*This is the second part of a two-part series on offensive and defensive rookies of the year. All predictions in this article are the product of a data-driven NFL model. To see more about my specific modeling, sign up for BLS+Oracle Picks and get the full insider scoop plus a full NFL season of the world-famous Oracle’s football betting picks texted to your phone.
To the extent that randomness plays a more significant role in these hybrid future/player prop wagers in general, the effect is more pronounced on the defensive side of the ball. DROY is a statistics-driven award. Linebackers make tackles in every single game. Defensive ends do not make sacks in every game. Nor do cornerbacks make interceptions in every game. So really, this is a race between whichever linebacker piles up the most tackles and whether an end or corner produces an outlier season in sacks or interceptions. While predicting pressures and even rate coverage skills is possible, it is not consistently possible to predict sack rates or interceptions.
What Positions Win DROY
Before assessing the odds and the candidates, it is crucial to understand the award from a macro perspective. Since 2010, the following positions have won the award:
I selected 2010 as a demarcation line with what we would term collectively as modern football. However, the sample size, 11, is admittedly small. If we go back to 2000, we get the following results:
The preceding demonstrates that while the DROY is more open than the OROY, it is still essentially a two-position race between linebackers and defensive ends. Moreover, the race has taken a decided shift toward defensive ends in the previous eleven years. This shift is not unexpected, as teams have focused on the first level to disrupt the prolific passing games that have emerged.
What makes it more difficult this year is that there are no stand-out defensive ends. While there are potential corners, the only way a corner wins this award is to produce an outlier season in terms of interceptions. Being an actual shutdown corner results in fewer statistics which makes the trophy more challenging to attain. It is difficult, if not impossible, to take the award home as a cornerback without 3-5 interceptions. Even though everybody will agree that CB is a star in the making. (Deion Sanders had a stellar rookie season with 5 picks in 1989, but the DROY Award went to future HOF LB Derrick Thomas who had 10 sacks and 75 tackles his rookie season.)
The player lines used in this article are widely available at the time of publication. Better lines are available, and you should always take the time to get the best number—small percentages matter. Margins matter. ALWAYS shop around the books for the most favorable lines. It’s like taking the extra 2 minutes to find out the laptop you were about to buy for $1099 is available for $999 from another retailer.