Will Baker Mayfield Win Offensive Rookie of the Year?

by Taylor Smith
on October 12, 2018
7

Minute Read

The NFL is a quarterbacks league. You don’t have to look much further than the expanded roughing the passer rules being enforced this season for evidence of that. The league is obsessed with making sure its star players are healthy and at the forefront of everything. There’s a reason we still see Peyton Manning everywhere despite the fact that he’s been retired for 3 years now.

Every team wants a cornerstone quarterback, which is why we see so much jockeying at the top of the draft every year. The St. Louis Rams and Philadelphia Eagles both swung huge deals to get the Nos. 1 and 2 picks in the 2016 draft, respectively. With those picks, the Rams and Eagles took a couple of franchise-caliber quarterbacks in Jared Goff and Carson Wentz.

This past year, the Cleveland Browns took controversial former Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield first overall. The New York Jets took Sam Darnold a couple of picks later, while Josh Allen (Bills) and Josh Rosen (Cardinals) also went in the top-10.

As we know, quarterbacks often take home most of the hardware come awards season. A non-quarterback hasn’t won NFL MVP since Adrian Peterson did so in 2012. Before that, the last non-QB MVP was LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006. Offensive Rookie of the Year does have a bit more variety, however. Running back Alvin Kamara of the Saints took home the prize last season. In fact, Dak Prescott of the Cowboys is the only quarterback to have won Offensive ROY in the last 5 years. 3 have been running backs, while Odell Beckham won it as a receiver a few years ago.

So, the field for Offensive Rookie of the Year has more legitimate contenders than the MVP field might in a given year. Voters are more willing to reward skill position guys here. Mayfield may look like the early favorite to win it this year, but there’s a long way to go. Below are the odds to win Offensive Rookie of the Year this season as we enter Week 6:

  • Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns -130
  • Saquon Barkley, New York Giants +550
  • Sam Darnold, New York Jets +600
  • Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons +950
  • Sony Michel, New England Patriots +1200
  • Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals +1500
  • Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills +1500
  • Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns +2200
  • Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions +2800
  • Royce Freeman, Denver Broncos +4000
  • Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos +4000
  • Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos +5000

Long Shot Skill Guys

The Broncos have a trio of rookies cracking the list, the most of any team. Courtland Sutton, who currently operates as the team’s No. 3 wide receiver behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, has caught 10 passes for 160 yards with a score on the season. Those numbers aren’t anything special, and the Broncos’ passing game overall has struggled with Case Keenum at the helm. Unless Sutton explodes the rest of the way, he’s not looking like a viable Rookie of the Year candidate to me.

Royce Freeman was supposed to come in and seize the bulk of the carries in the Denver backfield, but Phillip Lindsay has come in and become the guy. Lindsay has carried the ball 57 times for 328 yards with a touchdown on the season, while Freeman has recorded 49 carries for 250 yards with 3 scores. Lindsay also has twice as many receptions (8) as Freeman. As of now, you would have to give the Rookie of the Year edge to Lindsay, though I’m not exactly bullish on either player’s chances. Lindsay at +4000 is the lone Bronco I’d keep my eye on, but he’s far from a frontrunner at this point.

Kerryon Johnson has been quite productive for the Lions so far this season, as he’s averaged a whopping 5.7 yards per carry on 50 totes so far this season. He has amassed 286 yards on the ground and found the end zone once. The problem here is that the Lions don’t seem to have any idea which back they want to trust. Johnson’s 50 carries leads the team, but LeGarrette Blount isn’t far behind with 48 of his own. Theo Riddick has also occasionally factored into the Lions’ rushing attack. Johnson’s explosiveness will be good for some more highlight plays as the season progresses, but it’s hard to imagine voters giving Rookie of the Year to a running back operating in a timeshare. Unless Johnson becomes the No. 1 guy pretty soon, he’s a fringe option at best in my eyes. He’s a potential candidate for an Alvin Kamara-style late-season surge, so I don’t hate the value at +2800.

The 2 former Georgia teammates are interesting. Sony Michel has been forced into a big role with the Patriots thanks to a rash of injuries to the New England backfield. His former teammate, Nick Chubb, is being used sparingly in Cleveland. Chubb does have 2 touchdowns already, but he has carried the ball just 13 times through 5 games. Carlos Hyde is currently the guy for the Browns, so Chubb is an easy pass here at +2200.

Michel was the more explosive of the 2 at Georgia, and he has looked excellent recently. He has racked up 294 yards on 67 carries with a couple of touchdowns this season. In the last 2 games combined, Michel has carried the ball 43 times for 210 yards with those 2 TDs. He has yet to feature much in the passing game, but we know from his time in college that he can be useful in that area. If he can stay healthy and retain the job as New England’s top option in the backfield, Michel is a sneaky value here at +1200.

Michel is easily my favorite betting option of any of those listed above. Playing for the Patriots doesn’t hurt his chances, either.

The Frontrunners

Hey look, quarterbacks! Sam Darnold was the only rookie quarterback to begin the season as his team’s starter, but Mayfield, Allen and Rosen have since been installed as their respective teams’ QB1. Mayfield got the nod due to an injury to Tyrod Taylor, while Allen and Rosen simply replaced the ineffective starters in front of them. So far this season, the Jets, Browns, Bills and Cardinals are a combined 7-11-1. Not great!

We also have a couple of skill position guys in Saquon Barkley and Calvin Ridley among the frontrunners. Barkley, the No. 2 overall pick right behind Mayfield, has looked excellent early on. The former Penn State Nittany Lion has racked up 71 carries for 308 yards with 3 touchdowns. He has also hauled in 31 passes for 274 yards with another 2 scores. Odell Beckham is the face of the Giants franchise, but it won’t be long until Barkley takes his place. He is the Giants’ offense right now.

Ridley was a late-first round pick by the Falcons out of Alabama. He has primarily operated as Atlanta’s No. 3 wideout behind Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, but he’s been finding the end zone regularly. RIdley has 19 catches for 302 yards with 6 touchdowns already this season. I do think he will start to see some touchdown regression as the season progresses, however. Given the relative lack of volume he sees with Jones and Sanu eating up targets, I don’t expect Ridley to keep scoring so frequently. So, I’m willing to write him off here at +950.

The quarterbacks are pretty easy to break down. Both Joshes Allen and Rosen have shown signs early on, but the Bills and Cardinals are going to struggle mightily all season long. Rosen was particularly impressive during Arizona’s win over San Francisco in Week 5, but there will be growing pains for both young passers. Allen is also arguably the most raw passer in the class. I don’t expect either to mount a serious Rookie of the Year charge here. If forced to choose one, I would go with Rosen.

Mayfield is a heavy betting favorite at -130, but I don’t really understand why. He has already led the Browns to 2 wins after they went 0-16 last year, which counts for something. Leading the Browns to wins is no easy task for any quarterback. That said, Mayfield has also already thrown 3 interceptions and fumbled another 3 times. He made a name for himself at Oklahoma playing with a certain reckless abandon, but he’s going to have to rein that in a bit at the pro level if he wants to be one of the greats. I do think Mayfield looks like a franchise-caliber quarterback, but I think he may lose some ground in the Rookie of the Year race if he keeps turning the ball over so frequently.

Darnold hasn’t been much better in that regard. The USC product has thrown 6 interceptions through his first 5 games. He does have 7 touchdown passes, but you can bet the Jets are going to struggle offensively all year long. The upside with him is obvious, but I’m not expecting massive improvement from him as the year progresses. I think this is the guy Darnold will be as a rookie. As it stands, he’s not a great Rookie of the Year candidate.

I understand the appeal with Mayfield, but the value on Barkley to win this award at +550 is hard to ignore. I know this is a quarterback league, but Offensive Rookie of the Year isn’t always given to signal-callers. I think there is a real chance Barkley can gain around 2,000 yards from scrimmage, which would be an incredible accomplishment for anyone, let alone a rookie.

Mayfield may give him a run, but as a bettor I think you have to jump all over Saquon Barkley here at +550. The profit potential is too great to ignore. I’ll rank my favorite Offensive Rookie of the Year bets as follows:

  1. Saquon Barkley +550
  2. Baker Mayfield -130
  3. Sam Darnold +600
  4. Sony Michel +1200
  5. Kerryon Johnson +2800
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