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NFL Defensive Rookies Worthy of a Bet in 2019

| May 13, 2019 12:00 am PDT
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Sleepers

The NFL Draft is behind us, and the 53-man rosters are beginning to take shape. While some teams are stocked with established leaders and a veteran presence, others will have to rely on first-year players taking on a bigger load.

For example, Josh Allen is going to have a key role in Jacksonville, especially now that Tevin Smith has announced his sabbatical from the game of football. Nick Bosa looks like he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with in San Francisco, and Quinnen Williams has an opportunity in New York to start turning the tide in the AFC East.

I could tell you more about how some of the top 10 picks are going to positively impact their squads in 2019, but we expect that to be the case. That’s why they were selected among the first 10 picks.

The point is, we know about the top guys and have assumptions regarding who will be counted on to contribute. I already highlighted some of these players in my NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year betting blog, but now it’s time to look at the sleepers.

Who are the defensive rookies who could surprise the casual fans and win the 2019 DROY Award?

2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year Betting Odds

The first step is to examine the odds. Clearly, when I’m referring to a “sleeper,” I’m not talking about guys like Nick Bosa or Josh Allen. Quite frankly, the true sleepers are the men listed toward the bottom of the betting sheet, or even the players not listed at all.

Nick Bosa+400
Quinnen Williams+400
Josh Allen+600
Ed Oliver+800
Clelin Ferrell+1000
Devin White+1200
Devin Bush+1800
Montez Sweat+1800
Rashan Gary+2000
Christian Wilkins+2500
Jeffrey Simmons+2500
Greedy Williams+2500
Brian Burns+3000
Dexter Lawrence+3000
Darnell Savage Jr.+3000
Johnathan Abram+3500
Jerry Tillery+3500
Deandre Baker+3500
Byron Murphy+3500
Rock Ya-Sin+4000
Sean Bunting+4000
Trayvon Mullen+4000
Joejuan Williams+5000
Lonnie Johnson Jr.+5000
Trysten Hill+5000
Taylor Rapp+5000
Juan Thornhill+5000
Ben Banogu+6000
Nasir Adderley+8000
Marquise Blair+8000
Jahlani Tavai+8000
The Field+800

Correctly predicting that Quinnen Williams wins the DROY award would be great, and the payouts associated with guys like Ed Oliver and Clelin Ferrell still offer upside.

But when you consider that last year’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award winner was drafted in the second round, it starts to make you think. What other NFL defensive rookies beginning the year a bit off the radar could have a chance to really shine?

Deandre Baker – Cornerback – New York Giants (+3500)

The Giants took some heat for spending the 6th overall pick in the draft on a somewhat unproven QB who isn’t even going to play right away. Fortunately for football fans in East Rutherford, the Giants did themselves a solid by selecting Deandre Baker with their next pick at the tail end of round 1.

Despite being the first cornerback plucked from the pool of players, Baker slipping down to #30 was a bit of a surprise to me. While some individuals chosen in the first round are a “project” and will take time to develop, Deandre is NFL-ready right now. ESPN’s own Mel Kiper Jr. is among the touts who agree with that sentiment.

“He is the most pro-ready of the top group of cornerbacks in this class, and he can be a legitimate No. 1 corner. He’s going to play early and often for a New York defense that allowed 61 receptions of at least 20 yards last season, the second-most such passes in the league.”

Not only does Baker possess the tools necessary to excel at this level, but he’ll also have ample opportunity to make a difference right from the get-go.

Johnathan Abram – Safety – Oakland Raiders (+3500)

The Oakland Raiders surprised the entire NFL community when they snagged Clelin Ferrell with the 4th pick in the draft. The former Clemson defensive lineman is getting plenty of attention in the Bay Area — and rightfully so.

With that being said, I have a hunch that Ferrell won’t even wind up being the most valuable rookie defender for the Raiders in 2019. Clelin’s college teammate Trayvon Mullen should also make a difference right away, but Johnathan Abram is the guy I’m pinpointing as the one who ends up with a chance to bring home the DROY honors.

During his final season at Mississippi State, Abram racked up a team-high 93 tackles and was known for being a big hitter. Those traits, combined with his improving footwork and increased ball-hawking skills, should make him an elite safety in the National Football League.

And I’m not talking about down the road or in the future. I’m talking about right away.

What I especially think will expedite Johnathan’s ascent in the NFL is the alpha-dog mentality that he’s carried with him since day one. Abram won’t be afraid to lock up a speedy wide receiver, and he’ll be among the first in line to take a crack at a big tight end running a seam route down the middle of the field.

It might not be all roses in Oakland during the upcoming year, but look for their rookie safety to be one of the bright spots.

Nasir Adderley – Safety – Los Angeles Chargers (+8000)

The Chargers know a thing or two about spotting talent. All you have to do is look at Derwin James, the player that Bolts GM Tom Telesco selected with the 17th pick in last year’s draft, and you’ll see that the Los Angeles front office brass is well ahead of the curve.

Scooping up Jerry Tillery, the big-bodied defensive tackle out of Notre Dame, was a logical pick toward the end of the first round. However, I’m looking at what the Spanos family accomplished at pick #60, and I can’t help but think they didn’t knock this one out of the park.

Nasir Adderley will replace Jahleel Addae at the back end of the defense, which is most definitely a significant upgrade. The tandem of Adderley and the aforementioned James is going to give Patty Mahomes and the other quarterbacks in the AFC West something to think about when they’re dropping back to sling the ball down the field.

LA knew they needed assistance filling voids on D, which is why I commend them for adding the likes of Tillery and Adderley with their first two picks.

Some might point to the weakened competition Nasir routinely faced while playing at Delaware in the Colonial Athletic Association, and perhaps that’s fair.

I point to his remarkable work ethic and the fact that his uncle Herb is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I’m not saying Adderley is a surefire thing to make it to Canton, but I will say the following.

Lurking at +8000 to win the 2019 DROY Award and staring at tons of playing time on a team that could win 13+ games? I’ll take my chances.

Ben Banogu – Linebacker – Indianapolis Colts (+6000)

Drafted 49th overall in the second round, Ben Banogu is a full-grown man who is ready to compete at the highest level. I envision we’ll see a number of teams kicking themselves by the end of the year for passing over Banogu in April’s draft, while the Colts will be smiling — perhaps on top of the pedestal.

Think about it like this.

If the Colts want to advance out of the AFC and have a chance to win a Super Bowl, they’ll have to defeat the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady. That means addressing their pass rush and loading up with guys who can attack the opposing quarterback was a must.

Enter TCU standout Ben Banogu.

Ben can plug in at either defensive end or outside linebacker and should be a terrific complement to what 2018 DROY Darius Leonard already brings to the table. His motor is undeniable, and his athleticism is off the charts.

During his pre-draft workouts, Banogu cleared 11’2” in the broad jump — a new record for a defensive lineman at the combine.

Trust me — this dude is going to be a freak.

Rock Ya-Sin – Cornerback – Indianapolis Colts (+4000)

While I’m still on the theme of praising incoming rookie defenders for the Colts, I may as well tell you about the guy I think will win the 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year award when it’s all said and done.

I can’t say enough about Chris Ballard, the Indy GM who has been the mastermind behind the team’s reincarnation. Drafting Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard in 2018 turned out to be priceless, and I just told you about Ben Banogu, the hybrid pass rusher he picked up on day 2 of the draft.

Well, Ballard was also busy on day 2 removing Rock Ya-Sin’s name from the available player pool, and I think this pick could end up doing absolute wonders for this organization. The 22-year-old out of Temple wasn’t thought to be much early in the year, but Rock picked up lots of momentum by playing exquisitely at the Senior Bowl.

The former two-time high school wrestling state champ craves physical contact and desperately wants to make plays for his teammates. The Colts could certainly improve all aspects of their football team, but their secondary was noticeably the area that needed the biggest boost.

Right on cue, Rock Ya-Sin can immediately influence this D in a positive way.

Ya-Sin was a beast in man-to-man, but he’ll need to develop his skills in zone coverage in order to be an invaluable asset for Matt Eberflus. In any case, the Colts defensive coordinator now has a sturdy cornerback at his disposal who is eager to learn.

Throw in his unique skill set and the position he’ll be placed in, and Rock could very easily find his name in the conversation when discussing Defensive Rookie of the Year nominees. When you take into account the appealing +4000 price tag that’s attached, he’s got “sleeper candidate” written all over him.

PICKRock Ya-Sin+4000

Bet on Offensive Rookie of the Year, Too

The Cardinals have a plan in place — or so we think.

Arizona has signed their top pick to a $35 million deal, handing the keys to the franchise over to the former Oakland A’s outfield prospect. I can’t promise that Kyler Murray will win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, but I won’t fault you if that’s where you decide to allocate your betting funds.

My only suggestion is to not throw all of your eggs into that one basket, as there’s value to be had elsewhere with other wagers.

In fact, the race for who wins the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award might be the one that goes down to the wire. It could be the bet that ends up captivating us all.

If you’re looking to get some money down on this market, be sure to check out our list of the best NFL betting sites.

Michael Wynn

As a former Division I collegiate golfer, Michael Wynn loves writing about golf. He's also an expert in most of America's most popular sports, writing extensively for GamblingSites.com on football, basketball, and baseball.

Michael's a Las Vegas native and has been with the company since 2017.

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