There was no shortage of young offensive talent in the 2021 NFL draft with five big-name quarterbacks going in the first round along with plenty of skill position stars.
The New York Jets were obviously one of the five franchises that went QB when they spent the number two overall pick on Zach Wilson.
The BYU product was sandwiched in between Jacksonville Jaguars savior Trevor Lawrence and high-risk high-reward prospect Trey Lance, who went to the San Francisco 49ers. Ohio State star Justin Fields then ended up with the Chicago Bears as Alabama graduate Mac Jones fell to the New England Patriots.
Some other big names in this class were tight end Kyle Pitts (Atlanta Falcons), wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase (Cincinnati Bengals), DeVonta Smith (Philadelphia Eagles) and Jaylen Waddle (Miami Dolphins), and running backs Najee Harris (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Travis Etienne (Jags) among others.
With all these playmakers battling for the crown, the Offensive Rookie of the Year (OROY) award should be a hotly contested race all season, but one former Pro Bowler thinks Wilson has what it takes to be the first-ever Jets rookie to win the honor.
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Experts Push Their Chips In
In an expert roundtable discussion with New York Daily News beat reporter DJ Bien-Aime, ex-NFL offensive lineman turned ESPN analyst Damien Woody put his money on Wilson for the OROY.
“Honestly, I think Zach,” Woody told Bien-Aime, “Zach Wilson will start from Day 1, he’s in a quarterback-friendly system, I think he has good personnel on offense, I feel like his personnel is better than Trevor Lawrence’s.”
For what it’s worth, ESPN draft guru Matt Miller also chose Wilson over Lawrence. The only caveat for Miller was that Lance would be his first pick so long as the North Dakota State phenom was guaranteed “12-13 starts” in San Fran.
Miller reasoned: “I think Zach could just put up video game numbers,” which he estimated as a possible 25 passing touchdowns and four to five rushing touchdowns.
The third expert in the discussion, Brian Baldinger of NFL Network, took the safe route with Lawrence.
One other expert all-in on Wilson well before draft night was Chris Simms of NBC Sports and Pro Football Talk. The quarterback genius has had a tremendous track record in recent years, outlined in the video below.
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Wilson vs. Lawrence & Harris
While there could be many contenders, you have to think the frontrunners for the award are Lawrence and Wilson, simply because they’ll be starting quarterbacks in Week 1. That is unlikely to be the case for Lance, Fields or Jones.
The main dark horse non-QB should be Harris, the new bell-cow running back for the Steelers. Half-backs have a history of winning the OROY, but the state of Pittsburgh’s offensive line worries me.
In a somewhat shocking turn of events, the Steelers finished dead-last in rush yards for the 2020 campaign and that’s not due to untalented running backs. This once-great blocking unit has aged quickly and Pittsburgh has done a terrible job preparing for departures.
Three seasons ago in 2018, the Steelers started Pro Bowlers Alejandro Villaneuva, David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey plus two solid players in Ramon Foster and Matt Feiler. Heading into 2021, all five have either retired or left in free agency. This devastated O-line could be one of the worst in the NFL this season and that’s bad news for Harris.
As for Lawrence and Wilson, the award’s winner could come down to the better supporting cast and game plan. Back in mid-June, Pro Football Focus analyst Austin Gayle announced his thoughts on the topic in what became a viral tweet.
I’ll let you be the judge, here are the two supporting casts in full:
|Positional Group||Jacksonville-Lawrence||New York-Wilson|
|Offensive Line||LT Cam Robinson, LG Andrew Norwell, C Brandon Linder, RG A.J. Cann, RT Jawaan Taylor||LT Mekhi Becton, LG Alijah Vera-Tucker, C Connor McGovern, RG Greg Van Roten, RT Morgan Moses|
|Running Back||James Robinson, Travis Etienne, Carlos Hyde||Tevin Coleman, Michael Carter, Ty Johnson, La’Mical Perine|
|Wide Receiver||D.J. Chark, Marvin Jones, Laviska Shenault, Collin Johnson, Phillip Dorsett, Jamal Agnew||Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims, Keelan Cole, Braxton Berrios|
|Tight End||Chris Manhertz, James O’Shaughnessy, Luke Farrell, Tim Tebow||Chris Herndon, Tyler Kroft, Ryan Griffin, Kenny Yeboah|
|Head Coach/O-Coordinator||Urban Meyer, Darrell Bevell||Robert Saleh, Mike LaFleur|
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Current Betting Odds
Different sites currently have varying odds on the NFL 2021 OROY. Here are a few of the lead dogs in the sports betting industry.
Draft Kings Sportsbook: Lawrence (+300), Harris (+500), Lance (+600), Fields (+700), Wilson (+800), Pitts (+800)
FanDuel Sportsbook: Lawrence (+270), Fields (+550), Wilson (+700), Lance (+750), Jones (+1000), Harris (+1000)
PointsBet: Lawrence (+275), Fields (+600), Wilson (+800), Lance (+800), Pitts (+900), Harris (+1000)
BetMGM: Lawrence (+300), Harris (+600), Lance (+700), Fields (+800), Pitts (+800), Wilson (+900)
If you trust the experts rather than the oddsmakers, Wilson might make a decent bet right now according to these industry leaders. The highest he ranks on any of the four sites is third, with a low-mark sixth worst odds on BetMGM at +900.
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