With NFL training camps starting in earnest this weekend, it’s time to start checking in on some popular NFL Futures bets. Earlier this offseason, we covered the Offensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year, so today we’ll look at the Offensive Player of the Year race.
The Offensive Player of the Year race is, obviously, littered with names who all have a legitimate case to put together historically good statistical seasons, so our goal here is to not only try to decipher who has the best chance to win the award, but also who makes for the best bet based on their current Vegas odds.
Can Cooper Kupp Repeat?
Even though he’s not the current betting favorite, we’re going to start our breakdown with the Los Angeles Rams’ wide receiver because he is the reigning champ, winning the Offensive Player of the Year last year.
Kupp’s season last year was ridiculous, finishing with 145 catches for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns. In fact, he was just the 4th player in the Super Bowl era to lead wide receivers in each of those three stats, joining a list that features Jerry Rice, Sterling Sharpe, and Steve Smith.
Kupp also had the second-most receptions and second-most receiving yards in a single season and was able to haul in 90-plus receiving yards in 16 of 17 games in 2021, including 13 straight games, which was an NFL record.
All in all, he was hands down the right choice for the award, but is betting on him to repeat the best bet?
For starters, nobody has won Offensive Player of the Year in consecutive seasons since Marshall Faulk did it in 2000-2001. Tom Brady won the award twice in four years, but that’s the closest anybody else has come.
Another factor working against Kupp is that he’s highly unlikely to repeat his usage from last year. In 2021, Kupp had an NFL-leading 233 targets or 11.1 targets per game. The next highest Rams receiver was Robert Woods, who had 7.7 targets per game. However, Woods tore his ACL in Week 9 and missed the remainder of the season.
While Kupp was heavily involved in the offense prior to that, he wound up playing 98.5% of offensive snaps over the last eight weeks of the season as the Rams tried to fill the void left by Robert Woods.
This offseason, the Rams worked to lighten Kupp’s load by signing Allen Robinson. While the 28-year-old disappointed last year in Chicago, he was coming off back-to-back 1,100 yard and 150 target seasons. He is likely an upgrade on Woods and clearly an upgrade over Van Jefferson, which means Matthew Stafford and the Rams will not need to rely on Kupp as much as they did last year.
The Rams will also come into the season with two fully healthy running backs in Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr., so it’s easy to see a path in which Kupp’s usage, while still strong, is below last year’s NFL record numbers, which will ultimately hurt his chances of a repeat.
What Other Receivers Could Top Kupp?
Justin Jefferson is a name we need to consider after the season he had last year. Jefferson caught 108 passes for 1,616 yards and 10 touchdowns in his second season in the NFL, but what’s most impressive is that he did that in a run-heavy offense. New head coach Kevin O’Connell, is expected to open up the Vikings’ offense and use Jefferson in a Kupp-like role, which means he could easily go over 100 catches again this season.
Jefferson remains one of the favorites, but his +2000 odds mean that if you bet $100 on him, you’d make a $2,000 profit if he does. That sounds pretty nice.
If you don’t feel inclined to bet on Jefferson, you could also throw your lot in with Ja’Marr Chase, who had one of the best rookie seasons at wide receiver since Randy Moss, catching 81 passes for 13 touchdowns and nearly 1,500 yards. He did that while his quarterback, Joe Burrow, was recovering from offseason knee surgery, so it’s logical to assume that a fully healthy Burrow will enable these two young stars to take their games to another level.
Chase’s +3000 odds mean that if you bet $100 on Chase to win the Offensive Player of the Year, you’d make a $3,000 profit if he does. However, I might be more inclined to look further down the list.
The Dallas Cowboys lost the majority of their wide receiver corps from last year. Amari Cooper was traded to Cleveland, Cedrick Wilson signed with Miami, and Michael Gallup is expected to miss at least the first month of the season after tearing his ACL last year. Between those three, that’s 227 targets that Dak Prescott will need to replace. As a result, CeeDee Lamb should see a huge workload and easily surpass last year’s nearly 1,200 yards from scrimmage. Given his betting odds of +7500 (bet $100 and make a profit of $7,500 if he wins), that is a pretty enticing bet and one that I think may be the best bet on the board right now.
If you feel tempted to bet on any of these wide receivers, or anybody mentioned here, use our sportsbook sign-up offers below:
Jonathan Taylor or Derrick Henry?
These two running backs may be the frontrunners for the award as of now, but only five running backs have won the Offensive Player of the Year in the last 15 years. That’s more often than a wide receiver has won, but it’s worth noting that it does tend to take a historic season for a running back to win.
However, these are two players who can put together historic seasons.
Taylor ran for 1,811 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground last year and had ten games of over 100 rushing yards on the ground while leading the league in carries of over 20 yards. The Colts’ offense is built around Taylor, and he led the NFL with 332 rushing attempts last year. It’s hard to see that changing this season, even with the addition of Matt Ryan, which means Taylor should have more than enough opportunity to lead the NFL in every rushing category again and even push for 2,000 yards on the ground, which could earn him Offensive Player of the Year.
Yet, if there’s another running back who could finish at the top of the leaderboard it’s the king, Derrick Henry. Despite only playing in eight games due to injury, Henry finished 10th in carries, 9th in rushing yards, and 6th in touchdowns. His 117.1 rushing yards per game average was even more than Jonathan Taylor’s. With A.J. Brown shipped off to Philadelphia, it’s likely the Titans continue to rely on Henry to fuel their entire offense. If his foot can hold up, he could finish as the season’s best running back.
Even though the betting odds on both of these players is not as alluring as Lamb or Chase, you’re still getting a pretty large return on your investment while also getting to take a betting favorite, so don’t feel the need to move off of betting on either Taylor or Henry if you really believe one of them is going to dominate the running back leaderboard.
Can Travis Kelce be the First TE Winner?
Travis Kelce had his sixth-straight 1,000-yard season in 2021 while scoring nine touchdowns. With Tyreek Hill now in Miami, Kelce is going to become an even bigger part of the offense, which could mean massive numbers.
The Chiefs signed Juju Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling but neither one of them has proven to be consistent over the last couple of years, so Patrick Mahomes may continue to pepper his most reliable pass catcher with targets. While playing with Mahomes, Kelce has averaged 141 targets per season. If that number goes above 160 and Kelce is able to snag 10 touchdowns, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for him to grab the Offensive Player of the Year award.
At +7000, that’s a pretty intriguing bet, but we have to acknowledge just how much of a longshot it is.
Can a Quarterback Win Again?
While only one quarterback has won the Offensive Player of the Year in the last five years, there have been eight quarterback winners in the last 15 years. So why shouldn’t this year be the one to get them back on track?
If any quarterback is going to do it, it’s likely to be Josh Allen. The Buffalo Bill threw for 4,407 yards on 63.3% completions with 36 touchdowns through the air. He was also second among quarterbacks with 763 yards rushing and six touchdowns.
Considering that the Bills’ offense is geared toward moving the ball through the air and also added Jamison Crowder and O.J. Howard to their pass-catching weapons this offseason, it’s entirely possible that Allen matches his 650 pass attempts from last year. If he’s able to put up 4,500 yards and 40 touchdowns through the air (both entirely possible) while also contributing 700+ rushing yards, it’s going to be hard to give the award to anybody else. Especially if the Bills have as good of a season as Vegas seems to expect they will.
Considering Allen’s odds for Offensive Player of the Year are currently +2400, a $100 bet could make you a profit of $2,400, which is pretty alluring.
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