NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year 2024 Odds, History, and Predictions (2024)

NFL Defensive Player of the Year 2024 Odds, History, and Predictions:

Fourteen offensive players went off the board in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft before the first defensive player was taken. It was an historic first round in a lot of ways, but that was one of them and it creates a lot of possibilities for this year’s Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Players that get after the quarterback or have the ability to intercept passes are generally the ones to highlight here. Much like the Offensive Rookie of the Year, where running backs are likely to be few and far between going forward after a lot of success in the early-to-mid 2000s and 2010s, this is now a pass-driven award, so linebackers and tackle machines are unlikely to get the benefit of the doubt.

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Four of the last five winners have been pass rushers. The last true linebacker to win was Shaquille (formerly Darius) Leonard in 2018. The last one before that was Luke Kuechly in 2012.

Outliers are definitely a possibility, but let’s look at the last 10 Defensive Rookie of the Year winners and attempt to get a baseline for the stats and the circ*mstances that are required to be in the running.

Defensive Rookie of the Year Winners

Players: Will Anderson, Sauce Gardner, Micah Parsons, Chase Young, Nick Bosa, Shaquille Leonard, Marshon Lattimore, Joey Bosa, Marcus Peters, Aaron Donald

By Draft Position (Round.Pick): 1.3; 1.4; 1.12; 1.2; 1.2; 2.36 (Leonard); 1.11; 1.3; 1.18; 1.13

Nine of the last 10 winners have been top-20 picks in the draft. Given that we only have four players that fit the mold this season (Laiatu Latu, Byron Murphy II, Dallas Turner, Jared Verse), this may be a trend that breaks. Also, there weren’t any first-round defensive players from Ohio State this year. Four of the last 10 (Bosa x2, Young, Lattimore) have been Buckeyes.

First-place votes (L5 years): 16 (Anderson, runner-up Jalen Carter and third-place finisher Kobie Turner had 14); 46 (Gardner); 50 (Parsons); 42.5 (Young); 43 (Bosa)

Anderson’s win was clearly the most contested in the last several years and the closest since 2013 when Sheldon Richardson had 23 first-place votes to Kiko Alonso’s 19.

Also, team success isn’t necessarily a prerequisite, but seven of the 10 teams made the playoffs. Only four did on the Offensive Rookie of the Year side. Four of the last five have been on division champions.

Stats of the Winners

Will Anderson (2023)
Anderson had 45 combined tackles, 22 QB hits, and seven sacks. He didn’t have any interceptions and only one pass defended, hence the very small margin of victory. For reference, Carter had six sacks and Turner actually had nine.

Sauce Gardner (2022)
The Cincinnati product led the league with 20 pass breakups and also had a couple of interceptions. He had 75 combined tackles. Not only was he the DROY, but he was also a Pro Bowler and even finished eighth in the Defensive Player of the Year voting.

Micah Parsons (2021)
Parsons racked up 13 sacks and 84 combined tackles in his rookie year, which set him on a Hall of Fame trajectory. He has 40.5 sacks through three seasons and has finished in the top three in the Defensive Player of the Year voting every year, including a runner-up vote in 2021. Parsons had 30 QB hits that year and 20 tackles for loss.

Chase Young (2020)
Young played 15 games for the Washington Football Team with 7.5 sacks, 44 tackles, 10 TFL, and a touchdown on a fumble recovery. He very comfortably won the award with only three others getting votes, none of whom had more than three sacks.

Nick Bosa (2019)
Bosa had nine sacks, 47 tackles, 25 QB hits, and 16 TFL during his DROY season. He also had an interception and a couple of pass breakups. Even though both Maxx Crosby and Josh Allen had more sacks, Bosa still won the award comfortably. He would go on to win Defensive Player of the Year in 2022.

Darius Leonard (2018)
Now going by Shaquille, Leonard led the NFL with 163 tackles in 2018. He also had seven sacks, picked off two passes, had four fumble recoveries, and broke up eight passes. It was truly an incredible season full of stat filling for Leonard. Amazingly, though, he only got 29 first-place votes, as Derwin James had 20.

Marshon Lattimore (2017)
The Texans swept the OROY/DROY board in 2023, but the Saints did it back in 2017 with Lattimore and Kamara. Lattimore only played 13 games, but had 18 pass breakups and five interceptions. His 18 PD are one off of his career record set in 2021, but his five INT are still a career-best. He easily won the award over Tre’Davious White, who has had quite the NFL career himself.

Joey Bosa (2016)
The third overall pick had 10.5 sacks and 41 tackles over just 12 games in his rookie campaign. Bosa was tied for 13th in sacks overall and did not really have a challenger for the award. He got 37 first-place votes. Jalen Ramsey (10) and Deion Jones (3) were the others to get a nod.

Marcus Peters (2015)
The Washington product had an insane debut season. He had 26 pass breakups to lead the NFL and also led the league with eight interceptions and 280 return yards. He also had two touchdowns and actually has seven pick-sixes in his career. Incredibly, five voters didn’t think he was the clear DROY. It was one of the best rookie seasons for a corner in recent memory.

Aaron Donald (2014)
Donald’s Hall of Fame career began with a Defensive Rookie of the Year award and he would be the Defensive Player of the Year three times after that. In his rookie season, he had nine sacks over 16 games with 48 tackles and a couple forced fumbles. It was easily the least productive season of his career aside from 2022 when he only played 11 games.

What does this mean for 2024? Pass rushers and defensive backs are absolutely the places to look. History would also suggest that the higher the draft pick, the better that player’s chances of living up to the hype and potential as a rookie.

Now, let’s turn it over to our VSiN hosts and contributors for their best bets in the Defensive Rookie of the Year market.

Femi Abebefe:

Chop Robinson 14/1

The most difficult awards market to bet prior to the season has to be Defensive Rookie of the Year. The transition from college football to the NFL is much more difficult for defenders than offensive players. Every now and then, you get a dynamic defensive rookie who takes over from the first snap (i.e. Micah Parsons). However, what happens most of the time is you can find great value by waiting to bet this market later during the season.

Before I get into why I like Miami Dolphins rookie edge rusher Chop Robinson, let’s get into what criteria you should be looking for. Two things that immediately jump out to me are draft pedigree and opportunity. Like Offensive Rookie of the Year, DROY tends to go to first-round picks. In fact, DROY skews more toward first-round picks than OROY.

Since the league expanded to 32 teams back in 2002, 21 of the 22 DROY winners have been first-round picks! The one player who broke the mold was linebacker Shaquille Leonard (picked 36th overall) back in 2018. All he had to do to win was lead the league in tackles (163!!) and make first-team All-Pro.

It goes without saying that first-round picks tend to be more talented than players selected Rounds 2-7, but I think they also carry the required reputation to win this award. Let’s be honest, your average AP voter isn’t grinding the All-22 film to see who is actually the best defender. Reputation matters for defensive awards, especially when we’re talking about rookies who have yet to become household names.

I can’t help but think back to two years ago when Seahawks rookie cornerback Tariq Woolen led the league in interceptions, but finished third in the DROY voting behind first-round picks cornerback Sauce Gardner and edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson. Woolen had three times the interceptions as Gardner, but nobody seemed to care because he didn’t enter the season with the pedigree of a first-round pick. In defense of Gardner, he did lead the league in passes defended, but let’s be honest, if the roles were reversed, there’s no way Woolen beats out Gardner because he led the league in PBUs.

On top of first-round pedigree, the player you bet on also needs a path to get onto the field early and often. The last eight DROY winners played in roughly 67% of their team’s defensive snaps during the first four games of the season. Most young defenders (especially edge rushers) find themselves in rotations early in their careers. You’re likely on the right path if you can identify a player who will be involved in a majority of his team’s snaps.

This is where Robinson for the Dolphins is interesting. Miami selected Robinson with the 21st overall selection – meaning he’s expected to be a big part of their organization in the future. However, the future might be now given the injury status of Miami’s top two edge rushers, Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb. Both Phillips and Chubb suffered significant injuries during the second half of the season that will likely keep them out of training camp and perhaps the early portion of the 2024 regular season.

Robinson will likely be forced to play out of necessity and will have the chance to prove that he belongs on the field when Phillips and Chubb ultimately return. If you’re looking for a price that could move in your favor during the first month of the season, look no further than Chop Robinson.

Adam Burke:

Darius Robinson 35/1

When Jonathan Gannon was the DC of the Eagles, they set an NFL record with 70 sacks during the 2022 season. One of the biggest reasons why the Eagles were able to go from 29 sacks in 2021 to 70 in 2022 was directly correlated to how Gannon got more out of guys like Josh Sweat, Haason Reddick, and Javon Hargrave.

Robinson reminds me a lot of Hargrave. He’s able to be an edge rusher or a down lineman with good size and athleticism. Hargrave tips the scales a little bit higher than Robinson, but there are similarities in their respective games. I trust a guy like Gannon to evaluate not only the talent of a guy like Robinson, but also to evaluate the fit his defense needs. The Cardinals invested heavily in the line and the pass rush and that should create chances for Robinson to make big plays.

Generally speaking, the DROY is a really high draft pick with a lot of visibility, but we didn’t get any defensive players in the first 14 picks and I think a lot of the guys that filled out the first round are going to be interchangeable in the minds of voters, which means it will be less about notoriety and more about actual production.

NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year 2024 Odds, History, and Predictions (2024)

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