Shapiro's 2021 NFL futures picks: Najee Harris will win Rookie of the Year
With just more than a week until the Cowboys and Buccaneers kick off the 2021-2022 NFL season, there is time for one more futures discussion.
I focused on team achievements in the first two articles, but now it is time to look at a few of the many individual wagering opportunities available at TwinSpires Sportsbook.
Here are the wagers I have jumped on.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Najee Harris (+800)
Offensive Rookie of the Year 2021/2022
Sat, February 12 2022, 10:00 PM
It is no surprise that five first-year quarterbacks top the market for this award, since nine of the last 17 have gone to QBs, dating back to Ben Roethlisberger in 2004.
Trevor Lawrence, Mac Jones, and Zach Wilson will all begin the season as starters, while Justin Fields and Trey Lance are likely to get their chance a month or two into the campaign.
While I expect all five first-round selections to play relatively well, I am not convinced any of them will dazzle as much as former Alabama running back Najee Harris.
Harris has been thrown into a three-down role in Pittsburgh, where he should get plenty of check downs from Roethlisberger, in addition to 18-22 carries per game for a franchise dying to utilize a running back like it did with Le’Veon Bell a couple seasons ago.
Harris will be up against it if any of the first-year QBs play at a high level and lead their teams to successful seasons, but the 2020 Doak Walker Award winner is almost sure to have an immediate impact.
If Harris makes the most of his touches, he should be in the mix at a solid price in his first year under Mike Tomlin.
Coach of the Year: Kevin Stefanski (+1500)
Coach of the Year 2021/2022
Sat, February 12 2022, 10:00 PM
If you read my AFC preview, you know I am high on Cleveland’s chances to make a run in 2021.
The Browns roster is among the league’s best, especially if Baker Mayfield can continue to improve, but it is their second-year head coach Kevin Stefanski who could be the difference.
After years of shuffling through subpar coaches, Cleveland has finally found its man. The former Vikings assistant not only embraces the use of analytics as much as any head coach in the league, but he maximizes his roster from top to bottom.
In a wide-open betting market, Stefanski offers value for those of us who believe the Browns are legitimate contenders in the AFC.
Most receiving yards: Calvin Ridley (+800)
Most Receiving Yards 2021/2022
Sun, January 9 2022, 9:25 PM
The 26th selection in the 2018 NFL Draft broke out 2020.
The former Alabama star wideout was targeted 143 times in 15 games (9.6 per game, seventh in the NFL) by veteran quarterback Matt Ryan and posted career highs in receptions (90) and yards (1,374).
With future Hall of Famer Julio Jones now in Tennessee, Ridley has a huge shot to lead the league in targets, which is massive for this wager, considering he ranked first in "Average Depth of Target" among those who caught 60 balls or more in 2020.
The Falcons defense is again likely to struggle, which should force the offense into negative game scripts and plenty of second-half passing. Ridley is the one who will benefit most. He offers good value in a flat market.