While this year’s NFL Draft didn’t have as much hype around it as normal, the lack of great quarterback prospects shouldn’t detract you from the fact that this class is absolutely loaded defensively. For the first time in recent years, there was no true consensus as to who was the number one overall pick. While Aidan Hutchinson was the Vegas favorite to go #1 in the weeks preceding the event, eventual first overall pick Travon Walker only became a -400 favorite just hours before the draft began. With all this uncertainty heading into the draft, the Defensive Rookie of the Year award will be a good barometer as to who actually won the NFL’s offseason finale from a defensive standpoint.
NFL Defensive Rookie Of The Year Odds
Compare defensive rookie of the year odds across the major sportsbooks.
2021-22 Defensive Rookie Of The Year Recap
Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons ran away with the 2021 Defensive Rookie of the Year award. In just his rookie season, Parsons secured 84 tackles, 13 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles in 16 games of action last season. Not only the DROY winner, Parsons was voted a Pro-bowler and a First-Team All Pro. It’s hard to get much better than that but there are plenty of candidates who hope to make as much of a difference as Parsons made in year one for the Cowboys defense
Defensive Rookie Of The Year Historical Analysis
Parsons joins a long list of linebackers who have won the DROY award. Unlike other NFL awards, many different position groups have taken home this prestigious honor. This makes it harder for bettors to truly pin-point a historical value position when taking a look at a future bet like the DROY award. One historical trend that bettors can look at however, is draft position. In the last ten years, only one DROY award winner (Darius Leonard) was selected outside of the first round in the season’s preceding NFL Draft.
How to Approach Defensive Rookie of the Year Betting
Historically speaking, selecting a player drafted in the first round sets a strong foundation for any pick. While that may seem like a no brainer, remember that anything is truly possible in betting. That being said, don’t always eye the favorite as they’re never as much of a slam dunk as you’d expect. Despite recent heavy favorites like Chase Young and Nick Bosa cruising to the DROY award, certain past winners like Micah Parsons and Marshon Lattimore weren’t even the first defensive player selected in their respective drafts.
There are really two strategies to follow when approaching DROY betting. Either bet the favorite and hold on tight or take a risk and bet a value pick in hopes that your candidate is the next Micah Parsons. You could also combine the two strategies and bet heavy on a favorite and sprinkle some cash on a longshot.
Detroit Lions EDGE Aidan Hutchinson ()
Aidan Hutchinson will be playing with a chip on his shoulder this season. After being a heavy favorite to be the number one overall pick, Hutchinson’s odds dropped in the hours leading up to the draft and he ended up going second overall. Landing in Detroit may be the best thing for the young edge rusher though, as he now gets to play for his hometown team, just miles away from his college campus in Ann Arbor. Described as the “safest pick” of the 2022 NFL Draft by most media, Hutchinson wracked up 62 tackles, including 16.5 tackles-for-loss, 1 forced fumble, and 14 sacks (a UM record) on his way to leading Michigan to its first Big Ten title since 2004. Drawing pro-comps to the likes of the Bosa brothers, Hutchinson should make an immediate impact for a Lions pass-rush in dire need of some assertiveness. Alongside young stud Romeo Okwara, Hutchinson should make some noise early and is the safest pick for the DROY award.
Jacksonville Jaguars EDGE Travon Walker ()
Despite being the number one overall pick, Travon Walker is also playing with a chip on his shoulder. After not even being considered as a favorite for the number one overall pick in the months preceding the draft, Jaguars GM Trent Baalke got his defensive building block for the future on draft night. The 6’5 Georgia standout recorded 33 total tackles, including 7.5 tackles-for-loss, and 6 sacks against stout SEC offensive lines last NCAA season. While his stats look a bit dismal compared to Hutchinsons, Walker is ten pounds heavier (276 compared to 265) and ran a 4.51 40 yard dash compared to Hutchinson’s 4.76. With tremendous physical abilities, Walker is relentless and his effort on plays is unmatched (see NCAA Championship game chase down of WR Agiye Hall for reference). Tagged alongside former first round pick Josh Allen on pass-rush duty, Walker should have no problem translating immediately to NFL style football.
New York Giants DE Kayvon Thibodeaux ()
Speaking of former first overall pick favorites, Kayvon Thibodeaux saw his stock drop slightly after being considered the favorite to go one overall before the 2021-2022 NCAA season began. Racking up 49 total tackles – including 12 tackles-for-loss – 2 forced fumbles, and 7 sacks, Thibodeaux’s season was by no means a flop. If anything, Thibodeaux was the best pass-rusher in the PAC-12 and one of the best in college football. That being said, scouts were apparently “turned off” by Thibodeaux’s interests outside of football and he fell to the Giants, who didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger on securing one of the best players in the 2022 NFL Draft. Lining up next to talented players in DE Leonard Williams and DT Dexter Lawrence II, Thibodeaux is in the best situation of all of the aforementioned favorites. The real question is whether Thibodeaux will be the one to run free or if it’s one of his teammates.
New York Jets DE Jermaine Johnson ()
Florida State DE Jermaine Johnson II was an absolute steal at number 26 overall. In just his first year at FSU, Johnson won the ACC Defensive Player of the Year after recording 70 tackles, 18 for loss, 2 forced fumbles, and 12 sacks. How Johnson II fell to 26 is beyond belief but Jets head coach and defensive guru Robert Saleh may be just the guy to unlock Johnson II’s true potential in year one. With 17 defensive lineman on the roster though, it’s hard to picture whether Johnson will be taking the majority of snaps when talented players like Quinnen Williams, John Franklin-Myers, and Carl Lawson remain ready-to-play. If Johnson plays the majority of snaps, these odds offer great value.
Jacksonville Jaguars LB Devin Lloyd ()
With the third most tackles for loss in the 2021-2022 NCAA season, Devin Lloyd is a 6’3 monster who completely dominated the PAC-12 last season. With 111 total tackles, including 22 tackles for loss, and 7 sacks, Lloyd has great intangibles and an ethic that may propel him to win the DROY award this season. Projected to start from day one, Lloyd offers a great value at +800 considering the hole he fills for this needy Jaguars defense. Can Lloyd usurp his new teammate in Travon Walker for the DROY award though? That will ultimately be the question mark surrounding this bet.
New York Jets CB Sauce Gardner ()
The fourth overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Sauce Gardner didn’t let an opposing receiver catch a touchdown in 1,000 snaps as a defensive back for the Cincinnati Bearcats. Despite being in the modestly-scheduled AAC, Gardner’s feat separated him from the rest of the cornerback pack as he was the first of the position-group to be selected. While this may feel like a low position for someone of Gardner’s stature, remember that the rookie corner is set to face a loaded wide receiver conference in the AFC East. Not only will he have to face Stefon Diggs twice, but Gardner is also going to potentially match up with the fastest receiver in the league in Tyreek Hill. If Gardner can stick with these top ten receivers, then he has a good chance at becoming the first cornerback to win DROY since 2017.
The Dark Horse
Kansas City Chiefs CB Trent McDuffie ()
I also think Christian Barmore could be worth a flier. He was the best defensive tackle prospect in this draft class and he surprisingly fell into the second round before the Patriots made a rare trade up to secure his talents. The Alabama product has massive upside as he has an ideal frame for the defensive tackle position and was very productive for one of the best defenses in the country last year. He could be a steal at to win the DROY award.