Giants and Jets rookies on the outside of NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year race

Could Giants rookie Deonte Banks win Defensive Rookie of the Year?
Giants first round pick Deonte Banks holds a jersey during his introductory press conference on April 28, 2023.
amNewYork/Christian Arnold

The 2023 NFL Draft is behind us and rookie minicamps for both the Giants and Jets are starting this weekend.

At this point last year, both teams featured players with heavy odds to win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, cornerback Sauce Gardner for the Jets and defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux for the Giants. Gardner went on to capture the award, collecting 46 out of 50 first-place votes and beating out the runner-up, Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson.

Yet, despite both the Jets and Giants drafting defensive players in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, neither player seems to be a favorite with Vegas oddsmakers, who have them listed way down the board for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Below, I’ll discuss the players who Vegas does seem to like, which players pop as betting values, and whether either of the Jets or Giants rookies have any shot to climb into the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year race. 


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NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Odds

All odds are courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook

Player Team Position DROY
Will Anderson Houston Texans LB +350
Jalen Carter Philadelphia Eagles DT +800
Tyree Wilson Las Vegas Raiders LB +800
Christian Gonzalez New England Patriots CB +900
Devon Witherspoon Seattle Seahawks CB +900
Lukas Van Ness Green Bay Packers LB +1200
Emmanuel Forbes Washington Commanders CB +1400
Nolan Smith Philadelphia Eagles LB +1600
Deonte Banks New York Giants CB +2000
Will McDonald IV New York Jets DE +2000


Of the last 33 winners of the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, 30 were drafted in the first round, which makes betting on any of the second-round choices a bit of a long shot, no matter how talented they are. Five of the last eight winners played linebacker or EDGE rusher, and the other three were cornerbacks, so focusing on those positions tends to be key. 

In fact, 27 linebackers have won the award, compared to only two safeties.

That would seem to bode well for Will Anderson (+350), who is already the favorite to win the award after being the first defensive player drafted. He’ll play outside linebacker in Houston’s system and should be a menace off of the edge after notching 27.5 sacks and 48 tackles for loss over his last two seasons at Alabama. He obviously won’t match that out of the gates, but he could make enough impact plays to earn him this award. 

Tyree Wilson (+800) is another good bet to win the award since he will also play outside linebacker in Las Vegas’ scheme and was a candidate to go 2nd overall to Houston for part of the season. While he was drafted after Anderson, Wilson was also a force in college, racking up 17 sacks and 32 tackles for a loss. He could be a solid pivot from Anderson. 

Jalen Carter (+800) is also a betting favorite, but we just mentioned how infrequently defensive tackles win the award and there were some questions about Carter’s motivation and commitment at Georgia, which makes it hard to take him at these odds. 

The other two options are cornerbacks Devon Witherspoon (+900) and Christian Gonzalez (+900) who were long thought to be the top two cornerbacks in the draft. They will likely start right away in Seattle and New England respectively, and could replicate Sauce Gardner’s success last year. 

Can a Giants or Jets rookie win Defensive Rookie of the Year?
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Given the criteria outlined above Lukas Van Ness (+1200) and Nolan Smith (+1600) are intriguing longshot bets given the spots they likely have in the starting lineup and their position as edge rushers who could make splash plays in the backfield.

However, I like Smith more as a bet given his longer odds and production on the field. He was a consistent starter for an elite Georgia defense and had 12.5 sacks and 20 tackles for a loss despite sharing the field with some exceptionally talented players. Whereas Van Ness played only two years at Iowa, registering 13 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss. 

Of the Jets and Giants rookies, Deonte Banks (+2000) seems to have better odds given that he has a clearer path to playing time as the likely starter for the Giants. He has not been a huge interception machine during his college years, but Sauce Gardner won the award last year with just two interceptions, so they’re not required of Banks to win. However, he will need to show elite cover skills, which could be tough since he lacks Gardner’s collegiate tape. 

Will McDonald (+2000) was incredibly productive in college with 33 sacks and 39.5 tackles for a loss in his four full seasons at Iowa State. However, he will be part of a defensive line rotation with the Jets that includes Carl Lawson, John Franklin Meyers, and Jermaine Johnson, which could make it hard for him to put up the stats that would be required to steal this award. 

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