May 28, 2021

4 Defensive Rookie Prop Bets You Gotta Jump On

While we eagerly await the start of the 2021 NFL regular season, it's a great time for sports bettors to prepare for the upcoming campaign and capitalize on some early rookie prop bets. 

Most rookies will take time to adjust to learning the playbook and the speed of the game, which should be taken into consideration, but what we really want to see is progress. 

Some prop bets are completely unrealistic, while others have plenty of value. We've deciphered four rookie prop bets — via BetOnline — that look like they could cash in.

Jaelan Phillips: Sacks

The best edge rusher in the class landed in the best possible situation for success. Jaelan Phillips would've been a top-eight lock in this class if his injury history was cleaner. While it's not great he has concussions in his past, Miami wisely rolled the dice on a talented pass-rush presence.

Phillips has standout burst and hand usage. The former top recruit finally put all of his tools together as he broke out for the Hurricanes, amassing eight sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. There's no question that his athleticism will translate.

The Dolphins relied more on scheme than individual talent to create sacks in 2020. That bodes well for Phillips since Brian Flores can let him win without scheming him free too often. Phillips should be able to match Shaq Lawson's sack rate at the very least and clean up on a few schemed-sack finishes.

Six sacks is the right spot. This would represent a fantastic rookie season, and I think Phillips will get the workload to hit the over.

The pick: Over 6 sacks (-120)

Kwity Paye: Sacks

The Indianapolis Colts have one of the better defenses in the NFL despite not having a premier edge rusher. They squeezed 15.5 sacks out of Justin Houston and Denico Autry but both are long gone. The Colts are banking on their cast of youngsters to make up the difference.

There's certainly talent within the unit. No. 21 overall selection Kwity Paye is the best athlete of the bunch, and he'll rotate with Tyquan Lewis, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Ben Banogu, and Kemoko Turay. That depth is promising for the team but not for this prop to hit over.

Paye is similar to Rashaan Gary in the sense he came out of Michigan raw. Neither produced at a high level despite notching a ton of pressures. Eventually, Gary turned the corner and became a finisher in addition to disruptor.

The line is just five sacks, but the Colts tend to let their rushers win on their own. That's tough sledding for a rookie who is more athlete than refined product. I believe Paye will turn out to be a quality starter in time but being in this rotation hurts.

The pick: Under 5 sacks (-120)

Most Interceptions

The top two corners in the draft — Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II — battled to be the top defensive player selected in the draft, and it appears they'll go head-to-head in his prop bet. 

The problem with the most interceptions prop is that it can be fluky. The better player doesn't always produce more turnovers.

Luck plays a big factor, and so does the number of targets seen. Surtain is the better technician and overall corner right now but Horn has a playmaking trait. Horn's rare size and closing ability allow him to produce at the catch point.

Scheme matters as well. Denver hasn't had as much fortune in forcing interceptions the last few years, whereas Carolina allows their corners to drop and watch the QB. I believe everything about these players and their situation bodes well for Horn to cover this prop with more interceptions.

The pick: Horn (-120)

Most Sacks

Another defensive head-to-head prop bet features the first two linebackers taken in the draft. Micah Parsons and Zaven Collins are unique athletes with impressive production numbers and even better skill sets. Neither will primarily function as edge rusher but rather be a delayed blitzer or stunter.

Both have the pure talent to be a full-time edge and be productive despite their distinction as a middle man. However, the situations both are walking into are much different. Parsons will likely earn more snaps as the season progresses as he replaces Jaylon Smith or Leighton Vander Esch. Collins should start immediately.

Because I think Collins will simply play more, he's the obvious pick. Parsons is probably the better pure pass-rush prospect but he's not in the position to see a significant share of opportunity. 

The pick: Collins (-120) 

Photo: Dallas Cowboys