Best Bets for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year

Iowa A.J. Epenesa

Getty A.J. Epenesa #94 battles Austin Jackson #73

Looking back at the winners of the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year over the last 27 years, you start to notice a pattern…the award is given almost exclusively to defensive lineman or linebackers. Since 1993 the DROY award has be given to only 3 players that didn’t play in the front seven. Charles Woodson, Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Peters won the award as cornerbacks, while a safety hasn’t won the award since 1990.

With those numbers in mind, the futures odds for defensive rookie of the year released by William Hill begin to make a lot of sense. Let’s take a look at the top-17 in terms of odds, as well three picks for players to keep an eye on.

Chase Young 7-2
Isaiah Simmons 8-1
A.J. Epenesa 14-1
Patrick Queen 14-1
Jeff Okudah 20-1
Kenneth Murray 20-1
K’Lavon Chaisson 25-1
Javon Kinlaw 25-1
Derrick Brown 25-1
C.J. Henderson 25-1
Ashtyn Davis 28-1
Jordan Elliott 28-1
Kristian Fulton 28-1
Tory Dye 33-1
Xavier McKinney 33-1
Jaylon Johnson 33-1
Grant Delpit 33-1

Isaiah Simmons 8-1 & Patrick Queen 14-1

We’ve grouped these two linebackers together for one very important asset that they both possess: Versatility. Both Simmons and Queen have the athleticism and size to play a multitude of positions on the defensive side of the ball. While both these players play the linebacker position extremely well, they have the size and power to be able to come up to the line of scrimmage and rush the passer creating pressure as well as racking up a few sacks in the process. Simmons and Queen also have the speed and agility necessary to drop back in coverage as well. That might consist of them covering tight ends, playing the nickel defensive back spot, or even dropping all the way back to play a free safety or center-field type position.

This incredible versatility should be reflected in their stat lines. A plethora of tackles should come from their natural linebacker spots, but they’ll also be able to add sacks from the D-line and interceptions from the secondary in pass coverage. At the end of the season, when one of these guys is able to show stats like 80+ tackles, six sacks and four picks, it’s going to be very difficult not to vote for them as defensive rookie of the year.

If you’re trying to decide between these two, we give the slight edge to Queen. His odds will result in a better payout and he probably has a slightly better shot to see more playing time based on the Ravens needs and scheme as opposed to the Cardinals. Bear in mind however, both of these guys are truly special, so to pick one over the other is definitely splitting hairs.

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A.J. Epenesa 14-1

Full disclosure: I am a lifelong Iowa Hawkeyes fan. I’m not going to “fanboy” an entire essay about Mr. Epenesa, but it’s important to point out one glaring anomaly. Epenesa was the number 54 overall pick in this year’s draft and the 25th defensive player to be taken. His odds to win defensive rookie of the year are tied for the third shortest on the list. Something doesn’t add up. Generally speaking, when something doesn’t jive, it’s a good idea to trust the oddsmakers. Those giant casinos exist for a reason.

Epenesa’s odds validate that Buffalo probably got the biggest defensive steal of the draft and that he is definitely a player to keep an eye to win this award. His 22 sacks and 30.5 tackles for loss in his final two seasons at Iowa speak for themselves, but now the oddsmakers have his back as well. Sprinkling a little dough on Epenesa to win makes a lot of sense and could absolutely be a winning ticket come January.

*Odds provided by William Hill

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