I’m a value seeker when looking for futures. I’ll take a few of the most obvious bets on the board, but I’m also out there looking for the rare +500 bets and above to throw a few bones at and hope it skyrockets into a large sum.
This week’s futures column is the other side of the coin of the Offensive Rookie of the Year — today we’re looking at Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates. Looking back at past recipients of the award, the voters seem to favor playmakers that can create turnovers. Over the past 15 seasons, we’ve seen linebackers take home this award six times (40.0%), EDGE players four times (26.7%), interior defensive linemen three times (20.0%), and defensive backs twice (13.3%). The large majority of these players developed into household names. Past history indicates it could be anyone’s to win.
Remember, futures bets are generally risky propositions. Even just missing one game due to injury puts a player significantly at a disadvantage. The highest “favorite” in this category is still listed at +600 odds.
Note: All odds listed below are from DraftKings.
Devin Bush, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
The current favorite to win the award per DraftKings, is Pittsburgh’s Devin Bush (+600). Bush has sideline-to-sideline range with the ability to track down running backs and create tackles for losses. His Michigan highlights look like he’s shot out of a cannon at the beginning of every snap. The unfortunate heir to Ryan Shazier, the inside linebacker in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense is an important role. Bush’s athleticism and range should allow him to shine right off the bat and make plays all over the field for the black and gold. He earned a PFF grade of 85.2 against the run over the past two seasons at Michigan and rarely missed a tackle during his collegiate career compared to other off-ball linebackers. I’m all over this +600 bet.
Devin White, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mock drafts all winter had Bush and Devin White (+650) both being selected early in the draft, often separated by just a few picks. Many draftniks preferred White, this year’s fifth overall pick. White is right up there with Bush in terms of athleticism and should be a natural in Todd Bowles’ system. White possesses incredible speed and range. He ranked second in the nation last year in quarterback hurries (20) and third in sacks (nine) among off-ball linebackers. He should be able to clean up tackles behind a line anchored by Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea in the middle. He takes over the vacated spot left behind by Kwon Alexander and will work side-by-side with Lavonte David as they both contend for 100-tackle status. Only 20 linebackers in NFL history have had at least 100 tackles in their rookie seasons. The last ones to do it? Leighton Vander Esch and reigning DROY Darius Leonard.
Nick Bosa, DE, San Francisco 49ers
Nick Bosa (+700) started out at the top of many of these DROY leaderboards, but don’t let his mini slide fool you. Bosa spent much of last year recovering from a core injury (just three games played), but he racked up nine sacks and 45 quarterback hurries during the previous season. Bosa joins a 49ers squad that desperately needs help with pass rushing. He benefits from playing alongside defensive tackles Deforest Buckner and Solomon Thomas, potentially finding himself in a lot of one-on-one battles against opposing offensive tackles. Bosa’s older brother, Joey Bosa, had a double-digit sack campaign his rookie year in 2016. Oh yeah, he also took home the DROY award that year.
Josh Allen (+1200) of the Jaguars could be another intriguing bet. After losing Dante Fowler to the Los Angeles Rams, the Jaguars need some additional pass rush help. Enter Allen, who recorded 31.5 sacks and 42 tackles for loss during his career at Kentucky. Allen’s disruptive pass rushing should help pile up the statistics that DROY voters are looking for, especially if he can force some fumbles with those sacks. Allen was PFF’s highest graded pass rusher last season and could be a three-down player right off the bat rotating between EDGE and OLB.
I’m not crazy about the potential for any of the safeties to take home the award. The last one to do that was Mark Carrier in 1990. The one secondary player I am interested in betting on is Cleveland’s Greedy Williams(+3000). The Browns front-four is unreal with Pro Bowl potential littered across the line. They also have a quality No. 1 cornerback in Denzel Ward, PFF’s No. 15 CB as a rookie. That means Williams should be in line for a lot of pressured targets thrown in his direction. The combination of a strong pass rush and Ward locking down one side of the field means that the throws in Williams direction may not always be on time or on target. Enter Williams, who allowed just 27-of-74 attempts to be completed against him in his freshman season, per PFF. His career passer rating against was just 42.5. Cornerbacks have won this DROY award two of the last four seasons — Marshon Lattimore (2017) and Marcus Peters (2015). I honestly believe this competition is wide open and dependent on who can make the most game-changing plays. Williams is set up to do exactly that and has the speed (4.37) to take any turnover to the house. He’s my favorite wager at +3000 odds.