2017 NFL Rookie of the Year Race – Who’s Going to Win?

One of our most popular prop bets before the 2017 NFL season was based on who would win the Offensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year awards.

If you bet on either the Offensive ROY and/or Defensive ROY winners, chances are that you’re still waiting for your bet to be decided. That’s because nobody has sealed either Rookie of the Year award yet.

But a few front-runners have a very good chance at taking down ROY honors. That said, let’s look at which players are still competing for Offensive and Defensive ROY with three weeks to go.

Offensive ROY Candidates

1. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

Kamara started the season slow, sitting behind Mark Ingram on the depth chart. But he’s surged over the middle of the season, becoming just the third rookie in NFL history to tally 600 rushing yards and 600 receiving yards in a season.

The third-round pick from Tennessee is leading the league with a sizzling 7.0 yards per carry. This is only more impressive when considering that the next-closest player is averaging 5.0 YPC.

Looking beyond the stats, Kamara has been an electric player who’s frequently breaking tackles and making defenders miss. The 22-year-old has tallied 1,017 yards from scrimmage in the past nine weeks, ranking only behind Le’Veon Bell during this span. Kamara has also scored nine touchdowns during the 9-game stretch, which only ranks behind teammate Ingram.

Kamara had a bit of a setback, when he was knocked out of the Atlanta game with a concussion. But Kamara has three more games to seal the award.

2. Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

kareem-hunt-roy-raceKareem Hunt was this year’s breakout rookie early on. He started the season with a bang, notching 148 rushing yards, a rushing touchdown, and two TD catches in the season opener against New England. Hunt gained at least 100 yards from scrimmage in his first seven games, which is an NFL record.

However, the third-round pick from Toledo has slumped over the second half of the season. Much of this has to do with how the Chiefs as a team are playing. But it hasn’t helped his ROY chances in any case.

Perhaps Hunt is on the up, though, after rushing for 116 yards against the Raiders last week. If he can string together some more performances like this, coupled with Kamara fading, then he has a chance to be the Rookie of the Year.

3. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

The fourth-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Leonard Fournette hasn’t disappointed. He’s rushed for 923 yards, which is second among rookies to Hunt (1,046). This is especially impressive when considering that Fournette has played two fewer games.

Another factor going in Fournette’s favor is that he’s playing well against stacked boxes. In fact, his 80 carries against 8+ man boxes lead the league.

Fournette has been a large part of the Jaguars’ turnaround from AFC South bottom dweller to legitimate playoff team. Doug Marrone wanted to establish a physical running team. And they’ve done exactly this, leading the league in rushing, with Fournette ranking seventh overall.

Fournette slipped behind Kamara and Hunt in the ROY race due to an ankle injury, and missing a game for violating team rules. But he still has a chance at winning the award, especially if he can finish the season with a couple of 100-yard performances. His odds of doing so have taken a hit, though, since he’s been ruled out for Week 15.

4. Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams

cooper-kupp-ramsCooper Kupp is yet another third-rounder who’s still alive in the Offensive ROY chase. Kupp, a slot receiver, leads rookies in receiving yards (783) and ranks third in receptions (56). He’s also first in receptions per route (15.2%) and targets per route (23%).

The problem for Kupp, though, is how well the running backs on this list have performed. He is 464 scrimmage yards behind Kamara, and also trails Fournette and Hunt by quite a bit.

But Kupp still has a chance if he finishes with over 1,000 receiving yards and adds a few more touchdowns. Even if he can’t close the gap, though, he has already set the Rams’ franchise record for receptions by a rookie.

5. Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants

evan-engram-roy-raceEvan Engram, a first-round pick out of Ole Miss, rounds out the top five. Engram’s main case for the ROY is that he has more receiving touchdowns than any other player.

He also ranks just behind Kupp in rookie receptions with 55, and has managed 623 receiving yards. The latter is all the more impressive when considering that defenses have keyed on Engram, due to the Giants’ injuries at receiver.

One of the best things about Engram is his consistency, because he’s caught at least three passes in seven of the last eight games. But he’ll need an outstanding end to the season to grab ROY honors.

It’s possible if he scores three more touchdowns. This would make him only the third tight end in history (Mike Ditka and Rob Gronkwoski) to finish with 9 or more touchdown catches.

Defensive ROY Candidates

1. Marshon Lattimore, CB, New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints defense hasn’t been very good over the past few years. But cornerback Marshon Lattimore is one reason why the Saints’ defense has improved greatly this season.

The 11th-overall pick out of Ohio state’s has intercepted three passes, returned one interception for a touchdown, defended 10 passes, and forced a fumble. According to Pro Football Focus, Lattimore was the highest-graded rookie since Adrian Peterson (2007) through the first 10 weeks.

The one hiccup in Lattimore’s campaign for Defensive ROY is that he suffered an ankle injury in Week 11. He was sidelined for three weeks, which saw New Orleans’ pass defense go from No. 1 over the first 10 weeks, to 28th from Weeks 11-13. While the injury kept Lattimore from producing on the field, it shows just how valuable he is to this team.

Lattimore faces some good receivers against the last three opponents, including the Jets, Falcons, and Buccaneers. The Week 16 matchup against Julio Jones will be especially tough. But if Lattimore can do well against Jones and others to end the season, then he should lock up the ROY award.

2. T.J. Watt, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers

tj-watt-steelersT.J. Watt has two big things going for him: 1) he’s put up good numbers, and 2) he plays for the AFC’s top team right now. The first-round pick out of Wisconsin has fit in well in a defense filled with veterans.

Watt has the versatility to a stick with tight ends and running backs in pass coverage, or rush the passer. A perfect sign of Watt’s versatility is how he’s one of the few NFL defenders who’ve notched 40 tackles, 6 sacks, and 6 passes defended. His emergence has kept long-time veteran James Harrison on the bench.

Another thing that helps Watt’s ROY resume is the fact that he has one of the Steelers’ most memorable defensive plays. Watt strip-sacked Joe Flacco in the final seconds to preserve Pittsburgh’s 39-38 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

Watt could wrestle the Defensive ROY award away from Lattimore with a big performance against New England this weekend. He’ll not only pick up Rob Gronkowski in coverage, but also have a chance to sack Tom Brady.

3. Tre’Davious White, CB, Buffalo Bills

Tre’Davious White is very close to Lattimore in terms of stats, tying for the rookie league with three interceptions and recording nine pass defenses. The first-round pick has also forced a fumble, recovered two fumbles, and returned a fumble for a touchdown. Yet one more impressive stat is that White has logged 848 snaps – 98% of Buffalo’s total snaps – which is the most among any rookie.

The one catch is that White hasn’t been as perfect in pass coverage as Lattimore. But the Bills’ coaches have praised his maturity every step of the way, and he’s definitely been a great help to this defense.

Another downside to White’s resume is that he plays on a small market team that’s only a fringe playoff contender. White will probably have to make a at least one more interception or get another fumble-recovery touchdown to win ROY.

4. Carl Lawson, LB, Cincinnati Bengals

carl-lawson-bengalsLinebacker Carl Lawson has racked up some very nice stats for the Bengals this year. He has 7.5 sacks and 52 total QB pressures. But what’s impressive about this is that Lawson has more sacks than Watt, despite the fact that he’s only played 361 snaps.

The tough thing for Lawson, though, is that Cincinnati is out of the playoffs. This means he’s going to need to rack up some more big stats to win the defensive ROY.

Double-digit sacks would likely give him an edge over other standout rookies. But the problem is that Cincinnati ends the season with a tough schedule.

5. Myles Garrett, DE, Cleveland Browns

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 Draft has been good when he’s on the field. But that’s just the problem for Garrett because he’s missed five games due to injury.

He leads the Browns in sacks with 5 and has certainly flashed the talent that made him the top pick. It’s possible that he could have even more sacks than Lawson, had he played enough games this year.

But the problem for Garrett is that he plays on the winless Browns and hasn’t put up outstanding statistics. He’s going to need to finish with two or three sacks in the final three games in order to have any realistic shot at winning ROY.