Gone are the days of treating marquee rookies with kid gloves and having young quarterbacks hold clipboards for a few seasons.
NFL teams expect instant returns from most first-round draft picks, and here are sportsbetting.ag‘s top five players most likely to take home Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Kyler Murray, QB, Cardinals (5/2)
Arizona general manager Steve Keim answered with a resounding “yes” when asked Monday if he expects Murray to start Week 1. Opportunity is the first step toward racking up numbers as a rookie and while the Giants might take an Aaron Rodgers approach with No. 6 overall pick Daniel Jones, the Cardinals shipped Josh Rosen out of town, clearing the decks for the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.
Murray’s height and slight frame are the biggest questions about his ability to stay on the field in the NFL. And he might have had a better offensive line in front of him at Oklahoma than he’ll see out of the gates in Arizona. But the heavy odds are that he’ll start right away and he has enough weapons in the passing game — including security blanket David Johnson out of the backfield — to be productive early on.
Dwayne Haskins, QB, Redskins (7/1)
Haskins was a one-year starter for the Buckeyes, but it was an insanely productive one. There are questions about how he fared against elite defenses in 2018, but there isn’t much standing in his way of starting early on for the Redskins — if not in Week 1.
Alex Smith is recovering from a career-threatening leg injury and the other viable quarterbacks on the roster are veterans Case Keenum and Colt McCoy. One could keep the seat warm for a few weeks, but expect Haskins to get the nod if he shows the ability to pick up the playbook during OTAs and training camp.
Josh Jacobs, RB, Raiders (9/1)
New Raiders GM Mike Mayock targeted Jacobs as his Marshawn Lynch replacement shortly after taking the job. He believes the former Alabama star has the makings of a bruising and productive lead back. The Raiders do have veteran depth in Isaiah Crowell, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington.
None of them possess Jacobs’ explosiveness, and he should emerge as the go-to back immediately — at least on first and second downs. What remains to be seen is what Jacobs can contribute to the passing game, and whether he can block well enough to stay on the field on third down.
Marquise Brown, WR, Ravens (10/1)
The Ravens didn’t mess around securing more weaponry for second-year QB Lamar Jackson, using the 25th overall pick on Brown and a third-rounder on Miles Boykin. Brown didn’t run the 40-yard dash leading up to the draft while recovering from a Lisfranc injury, but he is arguably the most explosive rookie receiving threat.
If the undersized (5-9, 166-pound) Brown can beat NFL corners off the line, he has the acceleration and open-field running ability to be a serious home-run threat. And while Jackson may struggle to throw 10-yard out patterns, he is very adept at dropping vertical passes in the bread basket.
Mecole Hardman, WR, Chiefs (10/1)
Hardman is a promising athlete whom the Chiefs picked up out of Georgia in the second round. But make no mistake, these odds are a direct result of the expectation that the Chiefs will be forced to part ways with Tyreek Hill.
Like Hill, Hardman is an undersized (5-10, 187-pound) speed burner who runs a 4.3 40. He turned a lateral into a 30-yard sprint down the sideline last season. Sound like another versatile Chiefs threat you know? He has special acceleration and can also contribute in the return game. While Hardman is far from a polished prospect, coach Andy Reid has a playbook filled with gadget plays to get the ball in Hardman’s hands if Hill is out of the picture.
LONG SHOT PICK: D.K. Metcalf, WR, Seahawks (20/1)
The Seahawks were widely applauded for using the final pick of the second round on Metcalf, a physical freak of nature who many thought was a first-round talent. The bet here is he will either be a Pro Bowl regular or out of the league in three years — he has that type of boom-or-bust quality.
Metcalf is also entering a situation where he will be given every opportunity to prove he’s the former. Doug Baldwin reportedly might be forced to retire and the Seahawks lack imposing downfield weapons outside of Tyler Lockett. Quarterback Russell Wilson loves to throw it vertically, and he’ll find it enticing to take shots to a 6-3 target who sports an 82 7/8-inch wingspan to go with his 4.33-second speed.
–By Derek Harper (@DerekAHarper), Field Level Media