Offensive Rookie of the Year is a perfect bet for fantasy players who feel like they are underexposed to certain rookies. For me, I feel underexposed to Royce Freeman in fantasy football, but I can still get him win $1,300 on a $100 bet — purely as a hedge — if he takes home the OROY. However, with only a few days left, you will need to hurry, as this bet will close by Thursday’s kickoff between the Falcons and Eagles.

Research for Offensive Rookie of the Year Odds:

Unlike the last five columns I have written, there is less data to go off of when analyzing Offensive Rookie of the Year odds for a few reasons. The biggest reason is there is a lot more year-to-year variance with rookie of the year winners because we are dealing with a small number of OROY candidates every year. Let’s take a look at some quick takeaways.

  • 10 of the last 14 OROYs were selected by the 12th overall pick.
  • The last five OROYs who were quarterbacks started at least 15 games.
  • Seven of the last 14 OROYs have been quarterbacks.
  • Five of the last 14 OROYs have been running backs.
  • Two of the last 14 OROYs have been wide receivers (Percy Harvin and Odell Beckham).
  • OROYs who were quarterbacks have had 9.6 wins on average since 2004.
  • The last three OROYs who were quarterbacks are considered as dual-threat (Dak Prescott, Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton).
  • OROYs who were running backs have had 277 touches on average since 2005.
  • OROYs who were running backs have scored 10.8 total touchdowns on average since 2005.

 


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Instead of using graphs like I did in previous prop betting columns, it makes more sense to compare winners and runners-up to find out what stats are most important. This will help us far more than knowing the average amount of touchdowns needed by quarterbacks.

2017 Rookie of the Year Contenders
 

 

Last season, the OROY was between running backs Alvin Kamara — the winner — and Kareem Hunt. Based off of these two seasons, it becomes obvious that total touchdowns and efficiency is more important than total rushing yards to some degree. But this next comparison somewhat contradicts this for another reason.

2015 Rookie of the Year Contenders
 

 

David Johnson had an “Alvin Kamara season” but lost the OROY to Todd Gurley. The differences between OROY Todd Gurley and runner-up Kareem Hunt during their rookie campaigns were their relative draft picks and hype during the season. It is important to remember that people vote on these awards, so their biases show. With the hype Todd Gurley had going into the season, there was notable coverage when he played well. This is the type of publicity that voters often buy into, and we can take advantage of that. The three rookies with a lot of hype and media buzz this season are Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Saquon Barkley.

The last seasonal comparison is between a quarterback and a running back, which are the two positions that make up 12 of the last 14 OROYs. This award can easily come down to Sam Darnold and Saquon Barkley, so we need to know which position wins out if both perform well.

In 2016, the Cowboys had the top two OROY choices in Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Both finished with the same Approximate Value — a Pro Football Reference statistic that measures the value of a season regardless of position — and both had fantastic statistical seasons. However, Dak Prescott was the starting quarterback for all 16 games and Ezekiel Elliott, who plays at an inferior position, missed one game. For these two reasons, Dak Prescott won OROY despite Ezekiel Elliott leading the NFL in rushing yards.

So the main takeaways are:

  • Quarterbacks will win over running backs if it is a true toss-up.
  • Rushing touchdowns and rushing efficiency are valued over total rushing yards if it is a true toss-up.
  • Hype matters to voters because it’s hard to shake pre-existing biases.

Current Rookie of the Year Odds:

 

 

The odds indicate there is basically a two-player race, and I tend to agree. Sam Darnold and Saquon Barkley are the only two rookies locked into major roles for their respective season openers. If they can both maintain their status, it will be tough for other rookies to catch up to their production. Remember, playing all 16 games is something voters love to see.

I added recent ADP for two-quarterback leagues to show how the fantasy community ranks the players. Quarterbacks are severely discounted in most single-QB fantasy leagues because they don’t matter as much as running back or wide receiver. One noticeable takeaway from this process is Kerryon Johnson being valued at +1600 with an ADP of 83 while Sony Michel is +2500 with an ADP only six spots lower.

My Favorite Value Bet:

For me to consider a player a legit OROY candidate, the rookie had to meet the following criteria:

  • Be a quarterback, running back, or first round wide receiver.
  • Have the opportunity to play meaningful snaps in most games.
  • Drafted in the first round (as a big bonus).

 

To be abundantly clear, this is not ranking the most likely winners. Instead, these are three players with a higher probability of winning than what the Vegas odds are implying.

1) Sam Darnold at +250 or 29% implied probability – As mentioned earlier, the last five OROYs who were quarterbacks started at least 15 games. The only rookie quarterback expected to have the chance to start that many is Sam Darnold, who has been announced as the starter for Week 1.

So not only has Darnold separated himself from the other rookie quarterbacks by starting right away, but Darnold was considered by many draft analysts as the No 1. or No. 2 quarterback coming out. NFL’s Daniel Jeremiah even ranked Sam Darnold as the top prospect he has graded in the last three years. I certainly don’t want to go against Daniel Jeremiah when he has been so vocal with his high expectations. Being selected third overall certainly helps Darnold’s case.

The Jets also have a chance to surprise people this year due in part to having an underrated roster and an easy schedule. Darnold and the Jets have the softest passing game schedule based on Warren Sharp’s Success Rate algorithm; not only do the Jets get the Bills and Dolphins twice, but the Jets face the Lions, Browns, Colts, Bears and Titans for their out of conference games. Darnold would be a near lock to win OROY if he was able to sneak the Jets into the AFC playoffs with a 7-9 or 8-8 finish.  Given how weak the AFC is looking, it’s not as crazy as it sounds. If I were setting odds, Sam Darnold would be listed closer to even rather than his current +250 odds.

That’s it. There is just not a lot of value anywhere else on the board outside of my honorable mentions, who are only listed if you want to have a lotto ticket. Read below for my take on Saquon Barkley because I’m sure everyone wants to bet him.

Honorable mentions: Royce Freeman (+1300) who is the “starter” but will lose snaps to Devontae Booker on an okay offense, Kerryon Johnson (+1600) who has the talent to takeover a running back role that hasn’t produced anything in years, Sony Michel (+2500) who needs to get healthy enough to see the field and Jordan Wilkins (+8000) who would need a lot of things to go his way in an Andrew Luck-led offense but at least has a crazy high payout to take a shot.

Fade Saquon Barkley at +150 or 40% implied probability – The argument for Barkley as a OROY candidate is pretty easy to make if you disregard price. Everyone agrees that Barkley is a good — if not great — running back prospect coming out of college. It is assumed that the Giants will give Barkley a big workload — including receiving volume — after (unwisely) drafting him with the No. 2 overall pick. Those two things alone make him an obvious bet to win the award and as a late first round pick for in fantasy football.

He is definitely expensive with his +150 odds and that’s why I think it is best to fade Barkley. It is tough to imagine any running back having nearly 50/50 odds to winning an award before the season, especially when there is a more than capable rookie starting quarterback in the class, four other first round quarterbacks and a 2018 running back class that was considered very deep.

Barkley has also missed the final three preseason games with a mild hamstring strain. While all reports say it was done out of precaution, it is never a good sign to have a hamstring injury before a 17week season as a running back no matter how severe the injury is. So, while I have big expectations for the rookie, I can’t justify paying +150 on a running back who has missed time already when Sam Darnold looks like the true favorite.

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