We’re a third of the way through the NFL season, so it’s time to check in on the Defensive Rookie of the Year odds.
What immediately jumps out is the fact that two New York rookies as leading the way in Jets’ cornerback Sauce Gardner and Giants’ defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux. It continues a tremendous first third of the season for both teams, who have taken clear steps forward and are seeing the rewards of strong drafting and good personnel decisions.
However, one good portion of the season doesn’t guarantee anything. How likely is it that either player will take home the Defensive Player of the Year award?
Only two cornerbacks have won the award since the turn of the century. Marcus Peters won in 2015, and Marshon Lattimore won in 2017. Over that same time frame, seven defensive linemen have won the award, and 12 linebackers. Although, many players listed at linebacker, like Terrell Suggs and Von Miller, were really pass-rushers who played more hybrid roles.
Let’s dig into the current odds and look at a few top contenders.
Sauce Gardner – Jets, CB (+300)
Gardner is the current betting favorite after his stellar game against the Green Bay Packers. On the season, Gardner has 23 tackles and eight passed defended in six games, while also recording one interception and one tackle for a loss. There is no questioning that he is proving himself to be a tremendous NFL cornerback, but the odds are stacked against him when it comes to winning Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The year Lattimore won, he had five interceptions, a defensive touchdown, and 43 tackles, but that season was a weak defensive year that meant really only Lattimore and Bills’ cornerback Tre’Davious White stood a chance at the award. When Marcus Peters won in 2015, he had eight interceptions, two defensive touchdowns, and 53 tackles. He, coincidentally, beat out another Bills’ rookie cornerback, Ronald Darby.
The main takeaway is that voters for these kinds of awards tend to gravitate toward splash plays like interceptions and sacks. Gardner has been great in coverage and has been a sure tacklers in the open field, which is all the Jets care about, but he may need to start forcing a few more turnovers if he wants to stay atop the Defensive Player of the Year race.
Kayvon Thibodeaux – Giants, DE (+600)
Speaking of forcing turnovers, Thibodeaux sealed the Giants’ comeback victory over the Ravens with a strip sack of Lamar Jackson where Thibodeaux also recovered the fumble himself. After missing the first two games of the year, the rookie from Oregon has 11 tackles, three passes defended, one sack, three QB pressures, and a forced fumble in four games.
He’s obviously going to need a few more big plays like that to keep climbing these odds, but he has the ability to be a menace off of the edge, which is the reason he was Vegas’ betting favorite to win this award before the season started.
Devin Lloyd – Jaguars, LB (+600)
Lloyd had the best Defensive Player of the Year odds coming into Sunday’s action, but the Jaguars’ defense really dropped the ball against the Colts. Lloyd himself had a fine game, with seven tackles but it wasn’t anything eye-catching. On the season, the rookie from Utah has 56 tackles, six passes defended, and two interceptions. He isn’t used much as a pass rusher, so the sack numbers won’t be there, but if he can keep racking up these tackles while also proving himself to be an asset in pass defense, he might be tough to beat for this award.
Tariq Woolen – Seahawks, CB (+800)
The rookie fifth-round pick from UTSA is a great story and currently leads the NFL with four interceptions and one defensive touchdown. He’s also forced two fumbles and recovered one, while registering 22 tackles and five passes defended in six games. Those are the type of eye-catching numbers that tend to get voters’ attention at the end of the year. Right now, Woolen has essentially the same amount of tackles as Gardner, three fewer passes defended but three more interceptions and those forced fumbles.
Considering how surprising Seattle has been as a team and how good their offense has been, opponents might need to keep throwing to stay in games, which could make Woolen a sneaky bet, but this pace is obviously going to be hard to keep up.
Aidan Hutchinson – Lions, DE (+1000)
Much like the Lions themselves, Hutchinson had a great game in the Week 2 win over the Commanders, notching three sacks, but has done little else aside from that. On the season, the rookie has 14 tackles, nine quarterback pressures, six quarterback hits, and three sacks in just five games. He is clearly getting into the backfield at an impressive rate, but if this Lions team doesn’t clean some things up, opponents are going to be able to run out the clock on them, which will give Hutchinson fewer chances to rack up the numbers he’ll need to win while playing for an average team.
Travon Walker – Jaguars, DE (+1000)
We close out this article with the number one overall pick in the draft. Walker has flashed for this young and improving Jaguars defense, registering 22 tackles, seven quarterback pressures, two tackles for a loss, and one sack in six games. He’s also knocked down two passes at the line of scrimmage and intercepted another pass, so his big play ability has clearly been on display. However, the Jaguars’ defense has been slipping of late and the team has dropped to 2-4, which could make it hard for him to steal this award from Gardner or Thibodeaux if the Jets and Giants keep winning.
For more NFL betting coverage like this Defensive Rookie of the Year article, visit amNY Sports