NFL 2021 Defensive Rookie of the Year: 3 Players to Bet Now

Three rookies at three different positions provide interesting wagers

The 2021 NFL Draft has concluded and we can start projecting how rookies will fit into their respective roles with their new teams.

Let's focus on the Defensive Rookie of the Year odds, courtesy of BetMGM.

Since 2010, the award has been spread out across the field. Defensive ends have won DROY four times, linebackers three times, while cornerbacks and defensive tackles have each won it twice. 

With that in mind, here are three rookies at three different positions that are valuable bets ahead of the season. 

Favorite: Kwity Paye, Indianapolis Colts, Defensive End/Edge (+800)

Micah Parsons is the chalk for this award, but I cheated and went a little bit further down to the third choice, Kwity Paye.

Paye was thought of as the No. 1 edge rusher in the draft, but slid during the draft all the way to the 21st pick. 

Now, Paye joins a stout defense with an excellent pass rush. Indianapolis was seventh in the NFL in adjusted sack rate last season behind the likes of Darius Leonard and DeForest Buckner. Add Paye to that equation and the Colts pass rush has a chance to be amongst the league’s elite in 2021. 

It certainly helps that the Michigan product can put up a big sack total in his rookie season, but it's even more beneficial that the Colts are expected to be contenders for a playoff berth. With the Texans set on a lengthy rebuild, and the Jaguars currently in one, the AFC South is likely going to be a two team race between Indy and the Tennessee Titans. 

A big sack total and a contending team can help push Paye towards the top of the conversation. 

Value: Zaven Collins, Arizona Cardinals, Linebacker (+1600)

Collins flew up draft boards ahead of last weekend, and eventually landed at the Cardinals at No. 16. The Tulsa linebacker was a star in college, winning the Chuck Bednarik Award for the nation’s best defensive player. Collins recorded 54 tackles, seven and a half sacks, and four interceptions over eight games in 2020. 

I love the fit in Arizona, joining an explosive defense that has other playmakers like Buddha Baker in the secondary. The NFC West is going to be arguably the toughest division in football, which should give Collins plenty of time to shine. 

The Cardinals are going to be looking to take a step forward this season after falling out of the playoff race in the final weeks of the regular season. 

The team already mentioned Collins being counted on early and often and I expect him to make himself known around the league quickly. 

I’ll happily take these long odds on the best defensive player in college football last season. 

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Long Shot: Asante Samuel Jr, Los Angeles Chargers, Cornerback (+3500)

Samuel is a ball hawk, plain and simple. While he was picked in the second round, he’s going to get a chance to thrive in LA under new head coach and former Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley. 

Staley coached arguably the best defense in football last season. After using a high draft pick on Samuel Jr., expect him to be plugged in quickly to a mediocre pass defense. The Chargers let corner Casey Hayward walk in free agency and were thin at the position, so expect Samuel Jr. to have an opportunity to jump into a starting role.

The son of former Patriots legend Asante Samuel, he was nothing but productive in his three seasons at Florida State, intercepting three passes and breaking up six more in eight starts in 2020.

Sure, it’ll be easier to talk about top 10 picks Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II, but Samuel has shown he can make plays in the secondary and will get an opportunity to shine quickly. With a few interceptions to his name, expect to hear him in DROY conversations. 


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