Each NFL Draft is different. Dominant pass rushers like Nick Bosa and Chase Young sometimes get the headlines. Sometimes you get a can’t-miss defensive back or a safety at the top of the first round.
With the 2021 NFL Draft, we got none of that. The first three picks off the board were quarterbacks. The next three players were pass catchers. The next player was an offensive tackle. We didn’t get our first defensive player until eighth overall in Jaycee Horn, son of former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn.
Patrick Surtain II, the son of another NFL player, went ninth. Then we had two more offensive players before Micah Parsons went 12th to the Cowboys. Then we had three more offensive players.
Look, you get the idea. This year’s draft was heavy on offensive players not a good one for defensive players, at least not at the top of the first round. There were three defensive players taken in the first 15 picks and none in the top six.
That would seem to make the Defensive Rookie of the Year race pretty wide-open, no?
Let’s check out the odds from BetMGM Sportsbook and see if we can find a couple good bets.
ODDS TO WIN THE 2021 AP DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD
|Asante Samuel Jr||+3300||+3500||+3300|
|Carlos Basham Jr.||+10000||+5000||+10000|
|Thomas Graham Jr||+10000||+10000|
|Pat Surtain II||+1075||+640|
|Patrick Surtain II||+1400||+1010||+600||+650||+600|
Sixty players are listed at BetMGM. You can probably reach out to customer service and get any others added that may not be listed there, but there are a lot of players to pick from already.
Chase Young won the award last year after Nick Bosa won it in 2019. In fact, Ohio State players have won four of the last five, with Marshon Lattimore in 2017 and Joey Bosa in 2016. All of the players that have won the award are big impact players in the NFL, including guys like Darius Leonard, Marcus Peters, Aaron Donald, Sheldon Richardson, Luke Kuechly, Von Miller, and so on. Everybody that has won this award has gone on to be a star or at least be very, very productive.
You may want to consider that in your handicapping. Which of these guys has serious star potential? You don’t find guys that are one-year wonders on the list as past winners of this award. Also, most of them have been first-round picks and very early ones at that.
Let’s look at the favorites and maybe a long shot or two:
Micah Parsons (+400)
Micah Parsons will start from the first snap for the Dallas Cowboys. Parsons racked up 191 tackles over his freshman and sophomore years at Penn State before missing the 2020 season. He had 14 tackles for loss in 2019 with five sacks.
The AP Defensive Rookie of the Year went to a linebacker three times in the 2010s, with Darius Leonard in 2018, Luke Kuechly in 2012, and Von Miller in 2011. Being a good tackler and a run-stopper will keep Parsons in the discussion, but guys that rack up sacks and interceptions are more likely to win.
Jaelan Phillips (+650)
That is why a guy like Jaelan Phillips might be a better bet. Phillips was the highest edge rusher taken in the draft. He transferred from UCLA to Miami where has had 15.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 10 games during his final season. The Dolphins had 41 sacks last season and had the second-highest Blitz% in the NFL, but ranked 11th in Pressure%. They drafted Phillips to improve upon that number.
With the emphasis on sacks for this award, Phillips will have chances.
Kwiti Paye (+900)
This seems like a bit of a stretch at +900. Kwiti Paye had 11.5 games over 28 games at Michigan. He did have 12.5 tackles for loss in 2019, but only played four games in 2020. The Colts do have a solid and talented defense, but Paye will have to be simply dominant to get noticed.
Jamin Davis (+900)
Much like with Parsons, you have to be a generational sort of linebacker to win this award, at least based on past precedent. Davis is a tackle machine, but wasn’t used as much of a pass rusher at Kentucky. He has also had some difficulty getting on the field, with just seven games in his freshman season and eight in his sophomore season.
The price just isn’t there and neither is the upside.
Patrick Surtain II (+1200)
Defensive backs haven’t won this award a lot, but the nature of the NFL gave us our first defensive back in 17 years with Marcus Peters in 2015 and then Marshon Lattimore won again in 2017. By going to the Broncos, Patrick Surtain II will have chances to get noticed. He’ll face the Raiders, Chiefs, and Chargers twice, so he’ll get two top-end quarterbacks and whatever you want to consider Derek Carr.
Surtain’s pedigree will also get him noticed. He’s the son of a former NFL corner and an Alabama product. Guys like that are always under a microscope. This is where you start to look for betting value.
Jaycee Horn (+1600)
Similar story here. Son of a former NFLer. Award voted on by members of the press. You’re talking about an easy opportunity to write a story. It doesn’t hurt that Jaycee Horn went to Carolina, so he’ll face Matt Ryan and Tom Brady, as well as whatever the Saints do at the position. That likely means lining up against Mike Evans, Julio Jones, and Michael Thomas. If you perform well there, then you definitely get a lot of attention.
Any Long Shots?
It all depends on what you define a “long shot”. Given the past winners of the award, it is really hard not to be a first-round pick and make a run at the award.
Carlos Basham Jr. would be one for me. He had 19.5 sacks in his career at Wake Forest, where he drew a lot of attention and a lot of double teams. The Bills need pass rushers, so he should play a lot. He’s priced at +10000.
If you like a linebacker because of tackles, why not Chazz Surratt? The quarterback-turned-linebacker had 91 tackles in 11 games in his senior season and 115 tackles in his junior year, his first as a linebacker. The third-round pick should play a lot right away for Minnesota and he had 12.5 sacks in two years at the position. He’s +5000.
For additional thoughts on the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year odds, here’s Brian Blessing from our ATS YouTube: