NFL Rookie of the Year Watch: Week 5
Now five weeks into the season, it's becoming pretty clear which rookies are true contenders for the Offensive Rookie of the Year (OROY) award in 2019. As a result, there were some serious swings in the betting odds for a number of this year's most prominent rookies. The field has undeniably tightened, with the frontrunners pulling further and further ahead.
You'll notice that some of the odds below look ridiculous -- for example, Darrell Henderson, who has been nonexistent in 2019, saw his odds fall to +10,000. Barring something far outside the realm of expectations, he's no longer a serious contender for the Offensive Rookie of the Year title. Players like Henderson and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside will continue falling further and further behind as the weeks go on. I've shown them in the table below as an example, but expect to see that table lose names each week going forward.
In this column, we analyze the 2019 batch of rookies through numberFire's metrics -- specifically Net Expected Points (NEP). NEP measures how much value a player adds to or subtracts from his team's expected points total, using historic down and distance data as a reference point. You can read more about that metric and others in the Terms Glossary. All odds are taken from FanDuel Sportsbook.
Week 5 NEP Leaders
|Player||Current NEP||Week 5 Odds|
Kyler Murray pulled back ahead in the race this week on the back of a performance that flashed some of the upside that got him drafted first overall back in May. Murray racked up 19.37 Total NEP in Week 5 and notched his first win as an NFL quarterback. Much of that NEP came via the passing game -- he did not throw a touchdown but still managed to add 0.33 Passing NEP per drop back -- but Murray truly shined on the ground. He showcased his electric speed throughout the game, including on his first rushing touchdown of the season. Murray added NEP to the Cardinals' expected points total on 80% of his carries, which demonstrates how effective he was rushing the ball. It came against a bottoming-out Cincinnati Bengals defense, but Murray's Week 5 performance put him back squarely in the lead in the Offensive Rookie of the Year race.
Josh Jacobs similarly put on a show this weekend, routinely making defenders miss on his way to 126 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns against the vaunted Chicago Bears defense. Jacobs' Week 5 performance in London has helped him overcome his slow start and vaulted him all the way to the top of the leaderboards. Jacobs' odds lowered from +1100 to +400 this week, the largest positive change among all rookies in Week 5. Despite what the box scores showed, Jacobs assumed an almost true bell cow role -- he had to leave for a little bit to deal with an elbow injury, but returned shortly afterward. We would love to see Jacobs get more involved in the passing game going forward, where he has truly shined on limited opportunities, but he's a legit contender for the title this year.
Mecole Hardman had himself a very productive Week 5, despite his team losing the first game of the season. Hardman corralled 4 of his 6 targets for an impressive 79 yards. Hardman has flashed big-play upside all year, averaging 20.5 yards per reception, but unfortunately, he is a long shot to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year race in 2019. Despite the Kansas City Chiefs playing without their two top wideouts, Hardman still couldn't win a dominant share of the snaps or targets. He would need to follow in Percy Harvin's footsteps to win the award this year, but even Harvin's title in 2009 was pretty fluky. A lot would have to break right for the young receiver in order for him to win, as reflected by his +4300 odds after Week 5. With Tyreek Hill due back sooner rather than later, Hardman is a longshot to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Daniel Jones was the biggest loser of Week 5. Jones cost the New York Giants 8.94 Total NEP in their Week 5 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on the back of his interception and with the four sacks that he took. He probably isn't going to lead the Giants to many wins in 2019, at least not with all of the injuries around him. Cam Newton and Sam Bradford each won the award despite playing on losing teams in their respective rookie seasons, but those players won under entirely different circumstances. Newton flashed his special rushing ability and his highlight-reel deep passes in his rookie year, while Bradford was the first overall pick in what was an extremely underwhelming 2009 rookie class on the offensive side of the ball (at least for that season). Jones has to compete with the more exciting Kyler Murray at his own position for this year's trophy, not to mention Josh Jacobs and a few impressive receivers.
Deebo Samuel lost 0.13 NEP on Monday Night Football, catching just one of his three targets and only taking it for three yards. It wasn't an impressive showing. His volume is a big concern -- he'll need to start getting a lot more work before he can become a legitimate contender.
There was a lot of moving and shaking following Week 5. As I mentioned in the intro, players are starting to fall very far behind. Since numberFire began collecting NEP data in 2000, the fewest number of total touches any non-quarterback Offensive Rookie of the Year winner has had was 75, set by Percy Harvin in his bizarre win, followed by Odell Beckham's 98 receptions in 2014. It's hard to compile the kind of stats that get you noticed for the award if you haven't started producing yet. That's why we're starting to see some early sleeper-type bets fall into irrelevance.
Given that context, it was surprising to see D.K. Metcalf's odds spike this week. Metcalf (+2000) -- who went into the week at +4400 -- saw the biggest swing among all rookies in Week 5, mostly on the back of his long touchdown grab on Thursday Night Football. Metcalf will need to start getting more looks from Russell Wilson before he can become anything more than a dark horse contender, but his high draft capital and flashy play style make him an interesting deeper option.
Josh Jacobs (+400) saw the next biggest spike behind Metcalf, and for good reason. Now firmly entrenched as the bell cow back he was drafted to be, Jacobs is on pace for 1,376 rushing yards and another 246.4 yards through the air after his breakout Week 5 performance -- and importantly, over 300 touches. That kind of volume will keep Jacobs' name in the public eye every week of the season.
Terry McLaurin (+2000) fell a little bit behind after missing Week 4 and getting relatively bottled up in Week 5 against the New England Patriots stout defense. However, his +2000 odds -- tied for second at the receiver position -- indicate that his bid is still very much alive. McLaurin's Week 5 performance can even be seen as a positive, considering that his 51 receiving yards came against Stephon Gilmore's elite coverage. Assuming McLaurin stays healthy for the season -- and assuming Washington can avoid completely imploding, which is a very real possibility -- McLaurin is on pace for 72 receptions, 1,155 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns. On paper, that seems a little slight compared to previous wide receiver winners, but it would be enough for McLaurin to finish as the year's top rookie wideout.
Gardner Minshew (+500) and Kyler Murray (+240) are likely the two safest bets you can make right now, which is probably why they are two of the biggest frontrunners. I discussed Murray earlier, but if he continues to grow as he has already this year, he should run away with the award this year. However, if Murray stalls out, Minshew should be the next man up. Minshew-mania is real, with the sixth-rounder leading the Jacksonville Jaguars to a 2-3 record, narrowly losing some competitive games and posting solid stat lines throughout. His 21.85 Total NEP ranks fourth-best in this rookie class, but with his combination of on-field play and off-field bravado, he should be considered one of the top two or three contenders this year. If the Jags name Minshew the starter when Nick Foles returns somewhere around Week 11, Minshew might even take the lead spot in the Offensive Rookie of the Year race.