Teams will begin reporting to training camps in about three weeks around the NFL, and among first-year players there are two early favorites on the NFL odds to win Defensive Rookie of the Year and they are both linebackers: The Dallas Cowboys’ Micah Parsons at +400 and the Washington Football Team’s Jamin Davis at +450. If Davis wins, it would be historic for the WFT.
Analysis | NFL Defensive Rookie Of The Year Odds
Believe it or not, the Cowboys have never had a Defensive Rookie of the Year, which is pretty hard to believe. Parsons, out of Penn State, was the No. 12 overall pick in this year’s draft, the first linebacker off the board.
The 6-foot-3, 245-pounder actually didn’t play last year for the Nittany Lions, choosing to opt-out and get into the best shape possible for the 2021 NFL Draft. As a sophomore in 2019, however, he was a first-team All-American, first-team All-Big Ten and won the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year in the conference. He was the first sophomore ever to do that. Parsons also was a finalist for the overall Butkus Award, which goes to the nation’s top linebacker.
That season, Parsons finished with 10 or more tackles in three straight games and six of the final seven games. He ranked fifth in the Big Ten averaging 8.4 tackles per game and was sixth in the nation and third in the Big Ten with 0.31 forced fumbles per game. That the Cotton Bowl to close his college career, Parsons had 13 tackles, two sacks, three pressures in 79 snaps (all career highs) as well as a forced fumble in a win over Memphis.
Dallas made a rare trade with rival Philadelphia, as the Cowboys sent the 10th pick to the Eagles for the No. 12 and a third-round pick. The Cowboys probably needed more help in the secondary than at linebacker and were eyeing cornerbacks Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II. But they were thwarted by the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos, who took Horn and Surtain, respectively, in the two slots before their initial selection.
First-year Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is revising the Cowboys’ scheme this season, a gameplan that will include a few “surprises”, notably Parsons lining up at various spots within the front seven. Because Parsons can get after the quarterback, he played some defensive end at OTAs.
“Just creating havoc, creating disruption,” Parsons said on end. “Being able to create that excitement, momentum change, a chance to get the ball out and get it back to our explosive offense. That’s kind of what I like about pass rushing.”
Could Washington have a Defensive Rookie of the Year for a second straight season? End Chase Young was the well-deserved 2020 winner after being the No. 2 overall pick out of Ohio State.
Davis was the No. 19 overall pick this year out of Kentucky. As a junior in 2020, Davis led the Cats in tackles (102) and was second in interceptions (3, one returned for a TD). He had eight career double-figure tackle games, all in 2020 and was the only player in the FBS in 2020 with at least 100 tackles and three interceptions. Davis also was one of just four SEC players to average 10 or more tackles per game in 2020 and became the first Wildcat with five-consecutive double-figure tackle games since Danny Trevathan, who had nine straight in 2010.
Davis only started one season in college but provides Washington speed, an attribute needed at the position. He can play inside and he can cover. There’s a risk because of his inexperience. The middle of the Washington defense was lacking going into the draft; Cole Holcomb is a solid player and Jon Bostic is fairly reliable, but that section of the defense was more often a weakness as opposed to a strength in 2020.
No team has ever had back-to-back Defensive Rookies of the Year. Other players below +1000 for this honor are Jaelan Phillips and Kwity Paye.
Phillips, an end, was the No. 18 overall pick out of the University of Miami by the Miami Dolphins. He was seen by many as the draft’s top edge rusher by many scouts because of his physical attributes, production in 2020 at Miami and his upside.
Paye, also an end, was the No. 21 pick by the Indianapolis Colts out of Michigan. The hope is that Paye will help make up for the departures of Denico Autry (7.5 sacks) and Justin Houston (8.0 sacks).