Which NFL rookies will be the Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year this season?
The 2022 season is right around the corner, and anticipation is growing for what the new year might have in store. It will be especially interesting what happens with this year’s rookie class; for the first time since 2017, the No. 1 overall pick was not a quarterback. In fact, only one quarterback was drafted in Round 1, marking the first time such a low total has been reached since 2013.
The lack of a top-heavy quarterback class makes OROY predictions especially difficult. While the Steelers’ Kenny Pickett could crack the starting lineup eventually, he isn’t practicing with starters in camp as of this writing. Fellow rookie QBs like Desmond Ridder, Malik Willis and Matt Corral will also serve as backups barring injury. A wide receiver from this year’s loaded class could take advantage, as could a sleeper running back.
Many deemed the 2022 draft as a “defense-heavy” class. With the first five picks all being defenders, it’s hard to argue against that statement. This makes the DROY battle crowded with top-10 selections, but that doesn’t mean an underdog couldn’t pull away with the award.
Using Sports Betting Dime’s most updated odds, let’s look at some of the best bets at both OROY and DROY.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Eagles LB Nakobe Dean (+1800)
Had it not been for a torn pectoral injury, Dean very likely would have been a first-round pick.
Instead, the speedy linebacker fell all the way to Round 3. The Eagles, who have long had a need at the position, took advantage and landed the 2021 Butkus Award winner. They added Haason Reddick and Kyzir White in free agency, but Dean is arguably the rangiest tackler they have on their roster. He is a three-down linebacker with superb athleticism, a quick processor and a high motor. Those players have a tendency to produce big-time tackling numbers, which helps out come award season. If he stays healthy, he’s a strong Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate and arguably the best value on the board.
Chiefs EDGE George Karlaftis (+2000)
When watching Purdue football the last few years, it was impossible not to focus on Karlaftis.
He didn’t produce jaw-dropping sack numbers, but his consistent pressure made him a force to be reckoned with. His absurd power at the point of attack, combined with his first-step quickness and improving pass-rushing arsenal, helped him dominate Big Ten opponents. Karlaftis joins a Chiefs front with the likes of Chris Jones, Carlos Dunlap and Frank Clark up front. With his inside-outside versatility and attention his teammates will draw, he could see plenty of one-on-one opportunities. Don’t be surprised if he makes a sneaky good DROY case this season.
Steelers DL DeMarvin Leal (+6250)
Though he’s a wild-card choice, Leal’s upside and potential pay-off are too high to ignore.
The former All-American joins a stable Steelers organization with one of the best defenses in the NFL. As is the same for Karlaftis, Leal will benefit from playing with the likes of T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, Alex Highsmith and Larry Ogunjobi. The Texas A&M alumnus is a freak athlete for a 290-pounder with great bend and surreal acceleration. Leal also has the ability to rush off the edge and along the interior. He’s not a super likely DROY candidate, but at +6250 odds, it may be worth throwing a few bucks down on him.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Jets RB Breece Hall (+800)
It feels weird putting Hall on here, but +800 is a great bet for arguably the Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite.
The aforementioned lack of rookie starting quarterbacks helps Hall, who will likely be New York’s top back. He will compete with Michael Carter for touches, but he’s a well-rounded runner with speed, agility, contact balance and passing-down value; he was the top running back in the 2022 draft for a reason. He’ll get significant touches either way, but if Zach Wilson struggles in Year 2, the Jets would likely go to Hall pretty often as the primary option in the offense. Considering he’s my choice to win OROY this year, a $90 payout on a $10 bet could be a steal. Putting money on him would be a wise and safe bet.
Saints WR Chris Olave (+1200)
The Saints’ 2022 offense is a mystery, but that might benefit Olave this season.
Michael Thomas’ ankle problems loom large, for starters. While there’s a chance he returns to All-Pro form, missing 28 games in the last two years is a concern. New Orleans also signed Jarvis Landry, who is still a solid receiver but more of a complementary weapon at this stage. Olave is a dynamic receiver who was one of the best route runners in the 2022 draft, and his pro-ready skill set indicates he should produce right away. If the departure of Sean Payton doesn’t spiral the Saints out of control, Olave could realistically top 1,000 yards. At +1200, that’s a solid Offensive Rookie of the Year bet to take.
Texans RB Dameon Pierce (+3000)
Marlon Mack is the projected starting running back for the Texans. He played 7 games in the last two seasons and has never played a full year. Need I say more?
Though Mack is solid when healthy, he isn’t a star bell-cow back and will likely split carries. Rex Burkhead offers third-down value, but Houston’s main competition for carries is Pierce. The fourth-round pick from Florida is a tough runner with good downhill vision and solid juice. He might not start the year as the Texans’ lead back, but if an opportunity appears, don’t be surprised if Pierce secures the job and finishes as one of the most productive rookies in this year’s draft. If there’s any long-shot OROY bet to take, it’s this one.