2021 NFL Betting Preview

Matthew Durgin
Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) runs around Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Orlando Brown (78) during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)

Who wants to make some money? If you answered yes to that question, then today is your lucky day. If you followed my award futures last year, you would have won 3.25 units. Not bad. Here are my picks for the 2021 NFL Awards:

Defensive Rookie of the Year

2021 nfl betting
2021 NFL Betting: Kwity Paye will has a great situation to be able to get volume stats. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

My Pick: Kwity Paye +1000

Longshot to Consider: Caleb Farley +2200

This is a WIDE open race in my opinion. Micah Parsons is the favorite at +500, but linebackers haven’t done so well with this award as of late. Since 2013, only one linebacker has won this award (Darius Leonard in 2018). This is very different than 2000-2012 where a linebacker won DROY every year except for two. I like Paye here for two reasons. One is that he’s going to have a role on a talented defense that should give him plenty of opportunities to accumulate some sacks. The other is that the Colts have one of the weaker schedules in the league and should have a lot of leads in the fourth quarter, once again giving him chances to fill up the box score as a pass-rush specialist. I wouldn’t personally bet on Farley here because of his injury history, but if he’s healthy there’s a route for him to play major snaps on a team that needs secondary help.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

2021 nfl betting
2021 NFL Betting: Trevor Lawrence is the favorite for a reason

My Pick: Trevor Lawrence +250

Longshot to Consider: Kyle Pitts +1000

It took a lot for me to not go with Pitts here, but I took the easy way out by picking the favorite, Trevor Lawrence. He’s pro-ready and plays quarterback on a team that has a lot of good, young talent around him. Also, every AFC South team finished in the bottom half in passing defense in 2020 so it’s not like he’s going to face the 1985 Bears every week. I do worry a bit about how the Jaguars offense will operate in terms of play-calling, but Lawrence should get his opportunities to shine. I’ve gone on the record and said that Pitts is getting 800 yards receiving and 8 touchdowns this year. He’s more than just a tight end, he’s basically an oversized receiver in an offense that has an accurate passer in Matt Ryan. As long as he stays healthy, getting him at +1000 is going to be a steal by midseason.

Defensive Player of the Year

2021 nfl betting
2021 NFL Betting: Myles Garrett is on a good team and now has Clowney opposite him to free up more one-on-ones

My Pick: Myles Garrett +650

Longshot to Consider: Jalen Ramsey +3300

Aaron Donald is the favorite for this award (as he absolutely should be), but winning it four times in five years is unheard of. I think the stars are aligned for Myles Garrett to finally lead the league in sacks and take home the Defensive Player of the Year. The Browns are a good team and Myles has finished three straight seasons with over ten sacks. I worry about the fact that Garrett has only played a full season once in his four years, which is a problem that Donald and even T.J. Watt don’t have. While a defensive back has only won once in the last ten years, Ramsey is a solid choice too. He’s the best cornerback in the league and in his prime, but he needs to pump up his interception numbers to gain some serious consideration.

Offensive Player of the Year

Oct 13, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) throws Buffalo Bills cornerback Josh Norman (29) to the side from a stiff arm during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

My Pick: Derrick Henry +700

Longshot to Consider: Jonathan Taylor +2000

Determining who the best running back in the league is a tough discussion for most people, but I think it’s without a doubt Derrick Henry. He might not be the receiving option like Christian McCaffrey or Alvin Kamara, but man can this guy run hard with the rock in his hands. Usually running backs who’ve had as many carries as Henry start to physically wear down, but this man is built different. I fully expect him to lead the league in carries and in rushing yards once again, meaning that he should have a great chance to win this award. There’s a bunch of other options I like for this award like McCaffrey and Kamara, but take a look at Taylor as a longshot. He quietly finished third in the league in rushing in 2020 and should see a lot of carries this season in Indianapolis.

Comeback Player of the Year

2021 NFL Betting: Dak has the comeback story to go along with the talent

My Pick: Dak Prescott +175

Longshot to Consider: Carson Wentz +1000

Dak has the story and the potential to put up huge numbers, meaning that he is a great pick here. Sure, he’s the favorite by a wide margin but as history has shown, this award is about the story as much as it is about the stats. Coming off a gruesome leg injury, Dak should be fully ready to carry a high-scoring Cowboys offense like he did in the first few games of 2020. While there’s great value with guys like McCaffrey, Saquon, and Bosa (man did 2020 have way too many injuries), I want to keep an eye out for Wentz. He was horrendously bad last year, but enters a great situation where he reunites with Frank Reich. I’m not saying he’s going to have an MVP-quality season, but I’m optimistic in him to rebound from a nightmare 2020.

Coach of the Year

My Pick: Brandon Staley +1300

Longshot to Consider: Joe Judge +2000

Coaches who take their team from obscurity one year to the playoffs the next always have an advantage with this award. While Staley is a rookie head coach, he takes over a very talented Chargers team that has struggled to win close games over the past few years. If they are able to flip a few of those close losses into wins, they will find themselves comfortably in the playoffs. The talent is there, they just need a coach who knows how to press the right buttons. I almost took Joe Judge outright to win this award. The Giants have made a few nice offseason moves and Saquon Barkley will be back. Ultimately it comes down to getting Daniel Jones to play like a top 20 quarterback, which is a tall task. In a weak division, the Giants have a chance to make some noise and therefore gives Judge a chance.

MVP

My Pick: Josh Allen +1100

Longshot to Consider: Justin Herbert +2200

I love both Allen and Herbert at the odds they are currently at. Allen has improved every season and the Bills are expected to contend for a Super Bowl in 2021. If the Bills can climb atop of the AFC and Allen can push his touchdown total into the 40 range, then there’s no reason to expect him to not be in consideration.

On the other end, I am the conductor of the Justin Herbert hype train. What he did last year under tough circumstances was simply incredible. Also, two of the last three MVPs were quarterbacks in their second year and neither of those had as good of a rookie season as Herbert. Herbert is going to be special and I think we can expect a massive season from the young gunslinger.