In 2017, the New Orleans Saints set a new standard for first-year player production when they struck gold with what could go down as the greatest draft class in NFL history. The Saints ended up landing four Pro Bowl caliber players (cornerback Marshon Lattimore, offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk, safety Marcus Williams, and running back Alvin Kamara), which elevated them from a borderline playoff team, to a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
There may not be a rookie class in 2018 that’s the same caliber as New Orleans’ 2017 group, but it’s a virtual guarantee that there will be several individual players that come in and play at an extremely high level. With that being said, here’s a look at the 2018 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year odds heading into the regular season.
Odds as of July 31, 2018 courtesy of Sportsbook.ag.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Miami Dolphins (+800)
Fitzpatrick was one of the most versatile defenders in the 2018 draft class, drawing several comparisons to Houston Texans All-Pro Tyrann Mathieu. If he proves to be anywhere near as talented as Mathieu, the former Alabama star will be tough to beat here.
Denzel Ward, CB, Cleveland Browns (+800)
The Browns shocked the rest of the league when they chose Ward over Bradley Chubb in the 2018 NFL Draft. The former Ohio State standout is on track to be a Week 1 starter, and he is going to be counted on to cover elite wide receivers on a near-weekly basis. If he is successful, he’ll be in the mix here when the season comes to an end.
Roquan Smith, LB, Chicago Bears (+500)
Pretty much everyone around the league is expecting big things from Smith in his rookie season. Unfortunately, the former Georgia Bulldog is in the midst of a lengthy holdout and has yet to make an appearance at Chicago’s training camp. Assuming his contract gets settled before the season opens, Smith will almost surely be a Week 1 starter for the Bears. And as a proved during his outstanding college career, the 2017 SEC Defensive Player of the Year is a flat-out playmaker.
Bradley Chubb, DE/OLB, Denver Broncos (+175)
As you can see, Chubb, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2018 draft, is the heavy favorite to take home the 2018 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. The former N.C. State star was widely considered to be the best defensive prospect in his draft class (by a fairly wide margin), and he has lived up to the hype during his first offseason and training camp as a pro.
Chubb will have the benefit of playing opposite of six-time All-Pro Von Miller, which should result in one-on-one pass rush situations on almost every passing down. Don’t be surprised if the 2017 ACC Defensive Player of the Year records a double-digit sack total as a rookie in 2018.
Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.
Other notable players to watch:
- Derwin James (+1000)
- Tremaine Edmunds (+1000)
- Marcus Davenport (+1200)
- Josh Jackson (+1400)
- Harold Landry (+1600)
- Jaire Alexander (+1600)
- Leighton Vander Esch (+2000)
- Rashaan Evans (+2200)
- Taven Bryan (+2500)
- Vita Vea (+2500)
- Darius Leonard (+3300)
- Derron Payne (+3300)
- Mike Hughes (+5000)
Follow Jimmie on Twitter: @jimmiekaylor.