Weingarten: My current NFL awards bets

January 3, 2023 07:45 PM
Kenneth_Walker

As we enter the final week of the NFL regular season most of the individual player award races are over.

I would be surprised if at this point the players below didn’t win these awards:

MVP - Patrick Mahomes

Offensive Player of the Year – Justin Jefferson

Defensive Player of the Year – Nick Bosa

Defensive Rookie of the Year – Sauce Gardner.

While those awards races are probably over, I think Offensive Rookie of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year awards are still up for grabs. Recency bias is a real thing in awards voting, and players who finish strong or have big performances down the stretch have a better chance of staying in the front of voters’ minds when it comes to filling out ballots.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

DraftKings Odds

Kenneth Walker -130

Garrett Wilson +200

Brock Purdy +400

Kenny Pickett +1600

Christian Watson +2500

Chris Olave +3000

Brian Robinson +3000

Walker: 14 games/10 starts, 199 carries, 936 rushing yards, 4.7 YPC, 9 TDs, 0 fumbles,

Wilson: 16 games/11 starts, 74 receptions, 130 targets, 1014 yards, 13.7 Y/R, 4 TDs, 2 fumbles  

Purdy: 8 games/4 starts, 99 completions/150 attempts, 66% Cmp%, 1196 yards, 10 TDs, 4 interceptions.

Pickett: 12 games/11 starts, 232 completions/360 attempts, 64.4 Cmp%, 2209 yards, 6 TDs, 9 interceptions

Watson: 13 games/10 starts, 30 receptions, 60 targets, 507 yards, 14.1 Y/R, 9 TDs (7 receiving/2 rushing), 0 fumbles

Olave: 14 games/9 starts, 67 receptions, 107 targets, 982 yards, 14.7 Y/R, 3 TDS, 1 fumble

Robinson: 12 games/9 starts, 205 carries, 797 yards, 3.9 YPC, 3 TDs (2 rushing/1 receiving), 2 fumbles

Garrett Wilson set New York Jets franchise records for receiving yards and receptions by a rookie, but that says more about the Jets than Wilson because these numbers aren’t that amazing. The main thing holding back Wilson’s case is the lack of touchdowns. He only has four, and those four touchdowns have been scored in two games, the second of which occurred in Week 12. Wilson hasn’t scored a touchdown in the past five games, and the Jets have lost all five of those games.

Similar case for Kenneth Walker in Seattle. He could break 1,000 yards with a good performance against the Rams on Sunday, but his overall numbers are just alright. The Rams might be eliminated from the playoffs already, but their defense wants to win this final game against Seattle for former Seahawk and current Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner. I will look to bet Walker’s rushing yards under this weekend.

Brock Purdy has won all four games he’s started, and he has five quarterback wins if you include the Dolphins game where he played most of the game in relief. If these numbers held up over 15 games, or even 10, Purdy would be the favorite. But I don’t think four starts are going to be enough to push Purdy ahead of Wilson or Walker. You couldn’t have asked for Purdy to do anything more than he’s done. It's an interesting case for the voters to buck precedent here, but I don’t think it’s going to happen, and I don’t think Purdy’s Week 18 performance can change anything.

Kenny Pickett has started 11 games, and he has six quarterback wins. It’s almost enough to make a case for Pickett to be a serious OROY contender if the Steelers can secure the #7 seed in the AFC on Sunday. Unfortunately, the lack of touchdowns is going to hold him back. While Pickett has played better as the season has gone on, I don’t think he’s going to win with his current numbers.

In Green Bay, Christian Watson has put up half the production as Garrett Wilson on half as many targets, with double the touchdowns. 507 yards and 9 touchdowns aren’t enough for Watson to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. But it’s easy to look at the Packers game logs and notice that the Packers are 5-2 since Week 10 when Watson started playing 80%+ of the team’s offensive snaps (except Week 16 when he was injured). I don’t know if a big game against the Lions on Sunday night would do anything for Watson, but scoring two or three touchdowns wouldn’t hurt. It still might not be enough, but it wouldn’t hurt. I think being a starting WR on a potential playoff team and scoring double the touchdowns as other WR contenders like Wilson and Chris Olave should count for something, but I don’t think the voters will see it that way.

Chris Olave has similar numbers to former Ohio State teammate Garrett Wilson, even down to the lack of touchdowns. On a non-playoff team, I can’t make a case for why I’d vote for Olave, and in Washington, Brian Robinson checks all the same boxes (lack of touchdowns, non-playoff team).

After laying it all out, I don’t think any of these guys have done enough to lock down the Offensive Rookie of the Year award before Week 18. It wouldn’t surprise me if Walker had a bad week against the Rams' defense or if Wilson gets shut down against the Dolphins.

For Week 18, the best approach might be to attack this market via player props focusing on under rushing/receiving yards props for Wilson and Walker, touchdown props for Watson, and over yards/touchdown props for Purdy and Pickett. I think Week 18 sets up well for both quarterbacks, although at the current odds, I like Kenny Pickett, as he’s been more important to the Steelers being on the verge of a playoff spot. But at this point, with none of the players seizing the lead, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Offensive Player of the Year ended up going to a quarterback.

Comeback Player of the Year

DraftKings Odds

Christian McCaffrey +175

Geno Smith +175

Saquon Barkley +225

Jared Goff +1000

Nick Gates +4000

McCaffrey: 16 games/15 starts: 234 carries, 1094 rushing yards, rushing 8 TDs, 4.7 YPC, 82 receptions, 105 targets, 707 receiving yards, 4 receiving TDs, 1965 total yards from scrimmage (10 games missed in 2021 due to injury)

Smith: 16 games/16 starts, 380 completions/541 attempts, 70.2% cmp% (leads NFL), 4,069 yards, 29 touchdowns/9 interceptions

Barkley: 16 games/16 starts, 295 carries, 1312 rushing yards, 10 TDs, 4.4 YPC, 57 receptions, 76 targets, 338 receiving yards, 1650 yards from scrimmage

Goff: 16 games/16 starts, 359 completions/553 attempts, 4,214 passing yards, 29 TDs/7 interceptions

Gates: 9 games/7 starts, 330 offensive snaps played, 1 sack allowed, 4 penalties

Christian McCaffrey has almost 2,000 yards from scrimmage this season and 12 touchdowns while splitting the season between Carolina and San Francisco. McCaffrey’s arrival in San Francisco has coincided with their playoff run, and he’ll no doubt be a focal point of their playoff offense. But the extent of his 2021 injuries was a hamstring injury that kept him out two weeks, and an ankle injury he suffered in Week 12 that ended his season early. McCaffrey finished the 2021 season with 442 rushing yards, 343 receiving yards and two touchdowns in seven games. I don’t think this is an award for getting traded to a good team, nor do I think McCaffrey’s injuries last year are significant enough to make him a serious contender for Comeback Player of the Year.

From a narrative-only perspective, Geno Smith is the Comeback Player of the Year, simply for being Geno Smith, and it seems like the media has jumped on this from the start. That might be enough for voters, but I am skeptical. I think Geno Smith has been properly rewarded with a Pro Bowl spot and a shot at a playoff spot. This is the Comeback Player of the Year award, not the ‘Most Improved Player award. Geno Smith hasn’t gone anywhere to come back from. He’s been an NFL backup quarter for the past seven years. Geno Smith might win this award simply because he’s a quarterback and has a good narrative, but it’s never a good sign when you were a -700 favorite and are now +175.

Saquon Barkley is an interesting case. His numbers are similar to Christian McCaffrey’s, but is he really even a Comeback Player of the Year candidate? He got hurt in Week 5 of 2021 and was back in the Giants lineup in Week 10. He then had double-digit carries every week from Weeks 11 thru 17. Barkley is having a great season, but he’s not coming back from anything. He was playing at least 30 snaps a game for the entire second half of 2021. The Giants just weren’t very good in 2021, but that doesn’t make Barkley the Comeback Player of the Year. More importantly, Barkley is on the record telling the Giants beat writers that he thinks teammate Nick Gates (more on him below) is the Comeback Player of the Year. Barkley’s number is puzzling. I would not bet it.

You might think Saquon Barkley’s number is the worst, but Jared Goff’s inclusion in this market is by far the most insulting. Jared Goff is having a very good season, and he’s potentially one win against the Green Bay Packers from leading the Lions to the playoffs, which is an accomplishment in and of itself. But that doesn’t make Goff the Comeback Player of the Year. It just means he’s finally having a good year in a non-Sean McVay-coached offense. And he should play well. He was the #1 pick in the draft, and he's currently in the middle of a $143 million dollar contract. Goff is one of the 40 highest-paid NFL players of all time. While Geno Smith has a narrative around him, Goff has somehow had this false narrative attached to him that he’s on some sort of redemption tour when he’s just a very well-paid, slightly above-average quarterback (with tiny hands).  

I am slightly biased for Nick Gates, and I have a large position on him at numbers ranging from 50/1 to 200/1. Gates broke both the tibia and fibula in his left leg early in the 2021 season and eventually required seven surgeries to repair the damage. Nobody would have blinked an eye if Gates had retired and decided never to play football again. Compound fractures aren’t great for NFL careers, especially for offensive linemen, but Gates was determined to continue his career and returned to the NFL 410 days after his leg was bent at a 90-degree angle on live television. I don’t understand in what world Jared Goff can be listed at 10/1 and Gates is still at 40/1. As I mentioned above, Saquon Barkley told ESPN NFL Nation reporter Jordan Raanan, “He (Gates) is the Comeback Player of the Year in my eyes.”

Maybe I’m crazy, and it's true that no OL has ever won the Comeback Player of the Year award. I could see Gates losing to Geno Smith or Christian McCaffrey because this is a voting award and narratives win out sometimes. But I think Nick Gates is a serious contender, far more serious than Jared Goff or his own teammate, Saquon Barkley. I already have bet Nick Gates to win Comeback Player of the Year multiple times, but I am going to bet him again at 40/1 at the DraftKings number.   

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