an offense that doesn’t figure to put up many points, so he’ll need a huge share of those touchdowns. Chubb may see some added opportunity with Kareem Hunt out of the way, but it’s anyone’s guess whether Deshaun Watson can regain the form to push this offense somewhere meaningful. The Browns averaged 16.33 PPG with Watson last year and that included a game with two non-offensive TDs.
Josh Jacobs and Austin Ekeler both enter 2023 off massive seasons. They’re highly likely to regress.
Bijan Robinson is a rookie with a bad quarterback on a team that will divvy up its rushing touchdowns four ways, in all likelihood.
Jalen Hurts is a monster in short yardage, but the Eagles have multiple very good backs, and he’s also unlikely to repeat last year’s historic output.
Saquon Barkley just had his first healthy season since 2018, and the Giants also don’t rate as a very strong offense.
Few 22-1 shots look as live as Pollard in this market. I’ll have a piece here and think anything above +1500 is probably worth a shot.
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