May 19, 2021

The 3 Best Value 2021 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Bets

Thanks to a lack of high-end pass rushers, the 2021 NFL Draft class was all about the offense.

That's what happens when five QBs are selected in the top 15-picks while just three defenders were nabbed by then.  

The lack of elite talent will make parsing the 2021 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award even tougher than usual. 

Washington's first-round linebacker Jamin Davis is easily in the best position to produce in Ron Rivera's system and should win the award if healthy. He's almost stealing money at +400 right now. But we want to go deeper and find the breakout candidates in 2021.

Here are three players to consider putting a bet on now for a big return at the end of the season.

Odds via Betonline

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Cleveland Browns (+1400)

The Browns knocked their draft class out of the park. Greg Newsome II, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and Tommy Togiai can walk in and contribute immediately as starters or rotational help. They'll be a high-profile team in 2021 and these rookies will have the stage to shock expectations.

Owusu-Koramoah has the best chance of the bunch to rack up impressive stats. There's not a quality linebacker on the roster to steal impact stats away from him. He'll roam the middle of the field and see targets going his way with his projected role in Joe Woods' defense.

Woods has experience utilizing athletic linebackers after helping Fred Warner flourish in San Francisco. Owusu-Koramoah isn't quite as instinctive as the 49ers' star, but he's able to replicate many of the athletic feats the All-Pro has. Getting JOK to the 100-tackle mark, multiple interceptions and forced fumbles will firmly put him in the discussion with any competition across the league.

Roaming behind big bodies like Andrew Billings, Sheldon Day, Togiai and Jordan Elliott will help, too. Those big uglies have to create lanes for JOK to get through cleanly. He's not a pure box linebacker right now and it's an area he'll have to develop early in his career.

However, it's not crazy to think he thrives in Cleveland's fast and energetic defense. This is a must-play. 

Azeez Ojulari, New York Giants (+2200)

Opportunity will matter for this award. Jaelen Phillips and Kwity Paye have great situations to produce a big season thanks to their staff's reputation and role. But forgetting about second-rounder Azeez Ojulari would be a mistake.

For about twice the return, Ojulari might be the primary rusher on the second level of the Giants' defense. Regression for Leonard Williams is inevitable and Dexter Lawrence isn't a huge threat to take sacks away. Barring a breakout from Oshane Ximines, Ojulari is the best standup rusher on the roster already.

The Georgia athlete doesn't have the most explosive first step or fluidity but he has enough to produce. His ability to one-arm a blocker and turn the corner checks the box as a potential creative pass-rusher. The Giants desperately lacked this type of playmaking upside.

It's not fair to expect Ojulari to hit double digits this year but a solid seven or eight sacks can win the award. The Giants' defense should be at least average this season with a better pass rush. Ojulari can earn a lot of that credit if he's leading the team in sacks or close to Williams by the end of the campaign.

Caleb Farley, Tennessee Titans (+2500)

Taking injuries into account is difficult. Caleb Farley may have been a top-seven pick if he had a clean bill of health, but two back injuries and a torn ACL is on his medical sheet. The Titans are rolling the dice on this decision paying off. Let's hope it works out better than their selection of Isaiah Wilson. 

Farley is fast, long, aggressive, and able to be a shutdown corner. The Titans' secondary desperately needed a talent like this after they released Adoree’ Jackson. Assuming he stays on the field, he’ll prove to be a big difference-maker for coach Mike Vrabel. 

His six interceptions and 19 pass breakups in 23 games at Virginia Tech marks an impressive total. The traits absolutely match the production and film. I think Farley would've been a top-eight lock if he didn't have those pesky back injuries.

The lack of a true top cornerback on the Titans' roster is an important factor. Greg Newsome might put up similar numbers but has Denzel Ward to take some of his shine in Cleveland. The same can be said for Eric Stokes in Green Bay with Jaire Alexander and Asante Samuel Jr. in Los Angeles with Chris Harris.

A strong season from Farley could lead to the Virginia Tech product becoming a draft-day steal and potentially a big winner for anybody who throws some greenbacks on him at +2500. 

Photo: Getty Images