After months of mock drafts and anticipation, the top players in the 2021 NFL Draft have found new homes. Top picks Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson predictably went to the Jaguars and Jets, respectively, while players like Jaycee Horn and Zaven Collins came off the board earlier than expected.
Now that the players are placed, let’s take a look at the latest odds for both Offensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year, as well as contenders for each award.
NFL Rookie of the Year odds
Here are NFL Rookie of the Year odds heading into the 2021 season. Click on the price(s) you like to bet now.
Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jaguars: Ever since high school, Lawrence has been seen as the next can’t-miss prospect. He joined the likes of Andrew Luck and John Elway to be titled “can’t miss” and he’s been the surefire No. 1 pick since his college debut in 2018.
Finally, Lawrence is a Jaguar. He’s been handed the keys to the franchise immediately and – similar to Joe Burrow of last year – is the early favorite to win OROY based on his projected volume and opportunity alone. Jacksonville has plenty of weapons like D.J. Chark, Laviska Shenault, Marvin Jones, and now Travis Etienne. Barring an unforeseen collapse, T-Law will maintain favorite status through the early season.
Zach Wilson, QB, Jets: Like Lawrence, Zach Wilson was drafted to be a Day 1 starter and the next face of the franchise. He’s a flashy playmaker who was compared to both Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers on draft night. While those are lofty comparisons, Wilson does possess the traits to be the best rookie of this draft.
New York has a new regime, including head coach Robert Saleh (previously of the Kyle Shanahan system) and a plethora of new players like Corey Davis, Dan Feeney, and now Alijah Vera-Tucker. It’s clear New York wants to build around Wilson and avoid another high-capital QB disaster. Early odds center around quarterbacks who will get the most opportunity; it’s clear Wilson will have plenty of volume.
Justin Fields, QB, Bears: In what might be the biggest surprise of Round 1, the Bears traded up to grab Justin Fields after he fell to No. 11. The old “QB1” tweet regarding Andy Dalton after he was landed in free agency is likely defunct. Even if Fields isn’t the Week 1 starter, it can be presumed that if the Bears aren’t winning games, he’ll take the field sooner rather than later.
Fields was a star at Ohio State and has the traits to be a star in the NFL. While he’s fighting an uphill battle against Lawrence and Wilson, if he gets the opportunity Fields could seize it and be the top QB in this draft class (likely winning him OROY). The Bears will look to surround him with some more talent and he’s looking to break the stigma of both Ohio State quarterbacks in the NFL and the string of Bears’ quarterbacks.
Najee Harris, RB, Steelers: The top five choices for OROY are unsurprisingly all quarterbacks; high capital was spent on these guys and two of them were acquired after a team traded up to get them. Najee Harris leads the group of non-quarterbacks after being drafted to the ideal scenario: Pittsburgh.
Harris looks like Derrick Henry but plays faster and is a more efficient pass catcher. An aging and physically limited Ben Roethlisberger will help the campaign for Harris, who is expected to be the immediate bell cow for the Steelers. The common theme for OROY candidates is volume and Harris will see plenty of volume (potentially upward of 20 touches per game). Expect Pittsburgh to return to smashmouth football now that they have their next guy.
Kyle Pitts, TE, Falcons: Pitts became the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history when the Atlanta Falcons pulled the trigger at No. 4. With new head coach Arthur Smith coming off a year which he propelled tight end Jonnu Smith to almost 500 yards and eight touchdowns in Tennessee, Pitts may become a focal point in this offense.
It’s clear Atlanta is comfortable rolling with Matt Ryan for the remainder of his contract (another two seasons) and now he has one of the best arsenals in all of the NFL. Other pass catchers on the team like Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones should free up Pitts and allow him plenty of opportunity – especially near the goal line. Pitts is one of the biggest studs in this class and it’d be no surprise to see him near the top of OROY odds boards all season long.
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Bengals: Joe Burrow, the Bengals’ last No. 1 pick, gets his favorite college teammate to work with in Cincinnati. Chase opted out of 2020, but the last time he was on the field he put up a blistering 1,780 receiving yards and 20 receiving touchdowns (most in FBS).
Despite the Bengals already rostering Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, we can expect the passing offense to run through Chase, who was projected to be the top receiver picked in last year’s class should he have been eligible. The path for Chase to be considered for OROY is the path former LSU teammate Justin Jefferson took last year – a path that’s completely within the realm of possibility with Burrow under center.
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Dolphins: Despite being drafted after Chase, Jaylen Waddle may be presented with the most opportunity of any of the receivers in this class. Waddle is most dangerous with the football in his hands and the Dolphins know that; expect him to be used in a similar vein to Tyreek Hill – with plenty of end around and sweep opportunities.
Waddle will see a ton of work in the return game, too, as he was an electric returnman with the Crimson Tide. Like Chase, he’s reunited with his former quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, which could boost Tagovailoa’s production after a mild rookie year. Waddle also has the benefit of starting the year as the WR1 for Miami, which will be without newly-signed Will Fuller for the first game of the year (PED suspension).
Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates
Micah Parsons, LB, Cowboys: The Dallas Cowboys were able to trade back and still land their guy after both top corners came off the board in the top 10. Parsons leads a crop of extremely gifted linebackers who excel in physical freakishness and versatility. Though he sat out 2020, it’s apparent he’s still pro-ready.
Parsons fills a void recently left by the retiring of longtime captain Sean Lee for Dallas and he’s a projected Day-1 starter. With division rivals loading up on “offensive weapons” and versatile athletes like DeVonta Smith (Eagles), Kadarius Toney (Giants), and Curtis Samuel (Washington), Parsons is a perfect counter. He’s an elite pass rusher, as well, which will help bolster is DROY campaign.
Kwity Paye, EDGE, Colts: What a gift Paye was for Inday, falling to No. 21. The Colts are the ideal system for him as they run a similar defensive scheme at Michigan. Though he strays from the physical archetype of other recent pass rushers, Paye is promised to be a productive edge rusher for years to come.
He also has the benefit of playing against a division that’s weak in the offensive line (the exception, of course, being the team he was drafted to). To further benefit Paye’s rookie year, he plays next to DeForest Buckner and across from either Tyquan Lewis or Al-Quadin Muhammed. The case against his DROY run, though, is that – with such a loaded defensive front – Paye may lose snaps in favor of other players.
Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Dolphins: Good news all around for Phillips. He was drafted into an elite defensive system, becomes an instant Day-1 starter, will be used flexibly in a 3-4 system, doesn’t have to move cities, and doesn’t have to change his wardrobe much.
Phillips might be the most ferocious and explosive player from a deep defensive class and will see plenty of work and movement with the Dolphins. Despite lacking a true dominant pass rusher (sorry, Emmanuel Ogbah), the Dolphins were able to land 10th in sacks per game and 14th in pass rush, per PFF. Phillips will have ample opportunities to get to the QB and, if he gets home, could wreak havoc in the AFC East.
Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Ravens: For the first time in what seems like forever, the Baltimore Ravens lacked an elite pass rush in 2020. Enter Jayson Oweh, who comes into the league with all of the physical gifts needed to dominate on the defensive front. He joins a crew headlined by All Pros like Calais Campbell and Tyus Bowser. The unit is also backed by one of the best secondaries in the NFL.
Oweh is a developmental player that NFL GMs love. He’s raw and has little experience (he only began playing football as a junior in high school), but has one of the highest ceilings of any pass rusher in the draft. He sits as a long shot because of his potentially-stunted opportunity (he’s not a guaranteed starter) and because of his lack of technical knowledge and experience.
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Broncos: Top-10 capital, elite pedigree, a defensive-minded head coach, and elite teammates – what’s there not to like about Surtain’s circumstances?
Surtain was hailed as the best corner in the class and was nearly drafted like it if Carolina hadn’t pulled the trigger on Jaycee Horn earlier than expected. However, he will be tested in a division with some of the best arms in the NFL like Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert. He’ll also be tasked with defending some of the fastest players like Tyreek Hill and former teammate Henry Ruggs. Should he stand out with those assignments, Surtain could be a favorite later in the season.
Jamin Davis, LB, WFT: When discussing opportunity, no one has a better shot than Jamin Davis. He’s drafted to be a Day-1 starter behind the league’s most fearsome defensive front. Washington was top-5 in sack rate and PFF’s pass rush grades in 2020 and fielded the previous DROY (Chase Young).
With so much emphasis put on their front four and the other two linebackers (Jon Bostic and Cole Holcomb combined for 5.5 sacks of their own), Davis could be a free man on many plays. At Kentucky, he was an efficient run-stopper and had some of the best instincts among linebackers in the nation. Davis is a huge cog in the machine that keeps the NFC East up at night.