Each season in the NFL, the attention after the NFL Draft is usually fixated on offensive players rather than defenders. But rookies on the defensive side of the ball can be just as impactful as their counterparts on offense. In the 2022 NFL Draft, the first five players selected were defenders, putting more focus than usual on that side of the ball rather than on the quarterback position like in most years.
Because of that, the Defensive Rookie of the Year race is set to be a fascinating one in 2022. With multiple pass rushers and defensive backs taken in the top-five, and several quality players drafted just after them, this award could go in any number of directions.
Let’s check out the odds from our top NFL sportsbooks and see if we can find a couple good bets.
ODDS TO WIN THE 2022 AP DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD
Last season, Micah Parsons ran away with the Defensive Rookie of the Year award for the Cowboys. He was one of the favorites early in the season and made an immediate impact. Immediate impact is what bettors will want to look for when wagering on this award. Any player who can come aboard and start racking up numbers rather than having to wait for an opportunity will be worth pursuing.
Here, we will look at our top picks, along with a couple of players at longer odds worth taking a look at.
Aidan Hutchinson has several of the characteristics that tend to be favorable when going for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. He is an edge rusher, a position that has won five of the last 15 of these awards. He is also expected to start from day one for the Detroit Lions. The Lions have been a popular bet to hit their season win totals this season. If they do, Hutchinson could be a big reason for their improvement.
The New York Giants had a bottom-three offense in the NFL by most metrics in 2021. But their defense was very competent. They ranked top-10 in yards per play allowed, and were middle of the pack in DVOA on defense. Adding an edge rusher in Thibodeaux could help their defense get even better, as he is expected to start on the outside of their 3-4 defense in 2022.
The biggest problem for Travon Walker going into this season is the team he is playing for. The Jacksonville Jaguars have been a disaster year in and year out for the better part of a decade. Even if he plays well, the concern here is that he will not have enough help to make the Jaguars look good defensively. If he were closer to 10/1 odds, maybe he would be worth a pull, but not at this price.
Jermaine Johnson was the second defensive player that the Jets took in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. He had 12 sacks in his final collegiate season at Florida State, though three of those sacks came against FCS Jacksonville State. For now, though, Johnson is listed as second on the Jets depth chart at his position. He is a player it would be smarter to keep an eye on early in the season to see how much playing time he gets rather than pulling the trigger before the season.
Something that will undoubtedly work in the favor of Quay Walker is the fact that he is likely to be on a winning team. The Green Bay Packers have had 13 wins in each of the last three seasons, making their defense look much better than it actually is at times. Walker should start this season for a Packers linebacking corps that is already pretty strong. If he makes any meaningful contributions to another huge season for the Packers as a whole, the award could be his.
The Jets absolutely needed to go defense in the first round of the draft. Only the Texans and Ravens gave up more yards per play than the Jets last season. Gardner should help remedy that in pass defense, but the offense of the Jets could hurt their defense again. If Zach Wilson can’t move the ball again this season, you could be looking at tired Jets defenders late in games. That is always especially tough on pass rushers and corners, with Gardner falling into the latter category.
Any Long Shots?
When it comes to Defensive Rookie of the Year longshot bets, Trent McDuffie of the Kansas City Chiefs is interesting at 20/1 odds. The Chiefs’ secondary looks questionable going into the season. They lost Tyrann Mathieu among others. McDuffie will be called upon to start right away for the Chiefs. If their defense can be respectable from the jump, McDuffie has a shot at this thing.
Outside of that, bettors should really keep an eye on the first week of the season. Noticing which longshots are on the field often on defense can be a valuable strategy. Sometimes, it can be better than forcing a longshot bet before the season starts.