Scramble for the Ball: 2020 Award and Stat Predictions

Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Andrew: Hello and welcome to Scramble for the Ball, where this week we're finalizing our list of starters. Unlike most teams around the league, our list of starters is the same every year, which means this week it's time to examine which of their starters is hotly tipped for success in the end-of-season awards.

Bryan: That's right -- this is the article each year our editors hate, if for no other reason than it features more tables than a Dudley Boyz ironman match. Sorry, Vince.

Andrew: I think Vince secretly likes editing tables. It's the only best explanation I can think of for why we're still writing this column.

Bryan: Oh, come now. We've already gone through the team-by-team predictions, it's only fair that we give the same level of attention to all the players who make up those teams, with our annual awards and stat leaders predictions, an article which has been so accurate in past seasons that we're back doing it again, rather than rolling in a big pile of money from our gambling winnings.

And by same level of attention, I mean "one article where we cram everything together," but y'know, semantics.

Andrew: If we separated them out, you reckon we could get paid twice, once for each half of the column? Not now that I've asked out loud, obviously, but in a hypothetical alternative universe where Aaron hadn't just read those words from me?

Bryan: Yeah, I think at that point, we'd be paid zero times, and they'd be looking for a new set of Scramblers, so moving on rapidly…

Andrew: Ah, moving on rapidly. That other thing we never, ever do.

Bryan: As a reminder, for each prop, we're picking three players. The first is the player we think is most likely to win the category, regardless of the odds given. The second is the player we think is the best bet -- the best value for your money. And our third is our favorite longshot; someone with long odds that we think could well end up surprising people, if the chips fall the right way.

Andrew: So not only do we get to be wrong, but we get to be wrong three times per category, each for completely different reasons!

Editors' Note: These lines fluctuate quite regularly, and can differ from site to site. All odds were correct as of time of writing.

Player Stat Props

Most Passing Yards

Passing Yards
Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Patrick Mahomes +350 Carson Wentz +2500 Drew Lock +5000
Matt Ryan +800 Cam Newton +2500 Gardner Minshew +5000
Dak Prescott +800 Aaron Rodgers +2800 Derek Carr +6000
Tom Brady +950 Baker Mayfield +3000 Josh Allen +6600
Jared Goff +1200 Daniel Jones +3000 Dwayne Haskins +6600
Matthew Stafford +1400 Jimmy Garoppolo +3300 Lamar Jackson +7500
Deshaun Watson +2000 Kirk Cousins +3300 Nick Foles +10000
Ben Roethlisberger +2000 Joe Burrow +3300 Jarrett Stidham +10000
Kyler Murray +2200 Sam Darnold +4000 Ryan Fitzpatrick +15000
Philip Rivers +2200 Ryan Tannehill +5000 Mitchell Trubisky +15000
Drew Brees +2500 Teddy Bridgewater +5000 Tyrod Taylor +15000
Russell Wilson +2500        

Bryan: I think we've entered an era where, for years and years, the answer for "favorite" for any passing category is going to be Patrick Mahomes. Locked down for the next decade with a contract extension the size of a small Pacific Island nation, Mahomes is probably the best pure passer in the league, with an offense designed to maximize his opportunities to throw the ball. He was only seventh in yards per game last season, as big leads do reduce your odds of throwing the ball a zillion times, but A) that includes the Denver game he left early with the knee injury, B) any slide by the defense means more Mahomes passing to watch, and C) I'm not exactly sure you can count on, say, Jameis Winston repeating his victory in the yards-per-game category. Call it a hunch.

Andrew: Agreed, for all the reasons you just gave. Mahomes is the obvious favorite, regardless of how much we expect the Chiefs to throttle back in the second half of games. However, those odds on him are terrible. Considering different quarterbacks have led the league in passing yards in each of the past four seasons, and Mahomes does not play with a defense quite as bad as the pre-Marshon Lattimore Saints that kept Drew Brees throwing over and over again in the first two-thirds of the decade, odds of 7-2 are awful.

For value, we want somebody who will have volume, with a coach who loves to pass, who has plenty of targets, and whose team we do not expect to be a contender sitting on leads throughout the second half. That points me toward the second tier of guys: I think Jared Goff's odds are laughably short at 12-1, but Matthew Stafford and Kyler Murray are very, very enticing. We've picked Stafford before for this, and will again, because he consistently racks up big yardage totals and the Lions consistently lose. If he's healthy, which he should be, I think his 14-1 represents the best value in at least the top 12.

Bryan: I'm going to make a pick here which even I'm not 100% sure I believe in, which is always a fun way to start an article. Most of these players have a pretty standard distribution of potential passing performance, barring injuries and so forth -- a pretty even spread over a thousand-yard range or so. But Tom Brady's probability chart feels like it would have two distinct peaks, with not much room in the middle. If he's washed, he's washed, and he's going to tumble way down the table. But he was seventh in this category a year ago with Heckle and Jeckle as his receiving corps. Give him arguably the best set of weapons in the league, with Bruce Arians' offensive philosophy, in a division which is likely to be shootout-heavy, in warmer weather and domes ... I mean, am I crazy? I mean, yes, I am, but am I crazy for this?

Andrew: You just picked a 43-year-old quarterback coming off the least efficient season of his 20-year career to not only outperform the combined total of all 43-year-old quarterbacks ever in the history of the sport, but to actually lead the league in passing yards. That is a very, very interesting definition of "value."

Bryan: Oh, DVOA has nothing to do with passing yards -- Jameis Winston led the league in yards last season with a DVOA of -9.0% for these same Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brady's cheaper than Matt Ryan or Dak Prescott, whom I would also consider more likely to lead the league than he is, so I mean, by that definition, he's valued. Plus, good to start the column with a pick that will ensure a 50-comment-long thread, right? Apprehendite Disputandum.

Andrew: If the odds were better, I might consider Brady as my longshot, but they aren't, and there's no way I'm considering him for anything at that price. "Longshot" is one of those lovely subjective terms -- at what exact point does somebody go from being good value to a longshot? -- but I think we can safely say that going almost to the opposite extreme makes somebody a longshot. As far as I'm aware, no rookie has ever led the league in passing yards, and I'm not about to anoint Joe Burrow here, but second-year players are not unheard of, and I've already mentioned how good I think the value is on last year's top overall pick. Give him a bunch of weapons, a tough division, a coach who loves to call pass plays, and 22-1 is good enough for me to put Kyler Murray down as my longshot.

Bryan: For my longshot pick, I'm going to slightly twist something you've already said -- someone with volume on a team that we do not expect to contend. That's why the Winstons and the Staffords of the world are good bets here. Well, there are few teams we expect to contend less than the Carolina Panthers, and I do believe they've significantly upgraded at quarterback over the dregs that were Kyle Allen and company. Teddy Bridgewater may excel at throwing the 2-yard pass, but if you throw a zillion of them, they do add up. I have to imagine he throws a bit deeper this year with Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel, and D.J. Moore as his targets, and the Panthers at least like to throw to their running backs quite a bit, which counts for this category. I mean, obviously, it's unlikely, but that's why it's a longshot!

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Patrick Mahomes (+350) Matthew Stafford (+1400) Kyler Murray (+2200)
Bryan Patrick Mahomes (+350) Tom Brady (+950) Teddy Bridgewater (+5000)

Most Passing Touchdowns

Passing Touchdowns
Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Patrick Mahomes +400 Aaron Rodgers +2000 Josh Allen +7000
Russell Wilson +800 Ben Roethlisberger +2000 Derek Carr +8000
Tom Brady +900 Daniel Jones +2500 Nick Foles +8000
Drew Brees +900 Kyler Murray +2500 Teddy Bridgewater +10000
Lamar Jackson +1400 Kirk Cousins +3300 Gardner Minshew +10000
Dak Prescott +1400 Jared Goff +3300 Dwayne Haskins +15000
Matt Ryan +1400 Baker Mayfield +3300 Tua Tagovailoa +15000
Deshaun Watson +1400 Cam Newton +4000 Mitchell Trubisky +15000
Carson Wentz +1400 Sam Darnold +5000 Ryan Fitzpatrick +20000
Matthew Stafford +1600 Ryan Tannehill +5000 Justin Herbert +20000
Jimmy Garoppolo +2000 Joe Burrow +6600 Tyrod Taylor +20000
Philip Rivers +2000 Drew Lock +6600    

Andrew: My colleague has already made the argument for Patrick Mahomes being favored to lead the league in every positive statistical category over the next 10 years. He probably won't end up actually doing so, but he's definitely the favorite. And yes, the odds are terrible again. The price of greatness.

Bryan: I, too, am on Mahomes, though I do enjoy looking at the differences in the two tables. Lamar Jackson goes from a +7500 passing-yard leader to a +1400 touchdown leader -- I love it. It's a great encapsulation of the Ravens' whole offensive philosophy, in monetary form. I'm still on Mahomes to beat Jackson, but little differences like that make my day.

Andrew: There's a similar effect for Russell Wilson, too, because the Seahawks' entire offensive philosophy appears to be to hide their best player until they suddenly need points.

Bryan: I'm stealing your best bet from the previous section and going with Matthew Stafford here, in part because the Lions love to throw, in part because Stafford really enjoyed Darrell Bevell's deep-ball offense last year, and in part because both D'Andre Swift and Kerryon Johnson are already banged up. If you don't have a healthy running back corps, you've gotta throw the ball! Stafford had a 6.5% touchdown rate last season, fourth-best in the league, so he's always in with a chance. The Lions drafted a first-round tight end last year, too, so maybe that will pay dividends now.

Andrew: Those guys do tend to show up more in their second season than their first, so that is a good shout. I'm also leaning on Stafford here; in fact, I'm picking the same 1-2-3, for basically the same reasons. Efficiency! That's Mahomes as favorite, Stafford as value, and Kyler Murray as my longshot.

Bryan: To complete our similar picks, I'll be leaning on Teddy Bridgewater as my longshot selection here, too -- I'm banking on the Panthers being an entertaining bad team, one that loses 40-20 instead of 40-0. I think Bridgewaer deserves a spot in the mid-four-digit odds, not the five-digit odds the big sites are giving him, so there's some potential value there, at the very least.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Patrick Mahomes (+400) Matthew Stafford (+1600) Kyler Murray (+2500)
Bryan Patrick Mahomes (+400) Matthew Stafford (+1600) Teddy Bridgewater (+10000)

Most Rushing Yards

Rushing Yards
Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Derrick Henry +750 Lamar Jackson +2500 Kareem Hunt +6500
Ezekiel Elliott +750 Todd Gurley +3300 Austin Ekeler +6600
Nick Chubb +800 Mark Ingram +3500 Damien Williams +6600
Saquon Barkley +850 LeVeon Bell +3500 Phillip Lindsay +7000
Christian McCaffrey +1100 David Johnson +3500 Kerryon Johnson +7000
Dalvin Cook +1200 Leonard Fournette +4000 Sony Michel +7500
Josh Jacobs +1400 Alvin Kamara +4000 Adrian Peterson +7500
Joe Mixon +1500 Melvin Gordon +5000 Jordan Howard +8000
Chris Carson +2000 James Connor +5000 Derrius Guice +8000
Miles Sanders +2000 David Montgomery +5000 Darrell Henderson +8500
Kenyan Drake +2500 Marlon Mack +5500 Latavius Murray +10000
Raheem Mostert +2500 Devin Singletary +6000 Ronald Jones +10000
Aaron Jones +2500        

Bryan: Vegas has co-favorites, and third and fourth place aren't that far behind, so this is an interesting category in which to pick a favorite. Derrick Henry led the league last season, and he saw his yards per game go from 73 to 137 when Ryan Tannehill entered the lineup. Running backs fluctuate from year to year, of course, and I'm not on Tannehill repeating his 2019 performance, but he's better than Mariota, and that improved offensive environment should help Henry out. Even if it's only, say, 100 yards a game, that would have led the league last year by a pretty significant margin. Plus, while I would be murdered attempting to tackle any NFL running back, getting in front of Henry would be the most likely move to completely atomize me, so you have to take that into account, as well.

Andrew: Here's where the logic from above switches a little for me. I'm looking for the guy whose team is most likely to be running out the clock, with a coach who loves to call rushing plays, in a division I expect them to lead. That's Ezekiel Elliott, who I believe was my pick last year too. I expect Mike McCarthy to lean more on Dak Prescott early than Jason Garrett did, and that should enable him to lean more on Elliott late. Joint-favorites, and we pick one each. That makes its own sense.

Bryan: I kind of like the strange logic behind "McCarthy trusts Prescott more, thus Elliott will run for more yards." It's a weird statement on its face, and yet the logic is impeccable.

For my best bet, I'll use that same logic for someone with more yards than Elliott had a year ago. If I'm right about the Panthers offense being better with Bridgewater under center, that means more opportunities for Christian McCaffrey to run the ball. He was third in the league in rushing yards last season as the only offensive weapon the Panthers could lean on; they were 31st in passing DVOA. Push that passing mark back towards average, force defenders to occasionally not line up in the box, and McCaffrey might see those rushing lanes open up.

Andrew: I find it rather unnerving that you chose this year to go all-in on the Panthers.

Bryan: As opposed to you doing it last year, which worked oh so well?

Andrew: Last year, they had a former MVP at quarterback. Of course, he's now a former Panthers player too, which tells you exactly how well that worked.

Value's a bit trickier when it comes to running backs, because most of those high-volume guys are at the top of the table. I consider it entirely possible for anybody in the top five of the table to lead the league in this category, and almost nobody else. Call me crazy, but value should mean you have a solid chance to win. Which means I'm simply picking the top-five guy with the best odds. Unfortunately, that's the same pick you just made: Christian McCaffrey.

Bryan: Last year, my longshot was James Conner, under the theory that the loss of Antonio Brown would force the Steelers to run the ball a bit more. That was before both Conner and Ben Roethlisberger got hurt, and the Pittsburgh offense became the Price is Right fail horn. Well, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and I was an English major. I'm going Conner again -- most of the people below him aren't three-down backs, while Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner has explicitly said that Conner is their three-down back. I'm selling the "best they ever had" comments as preseason jiggery-pokery, but buying Conner getting more work than, say, Benny Snell. With Roethlisberger back under center, I think you could do worse as a longshot.

Andrew: Longshot is the most interesting pick here, I'd say, because we can't justifiably call anybody who's a top-five pick a "longshot." That forces us further down the table, where at the time of writing there were two standout names: Conner and Leonard Fournette. That might have been a tough choice, as Fournette has been a workhorse back in Jacksonville and Jay Gruden would quite happily have run him into the ground in the final year of his contract. However, the Jaguars waived Fournette on Monday morning, so I guess that means I'll have to join you in picking James Conner.

Bryan: I still think you should have stuck with your Fournette pick from Sunday afternoon. Honestly, leaving the Jaguars might improve his odds, if you can get over the slight hiccup of him being currently unemployed.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Ezekiel Elliott (+750) Christian McCaffrey (+1100) James Connor (+5000)
Bryan Derrick Henry (+750) Christian McCaffrey (+1100) James Connor (+5000)

Most Rushing Touchdowns

Rushing Touchdowns
Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Derrick Henry +500 Kenyan Drake +2200 Miles Sanders +3300
Aaron Jones +700 Chris Carson +2500 Cam Akers +5000
Saquon Barkley +900 Todd Gurley +2500 Le"Veon Bell +5000
Ezekiel Elliott +1000 Mark Ingram +2500 Leonard Fournette +5000
Christian McCaffrey +1000 Jonathan Taylor +2500 Jordan Howard +5000
Nick Chubb +1100 Melvin Gordon +3000 Marlon Mack +5000
Dalvin Cook +1200 Lamar Jackson +3000 David Montgomery +5000
Raheem Mostert +1400 Joe Mixon +3000 Devin Singletary +6000
Clyde Edwards-Helaire +2000 James Connor +3300 D'Andre Swift +6000
Josh Jacobs +2000 David Johnson +3300 Austin Ekeler +6600
Alvin Kamara +2000 Ronald Jones +3300 Ke'Shawn Vaughn +6600

Andrew: Similar to the quarterback odds we already discussed, I love that Clyde Edwards-Helaire wasn't even on the yardage leaders board, but here he is (jointly) in the top 10 of the touchdown odds. Again, it says so much about the offensive approach of the Chiefs.

Bryan: Edwards-Helaire's yardage total falls into the "others available upon request" category, which is Vegas speak for "sure, give us your money, I guess. We'll take good care of it."

Andrew: I feel much the same way about betting for him on the touchdown board. Again, this comes down to opportunities and philosophy. Derrick Henry's team is the one most likely to pummel him into a wall of defenders four times on goal-to-go, that's why his odds are the shortest, and that's why he's my favorite. Red zone regression is coming for the Titans this season, but he'll get his share.

Bryan: My favorite is Christian McCaffrey, one off the league lead last year in a much more deficient offense. And I promise that will be the second-to-last time I mention a Carolina Panthers player in this year's article; even I'm surprised I'm leaning on them so much.

Andrew: McCaffrey's my value pick, again as the best odds in the top five. When the Panthers get to the red zone, he's the guy they'll lean on. I just reckon they'll get there less often than the Titans do.

Bryan: A totally fair and probably correct assumption. I just figure that after giving him a massive contract, the Panthers' offense will flow through CMC. And, speaking of running backs wanting a massive contract, it's my value pick, Dalvin Cook. Cook was fourth last year in rushing touchdowns, behind Henry, CMC, and Aaron Jones, and he did it while missing two games. The Vikings will likely have to lean on their running game a bit more with Stefon Diggs gone, and Cook has every reason to try to rack up huge numbers to grab the next ill-thought-out running back deal. Gary Kubiak has never met a running back he doesn't like, and his running games have always been more well-thought-out than Kevin Stefanski's "plow 'em into the line" philosophy. Also, unlike my pick a few years ago, Le'Veon, Cook looks like he will in fact play this season, which is always a plus in your attempt to lead the league in a category.

Andrew: As for longshots, again I'm repeating my earlier pick. An improved Steelers offense should see the red zone far more often than last season, and Roethlisberger's decline improves the chances of James Conner seeing a significant proportion of that workload.

Bryan: Last season, Todd Gurley was both my favorite and best bet, and, woah, did that not ever work out, holy cow. This year, he falls down to just the longshot role of "hey, he was good once!" on an offense that says they'll try to give him 15 to 25 touches a game. If there's anything left of 2018 Todd Gurley, maybe Atlanta will bring it out.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Derrick Henry (+500) Christian McCaffrey (+1000) James Connor (+3300)
Bryan Christian McCaffrey (+1000) Dalvin Cook (+1200) Todd Gurley (+2500)

Most Receiving Yards

Receiving Yards
Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Michael Thomas +375 Cooper Kupp +3000 Brandin Cooks +6000
Julio Jones +850 Courtland Sutton +3000 Jarvis Landry +6600
Davante Adams +1000 Keenan Allen +3300 Marquise Brown +6600
Tyreek Hill +1400 Allen Robinson +3300 Zach Ertz +7000
DeAndre Hopkins +1600 D.K. Metcalf +3500 Emmanuel Sanders +8000
Chris Godwin +1600 George Kittle +3500 Sterling Shepard +8000
Mike Evans +1600 Travis Kelce +3500 Alshon Jeffrey +8000
JuJu Smith Schuster +1600 Will Fuller +3500 Darren Waller +8000
Odell Beckham Jr +1800 AJ Green +3500 Golden Tate +8000
Adam Thielen +1800 AJ Brown +4000 Julian Edelman +8000
Kenny Golladay +1800 Tyler Lockett +4000 Larry Fitzgerald +8000
Calvin Ridley +1800 Stefon Diggs +4500 Sammy Watkins +8000
Amari Cooper +2200 Deebo Samuel +5000 Tyler Boyd +8000
DeVante Parker +2500 DJ Chark +5000 Mike Williams +10000
DJ Moore +2800 Robert Woods +5000 Tyrell Williams +10000
TY Hilton +3000        

Bryan: I have an argument against Michael Thomas as the prohibitive favorite. Of all the top names, he's the one most reliant on volume -- he has the highest percentage of short and intermediate receptions, partially due to his skill set, and partially due to the Saints' offensive designs. With the addition of Emmanuel Sanders, Thomas should see his targets drop, at least a little. Is that enough to make up an over 300-yard gap between him and last year's second-place finisher? I think it might be, so I'm going with Julio Jones in a category (and, increasingly, an article) that feels very NFC South-focused.

Andrew: That is a reasonable argument. I don't think it'll be enough to make up a 300-yard gap though. Michael Thomas absorbs too high a target share, with a quarterback who is willing to feed him the ball constantly. He'll lead the league in targets and catches, and that will be enough to take home the yardage crown too.

The value pick is more interesting, because Thomas' odds are a little too short. Jones is better value, but I'd still be looking for a little more from a win here. The value I like is Adam Thielen; in the absence of Stefon Diggs, he has the chance to be for Kirk Cousins what Thomas has been for Drew Brees in the past three years -- just a constant vacuum for pass targets.

Bryan: I had a plan for my best value pick. I was going to take whichever Tampa Bay receiver had the longest odds -- and then Vegas goes ahead and puts Chris Godwin and Mike Evans side by side. Great. They were No. 2 and 4 in receiving yards per game a year ago (with Thomas and Jones rounding out the quartet -- see what I mean about the NFC South focus?), so assuming both are healthy, it's really a coin flip as to which one will be the team-, and therefore potentially the league-, leader. Evans has the longer track record, Godwin's arguably on the greater upward trajectory. Screw it, I'm going to actually flip a coin. Evans it is.

My longshot has to get out of the NFC South, just for the sake of variety. I'm looking at the receiving yards per game leaders from a year ago, and Robert Woods just squeaked into tenth place. Brandin Cooks is gone, so that should give Woods a larger piece of the offense -- a fast-paced offense, at that. I'll take the flier on Woods, and not Cooper Kupp, benefiting the most from too few Cooks spoiling the target volume.

Andrew: My longshot's hitting a lot close to your home, and the reasoning is very similar to my previous picks. San Francisco struggle badly enough to acquire receivers without them all getting hurt too, and there's a solid chance that the one trusted, relative veteran target on the field for them this season could be tight end George Kittle. Kittle's due a ton of regression on a per-target basis, but volume counts for even more than efficiency here and he's in a great spot to get the volume.

Bryan: You do love picking a tight end as your longshot pick here, don't you? You took Travis Kelce last year!

Andrew: It's a silly pick, because not even Tony Gonzalez ever led the league in receiving yards as a tight end, but it's a longshot, dangit. One year. ONE YEAR.

Bryan: It's a silly pick because all the wideout injuries will mean Kyle Shanahan busts out a 41 formation for the first time in decades: Kyle Juszczyk and Raheem Mostert in the backfield, Tevin Coleman and Jerrick McKinnon split out wide, Kittle at tight end. And Jimmy G will still find a way to throw an interception to a linebacker who apparently has the ability to turn invisible, as far as he's concerned.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Michael Thomas (+375) Adam Thielen (+1800) George Kittle (+3500)
Bryan Julio Jones (+850) Mike Evans (+1600) Robert Woods (+5000)

Most Receiving Touchdowns

Receiving Touchdowns
Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Travis Kelce +1100 A.J. Brown +3300 Henry Ruggs +6600
Michael Thomas +1200 Marquise Brown +3300 DJ Chark +8000
Davante Adams +1400 Zach Ertz +3300 Jerry Jeudy +8000
Tyreek Hill +1400 Marvin Jones +3300 CeeDee Lamb +8000
Mike Evans +1600 JuJu Smith-Schuster +3300 Jalen Reagor +8000
Chris Godwin +1600 Michael Gallup +4000 Robert Woods +8000
Mark Andrews +2500 T.Y. Hilton +4000 Julian Edelman +10000
Kenny Golladay +2500 Cooper Kupp +4000 Evan Engram +10000
DeAndre Hopkins +2500 Jarvis Landry +4000 DeSean Jackson +10000
Julio Jones +2500 Allen Robinson +4000 Justin Jefferson +10000
George Kittle +2500 Keenan Allen +5000 Christian McCaffrey +10000
Amari Cooper +2800 Brandin Cooks +5000 D.J. Moore +10000
Calvin Ridley +2800 Stefon Diggs +6000 Deebo Samuel +10000
Odell Beckham Jr +3000 Terry McLaurin +6000 Darius Slayton +10000
Tyler Lockett +3000 Sterling Shepard +6000 Golden Tate +10000
D.K. Metcalf +3000 Darren Waller +6000 Tyler Boyd +15000
Courtland Sutton +3000 Jamison Crowder +6600 Austin Ekeler +15000
Adam Thielen +3000 DeVante Parker +6600    

Bryan: Am I missing something? Kenny Golladay led the league last year -- admittedly with only 11, so it wasn't a super high-level competition, but still. Golladay spent half the year with guys from the local Y throwing him the ball, and now he gets Matthew Stafford back. I'm not saying it should be a runaway choice or anything, but +2500 seems ... I mean, terribly bad. For the first time in this article, I'm doing the lame copout of picking one guy as both my favorite and the best value. Give me Babytron.

Maybe I've just gone insane from watching too many Lions games this offseason. It's a real possibility.

Andrew: Who wouldn't, really? My favorite is the one established target of a quarterback who received a ton of extra prove-it motivation this offseason. I'm not entirely sure why I didn't pick Davante Adams to finish higher in the yardage stakes this year, but I do think he'll bring in a lot of scores as Aaron Rodgers looks to prove a point to his current (and soon to be former?) organization. My value pick is Adam Thielen, for the reasons I detailed above.

Bryan: My longshot pick is a case of long-deferred vindication. I was big on DeVante Parker in the 2015 draft -- I had him as a top-10 value in a draft I felt was loaded with receiver talent. That, uh, hasn't really worked out; Parker has spent much of the first few years of his career not remotely living up to expectations. But hey, with Adam Gase gone, all of a sudden he snapped to life last season, catching nine touchdowns and doubling his career totals! Also, with both Allen Hurns and Albert Wilson being COVID-19 opt-outs, the Miami receiving corps is particularly bare. I don't think Parker will keep up the touchdown-per-game pace he had over the last five weeks of 2019, but at 66-to-1, he's worth gambling on.

Andrew: My longshot is so long, he's not on the board, so he falls afoul of our "give free money to Vegas" rule. Instead, I'm going to be marginally more sane and pick Stefon Diggs as the recipient of a couple of Josh Allen bombs (and the target of many, many more) per game.

Bryan: Out of curiosity, who is your insane longshot longshot?

Andrew: He's a rookie, so we'll get to him later.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Davante Adams (+1400) Adam Thielen (+3000) Stefon Diggs (+6000)
Bryan Kenny Golladay (+2500) Kenny Golladay (+2500) DeVante Parker (+6600)

Award Props

Most Valuable Player

Most Valuable Player
Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Patrick Mahomes +400 Baker Mayfield +3500 Ezekiel Elliott +7700
Lamar Jackson +750 Ben Roethlisberger +3500 Jarrett Stidham +7700
Russell Wilson +850 Christian McCaffrey +3500 Kirk Cousins +7700
Tom Brady +1200 Jimmy Garoppolo +3500 Ryan Tannehill +7700
Dak Prescott +1400 Matt Ryan +3500 Aaron Donald +9900
Kyler Murray +1400 Matthew Stafford +4400 Jameis Winston +9900
Cam Newton +1500 Philip Rivers +4400 Gardner Minshew +10000
Carson Wentz +1800 Derrick Henry +5000 J.J. Watt +10000
Aaron Rodgers +2200 Jared Goff +5500 Khalil Mack +10000
Deshaun Watson +2200 Saquon Barkley +5500 Nick Bosa +10000
Josh Allen +2200 Daniel Jones +6600 Joe Burrow +15000
Drew Brees +2500 Dalvin Cook +7700 Leonard Fournette +25000
Drew Lock +3000        

Bryan: Just rename this the "best quarterback" award. Just one of the last 13 winners here was a running back, and it took Adrian Peterson running for 2,000 yards in 2012 to claw his way through the quarterback wall. I don't expect that to change any time soon. Once again, it's an award for quarterbacks, so Patrick Mahomes is your favorite by default -- all due respect to the reigning champ in Lamar Jackson, of course.

Andrew: Mahomes is the clear favorite, but the value conversation is more interesting. I wouldn't say either Mahomes or Jackson have great value as recent winners, and Tom Brady as MVP at 43 years old is a proposition so ludicrous it could only possibly occur in this thrice-cursed mess of a year. Cam Newton looked capital-D Done the last time we saw him on a field, Russell Wilson's team actively tries to purge him from their base offense, and Carson Wentz has an unfortunate tendency to miss time with injuries. That puts the value conversation between Dak Prescott and Kyler Murray, which just feels nonsensically wrong. I'm going to step one rung lower, therefore, and pick Aaron Rodgers. The offseason headlines around Rodgers have concerned the Packers' record last season being a mirage, the team drafting his replacement, and the motivation that might provide this year. That means the sportswriter narrative is already written for his coronation. He's an established star and the most likely of the "old guard" to be considered the man responsible for any team success. He's not Aaron Freaking Rodgers anymore, but he won't have to be for people to give him their MVP votes.

Bryan: That's assuming that the decline of Rodgers over the last four years isn't real, or that it will be reversed this season, which I find ... dubious, I'll admit. I've been wrong before -- oh lord, have I been wrong before -- but I just don't see it. Instead, I'll double down on my best value pick from last year and go with Drew Brees, because I'm going more and more all-in on the Saints this season, as the 49ers are rocked with receiver injuries, the Seahawks' pass rush is questionable, the Packers look set to decline… The Saints missed out on a bye week last season due to the incredible strength atop the NFC, but they might well pick it up this year, despite one less spot on offer. Plus, it'd be a nice consolation prize for the dude who was jobbed out of a spot on the All-Decade team.

Andrew: Brees would have been my alternative choice, but I don't see how a group that hasn't given him the award for any of his previous great seasons will give him the award this year.

Bryan: Lifetime achievement award! Lifetime achievement award!

Andrew: My longshot's between two Matts: Stafford, who we've already discussed repeatedly, and one of my traditional favorite longshots, Matt Ryan. Both play on franchises who've underachieved the past few seasons, with coaches in win-or-bust mode. What swings it for me is the relative chances of a division crown. I don't really see how the Falcons win the NFC South this year, absent something catastrophic in New Orleans (wouldn't be the first time, sigh). I can see a path to the Lions winning the North, even if it largely entails the head coach getting out of the team's way. I think Ryan's supporting cast is generally regarded more highly than Stafford's, which is another point in Stafford's favor. Neither is likely, but that's why it's a longshot.

Bryan: In that case, I'll be the one grabbing Ryan in this Matt-chup. The general consensus is so high on the Saints and Buccaneers that if the Falcons do come out on top of the heap, there'll be plenty of people who want to fling some gaudy trophies in that sort of direction, and quarterback takes priority.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Patrick Mahomes (+400) Aaron Rodgers (+2200) Matthew Stafford (+4400)
Bryan Patrick Mahomes (+400) Drew Brees (+2500) Matt Ryan (+3500)

Coach of the Year

Coach of the Year
Coach Odds   Coach Odds   Coach Odds
Bill Belichick +1000 Mike Vrabel +2200 Matt Nagy +3300
Bruce Arians +1000 Mike Tomlin +2500 Dan Quinn +3500
Mike McCarthy +1300 Sean McVay +2500 Ron Rivera +3500
Kevin Stefanski +1400 Sean Payton +2500 Matt Rhule +4000
Kliff Kingsbury +1500 Vic Fangio +2500 Bill O'Brien +4000
Kyle Shanahan +1600 Doug Pederson +2600 Joe Judge +4000
Frank Reich +1700 Mike Zimmer +2800 Jon Gruden +4000
Sean McDermott +1800 Anthony Lynn +3000 Matt Patricia +4000
Andy Reid +1900 Matt LaFleur +3000 Adam Gase +5000
Brian Flores +1900 Pete Carroll +3000 Doug Marrone +5000
John Harbaugh +2000 Zac Taylor +3000    

Bryan: Alright, if the Patriots are good this year, and Bill Belchick does not win the award, we can just accept that he's forever ineligible, right? Raised on a dais above mere yearly awards; the obvious choice that everyone nods and accepts and moves on from. If the Patriots are, say, a 10-win team after losing their Hall of Fame quarterback, he has to win, right?

Andrew: Ten, maybe. Eleven, surely. Twelve, definitely. Considering all the COVID opt-outs and other storylines, Belichick is the clear favorite if his team has any kind of successful season. He has the ability, the narrative, and the history to back it up.

Bryan: And I think even then voters will look to go another way, because they're crazy like that. Instead, I'm going with the usual lazy "team with the biggest win change from 2019 to 2020" methodology and saying the favorite will be Bruce Arians. Remember, he was the favorite a year ago too for … some reason, and the media really likes him. If the Bucs topple the Saints, I think Arians comes away with the title regardless of what Darth Hoodie pulls off up north.

And my best value bet is Sean Payton, in case Arians and company do not pull it off. Payton being in the middle of the second column feels awfully low to me, in what's a particularly tough category to parse at times. Really, Brian Flores is more likely to win this thing? It requires a team with a winning record, and while if the Dolphins DO have a winning record it's the sign of some kind of miracle, the odds of that seem way lower than the Saints storming through the league.

Andrew: Payton suffers from the same ailment as Reid, Harbaugh, et al. They've had too much recent success, so they don't have much room to overachieve what people expect of their teams. This is a category where the voters look for the latest and greatest, not a top team that sustains their level.

Rather than the former Cardinals coach in Arians, the value pick for me is the current Cardinals coach. That squad is well configured to be a big surprise in the NFC, and the Cardinals going from the No. 1 pick to the playoffs in two seasons, given where the roster was a year ago, would be enough to push votes the way of Kliff Kingsbury. He's young, he's innovative, he's affable, and his team would be considered surprise contenders-slash-overachievers, which always counts heavily in this specific category. I'd like Kingsbury better as an outsider than a value pick, but the value looks set to be here.

Bryan: For my longshot pick, I'm going to pull a Football Outsiders Almanac special and repeat my projection from last year, when I wrote the following:

But if you want a longshot? I'll give you a longshot. Go all the way down to the bottom of the table ... wait, no, that's one too far. Come back up, there you go, to Matt. Freaking. Patricia. 50-to-1 underdog! But we give the Lions the second-best chance of winning the NFC North, something most of the media world doesn't believe has a chance in hell of happening. If the Lions do take home a division crown, the sheer shock of it could give Patricia votes.

Change "one too far" to "two too far," change "50-to-1" to "40-to-1," and change "second-best chance" to "best chance," and the argument stands as written, though the media is slightly less doubtful this year.

Andrew: I hope you realize that every single Lions fan who is reading this article just called you a rude name.

Bryan: If it's just Lions fans, then I'm having a better-than-usual day.

Andrew: It's not, but their names are probably ruder than average.

My longshot isn't that long a shot, but we've mentioned already in other articles that if anybody else is to challenge Kansas City and Baltimore in the AFC, it may well be another team from Baltimore's own division. The Steelers struggled mightily without their franchise quarterback a year ago, but have built one of the league's best defenses in his absence. If Lamar Jackson comes down a little from his MVP heights, and Ben Roethlisberger is still anything like the quarterback he was two seasons ago, Pittsburgh could be a relative surprise contender, Roethlisberger the Comeback Player of the Year, and Mike Tomlin the Coach of the Year.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Bill Belichick (+1000) Kliff Kingsbury (+1500) Mike Tomlin (+2500)
Bryan Bruce Arians (+1000) Sean Payton (+2500) Matt Patricia (+4000)

First Coach to Lose Job

First Coach to Lose Job
Coach Odds   Coach Odds   Coach Odds
Matt Patricia +350 Mike Zimmer +3300 Frank Reich +5000
Doug Marrone +450 Joe Judge +4000 Andy Reid +5000
Adam Gase +550 Kliff Kingsbury +4000 Ron Rivera +5000
Dan Quinn +1000 Bill Belichick +5000 Kevin Stefanski +5000
Bill O'Brien +1100 Pete Carroll +5000 Mike Tomlin +5000
Anthony Lynn +2500 Jon Gruden +5000 Sean McDermott +6600
Matt Nagy +2500 John Harbaugh +5000 Sean McVay +6600
Zak Taylor +3000 Matt LaFleur +5000 Matt Rhule +6600
Bruce Arians +3300 Mike McCarthy +5000 Mike Vrabel +6600
Vic Fangio +3300 Sean Payton +5000 Kyle Shanahan +10000
Brian Flores +3300 Doug Pederson +5000    

Bryan: I need to clarify here that this is technically "first coach to leave their position." Being fired counts, but so does retirement. It would not count if, say, Ron Rivera has to miss a few games due to chemotherapy. No interim coaches here!

Andrew: The easy money here is in north Florida. Sure, there's no Wembley game after which to carry out the traditional firing, but this team has been on a downward trajectory since 2017, the front office traded away most of their best players, and the coach is in the final year of his contract. This looks primed for a total reboot in 2021, under a completely different staff. They even hired the perfect interim head coach as offensive coordinator this offseason. Doug Marrone is the clear and obvious choice, even ahead of the famed Detroit Rocket Scientist himself.

Bryan: I'm with you -- especially if the Lions are even in a whisper of contention, the Jags are much more likely to make a mid-season switch than Detroit is. Plus, as we were writing this, news that they finally finalized the Yannick Ngakoue trade came down the wire, so there are some pretty clear tanking vibes coming out of the swamps. Marrone's my pick, too.

But the Jags have no expectations. The Texans have some expectations, which is a greater amount. That leaves more room for disappointment and frustration. Bill O'Brien is now the only man in charge in Houston, which is a double-edged sword. It makes it harder to fire him, because firing both your coach and general manager signals a complete rebuild, and this was a playoff team in 2019. On the other hand, it also means there is no one else to blame if things do go south. If the Texans fail to win the division, after some of the harebrained moves O'Brien the GM has made, I could see Janice McNair feel like she has no other choice than to burn it down and start over.

Andrew: My value pick is another team that has some expectations, even if that expectation is that they improve in the second half of the season. In 2020, Atlanta's schedule looks very back-heavy, which is to say that if they struggle in the first half, this could be a very tough year. The bye is in Week 10, which is late enough that we'll have a clear idea of who the team is. If it's not what Arthur Blank hopes, there's incentive for him to cut bait early and avoid the late-season surges that have clouded his vision over the past couple of winters. That would mean Dan Quinn finally getting the chop we've been expecting to see for a couple of years now.

Bryan: One good way to find potential candidates for this category is to look for coaches who fit three key criteria. First, they're entering at least their third season with a team, so there's less room for "well, give them time!" explanations for poor performance. Secondly, they did not make the playoffs in the previous season, so there are no "well, this was a one-year blip" excuses to make. Thirdly, they have a clear path to double-digit losses, so there is no "well, it wasn't that bad" get-out clause. A coach who I think fits all three criteria is one Jon David Gruden, who hasn't had a division title or playoff berth since 2007. He did push the Raiders from 4-12 to 7-9 last season, but you don't raise banners for 7-9. I have no faith in the Raiders' long-term plan under Gruden, and another bad season might just convince Mark Davis of the same. For the second year in a row, Gruden's my longshot.

Andrew: I've picked Gruden here before, but not this year. At least, not as the first coach to leave their job. He has the relocation excuse, and I doubt they fire him mid-year no matter how bad it might get. If he goes, it'll be on Black Monday. Similarly, if Bruce Arians retires, it'll be after the season and somebody else will go first. My longshot is Matt Nagy, as the coach whose firing I consider reasonably likely, but who doesn't have any of the excuses -- rookie quarterback, rebuilding, "better than when I took over" -- that might usually buy a coach time. If the Bears offense flames out again and they're bottom of a division that isn't considered especially strong, they may well finish out the season under the experienced oversight of Chuck Pagano.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Doug Marrone (+450) Dan Quinn (+1000) Matt Nagy (+2500)
Bryan Doug Marrone (+450) Bill O'Brien (+1100) Jon Gruden (+5000)

Offensive Player of the Year

Offensive Player of the Year
Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Patrick Mahomes +400 Travis Kelce +6000 Austin Ekeler +9500
Lamar Jackson +950 Matthew Stafford +6000 James Conner +9500
Christian McCaffrey +1400 Alvin Kamara +6500 George Kittle +9500
Saquon Barkley +1400 Mike Evans +6500 Chris Carson +9500
Russell Wilson +1600 Matt Ryan +7000 Melvin Gordon +9500
Kyler Murray +1600 Davante Adams +7500 Jared Goff +9500
Michael Thomas +1800 Josh Allen +7500 Philip Rivers +10000
Dak Prescott +1800 Jimmy Garoppolo +7500 Joe Mixon +10000
Tom Brady +2000 Amari Cooper +7500 JuJu Smith-Schuster +10000
Cam Newton +2500 Tyreek Hill +7500 Zach Ertz +10000
Derrick Henry +2800 Baker Mayfield +8000 D.J. Moore +10000
Deshaun Watson +2800 Joe Burrow +8000 Allen Robinson +12500
Drew Brees +3000 Miles Sanders +8000 Keenan Allen +12500
Ezekiel Elliot +3000 Kirk Cousins +8500 Courtland Sutton +12500
Dalvin Cook +3500 Marlon Mack +8500 T.Y. Hilton +12500
Nick Chubb +3500 Kenyan Drake +8500 Le'Veon Bell +12500
Aaron Rodgers +4500 Ben Roethlisberger +8500 Sam Darnold +12500
Aaron Jones +4500 Todd Gurley +8500 Teddy Bridgewater +15000
Carson Wentz +5000 Ryan Tannehill +8500 DeVante Parker +15000
DeAndre Hopkins +5000 Mark Ingram +9000 A.J. Green +15000
Chris Godwin +5000 Odell Beckham Jr. +9000 Kenny Golladay +15000
Julio Jones +5500 Cooper Kupp +9000 Calvin Ridley +15000
Josh Jacobs +5500 Raheem Mostert +9000 Terry McLaurin +15000

Bryan: Hey! Someone offered actual odds this year! That's a change -- we've included this award every year we've done this, but never have had actual odds to work from. Gotta gamble on something, I suppose!

Andrew: This really ought to be "non-quarterback MVP," as we say every year, even though it doesn't ever work that way.

Bryan: In recent years, there has been about a 50/50 split in giving the award to the best non-quarterback (Michael Thomas, Todd Gurley, DeMarco Murray), or just doubling up the MVP award and making this one comparatively meaningless. And then there was the weird 2011 year, where Aaron Rodgers was the MVP but Drew Brees the Offensive Player of the Year somehow, as if that makes a lick of sense? Brees has somehow been OPOY twice while never winning MVP? I think the voters just hate Drew Brees.

Andrew: I'm going to stay away from quarterbacks, because we've covered them so extensively already. That makes Christian McCaffrey my clear non-QB favorite, as the most effective dual-threat runner/receiver in the game.

Bryan: Yeah, McCaffrey is my pick too, and that's the last time I mention a Carolina Panthers player in this week's column. My best bet goes to last year's winner, Michael Thomas, because if I'm wrong, and the Saints hit him with as much volume as he had last season, he's going to run away with all the statistical categories once again, and the receptions/yardage/touchdown triple crown is too much to pass up.

Andrew: For me, this is where the Sanders thing comes into play for Thomas. Thomas' volume stats may drop a bit, as you noted, and I doubt they'd give a player this award for being less important to his team than he was last season. (Yes, I get that's a risk for McCaffrey too.) The receiver I think could have an impact here probably has longshot rather than value odds, so I'm going to stick him in as a longshot. If the Cardinals offense is significantly better than last year, DeAndre Hopkins is going to get a lot of the credit. If he leads that team in yards, OPOY votes may well follow.

It's boring, but my value pick is another running back. If the Titans offense is good this year, people are going to claim over and over again that Derrick Henry is the reason why. Yardage and touchdown totals near the league lead coupled with a playoff Titans team would have a lot of people looking at Henry here. That's an entirely realistic scenario.

Bryan: My longshot is Travis Kelce, who has every reason to try to reclaim the title of best tight end in football from George Kittle. Never mind that the two essentially play different positions; the argument as to which one is better is likely going to swing back and forth for the next few seasons. Kelce is the most established weapon the Chiefs have, and the least likely to see any sort of decline in 2020. If other aspects of the Chiefs' offense flounder for some reason, we could see Kelce once again shouldering a massive quantity of targets -- and he's more than capable of handling it.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Christian McCaffrey (+1400) Derrick Henry (+2800) DeAndre Hopkins (+5000)
Bryan Christian McCaffrey (+1400) Michael Thomas (+1800) Travis Kelce (+6000)

Defensive Player of the Year

Defensive Player of the Year
Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Aaron Donald +700 Bobby Wagner +3300 Za'Darius Smith +5000
Nick Bosa +850 Darius Leonard +3300 Byron Jones +6000
Khalil Mack +1100 Demarcus Lawrence +3300 Preston Smith +6000
Myles Garrett +1200 Shaquil Barrett +3300 Richard Sherman +6000
J.J. Watt +1300 Tre'Davious White +3300 Deion Jones +6600
T.J. Watt +1300 Bradley Chubb +4000 Eric Kendricks +6600
Chandler Jones +2000 Cameron Jordan +4000 Marcus Davenport +6600
Derwin James +2000 DeForest Buckner +4000 Marshon Lattimore +6600
Joey Bosa +2000 Jalen Ramsey +4000 Melvin Ingram +6600
Stephen Gilmore +2000 Minkah Fitzpatrick +4000 Leighton Vander Esch +7000
Von Miller +2000 Tyrann Mathieu +4000 Marcus Peters +7000
Jamall Adams +2200 Calais Campbell +5000 Trey Flowers +7000
Danielle Hunter +2500 Chris Jones +5000 Jaylon Smith +8000
Jadeveon Clowney +2500        

Andrew: Aaron Donald is the best defensive player in the league. Aaron Donald is the favorite for this award. These two statements may be related.

Bryan: Fully agreed on Donald -- he's a Mahomes-esque level preseason favorite for this sort of thing; the best until someone proves better for a significant period of time. Unlike last year, however, I don't think he's the runaway preseason favorite -- we both had him as favorite and best value in 2019, but I think we'll split it up a bit here.

Andrew: The best value, for me, is found on a team that might surprise some people, and that team throughout this article -- and indeed, throughout our season previews -- has been Arizona. A Cardinals defense that is good enough to make the playoffs may bring some love the way of Chandler Jones, a consistently dominant edge rusher who would be a much brighter star if he played somewhere like Dallas or New York.

Bryan: I like the Jones pick, I really do. I'm not going to agree with it, but you're right that Jones doesn't have nearly the national profile he deserves based on the quality of his play. My best value pick comes from someone who already has that name value, and is more likely to be able to attract votes in what is always a crowded, messy field among players it's really hard to compare against -- J.J. Watt. A healthy Watt is a thing to behold, and while he may never get back to his early career self, he's still one of the few people who can hold their own in a "Donald versus " competition.

Andrew: A longshot pick, for me, comes down to expectations, history, and perception. If the Bills are the team that finally breaks the Patriots dynasty, people are going to be looking for somebody to honour. One of those somebodys will be Sean McDermott (who neither of us picked in our Coach of the Year poll but one of us probably should have), and another will be one of their star defenders. Tre'Davious White is the one who appears on this poll, and that's good enough for me.

Bryan: For me, I'm going with Chris Jones, who had 35 pass pressures a year ago, a heck of a total for an interior defensive lineman. He "only" had 9.0 sacks, down from 15.0 two years ago -- a little better luck, and he could hit that double-digit mark, which is pretty much the requirement for a pass-rusher to get consideration for this award, due to the quantity of fingers most of us sportswriters possess. Really, though, this is a difficult award to predict; seven different players received votes in 2019, with Stephon Gilmore, Chandler Jones, and T.J. Watt all pulling in double-digit levels of support. Your guess may be as good as ours.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Aaron Donald (+700) Chandler Jones (+2000) Tre'Davious White (+3300)
Bryan Aaron Donald (+700) J.J. Watt (+1300) Chris Jones (+5000)

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Offensive Rookie of the Year
Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Joe Burrow +275 Denzel Mims +3300 La'Mical Perine +8000
Clyde Edwards-Helaire +300 Chase Claypool +3500 Cole Kmet +10000
Jonathan Taylor +800 Michael Pittman Jr. +3500 Donovan Peoples-Jones +10000
Cam Akers +1000 Zack Moss +3500 Jacob Eason +10000
Tua Tagovailoa +1000 Antonio Gibson +5000 Jake Fromm +10000
D'Andre Swift +1600 Jalen Hurts +5500 Tyler Johnson +10000
Ceedee Lamb +1700 Laviska Shenault Jr. +5500 Antonio Gandy-Golden +12500
Jerry Jeudy +1800 Tee Higgins +5500 Gabriel Davis +12500
Ke'Shawn Vaughn +1800 AJ Dillon +7000 John Hightower +12500
Henry Ruggs III +2200 KJ Hamler +7000 Adam Trautman +15000
J.K. Dobbins +2200 Jauan Jennings +8000 Anthony Gordon +15000
Justin Herbert +2200 Jordan Love +8000 Brycen Hopkins +15000
Brandon Aiyuk +2800 Joshua Kelly +8000 Harrison Bryant +15000
Jalen Reagor +2800 K.J. Hill +8000 Hunter Bryant +15000
Justin Jefferson +2800        

Andrew: A quarterback who starts on Day 1 will always be the prohibitive favorite here, and Joe Burrow is no exception despite horrendous odds. I much prefer the value of Cam Akers here as my favorite of the top handful of running back picks.

Bryan: Ah, a quarterback who starts on Day 1 and plays well is the prohibitive favorite, and I'm not sure Joe Burrow will hit the second of those criteria. I'm going with Clyde Edwards-Helaire instead; he's already the featured back in the Chiefs' offense, and that's a really nice place to be if you're looking to rack up gaudy statistics on national television! For value, I'll go with Jonathan Taylor, who might be good enough that I'll eventually stop adding "Thomas" to his name like the horrible '90s kid I am. Marlon Mack's the Week 1 starter in Indianapolis, for sure, but Taylor will likely get a larger share of red zone opportunities right away, Mack's got an injury history, and I expect the Colts' leash will be short.

Andrew: Mack's the reason I'm not going with Taylor with any of these picks, but I do agree that Taylor will get more time as the season progresses. My longshot pick here is a Colts player though, and this circles back to my extreme longshot pick from earlier. Philip Rivers loves a big, strong outside receiver with a large catch radius and the ability to make contested catches. Who doesn't, really? That's not T.Y. Hilton's game though, and Michael Pittman has a clear path straight into the Colts starting lineup if he's anything like the player he looked to be ahead of the draft. Rivers loves receivers with that body type, and Pittman could be a red zone stud from Day 1. He may not be Mike Williams straight away, but that's the type of potential we're talking about if Pittman puts it all together quickly.

Bryan: Jinx! I was going to pick Pittman as well! It helps that he's developing a rapport with Rivers as Hilton has been sidelined with hamstring issues; as Rivers is dealing with new teammates all around, it wouldn't be at all surprising he Rivers turns to someone he clicked with in training camp. I know Playmaker Score didn't love Pittman, but as a rookie, that matters less than opportunity. I like the way you think, there.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Joe Burrow (+275) Cam Akers (+1000) Michael Pittman (+3500)
Bryan Clyde Edwards-Helaire (+300) Jonathan Taylor (+800) Michael Pittman (+3500)

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Defensive Rookie of the Year
Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Chase Young +200 Javon Kinlaw +2500 Julian Okwara +2500
Isaiah Simmons +500 Xavier McKinney +2500 Jordan Elliott +3000
Patrick Queen +900 CJ Henderson +2500 Jaylon Johnson +3000
Kenneth Murray +1400 Grant Delpit +2500 Troy Dye +6600
Jeff Okudah +1600 Kristian Fulton +2500 Curtis Weaver +6600
Derrick Brown +2000 Trevon Diggs +2500 Ashtyn Davis +6600
A.J. Epenesa +2000 Akeem Davis-Gaither +2500 Marlon Davidson +6600
Willie Gay Jr. +2000        

Andrew: There's a reason Chase Young is the most prohibitive favorite on any of these boards. He's the consensus best defensive player in the draft, who will start from opening day in Washington, on the strongest unit of a team that sucked last season and could be much better this season. All he has to do is not screw it up or get hurt, and he's the favorite for DROY. The value sucks, but he's so clear and obvious a favorite that it doesn't matter.

Bryan: Yeah, I'm with you on Young being both the favorite and the best value pick. I'd go so far as to put him as the best player in the draft, offense or defense, and he's at the value position, as someone who racks up sacks draws attention to themselves very quickly. See Nick and Joey; Bosa those guys burst onto the scene quickly.

Andrew: So prohibitive a favorite is Young that anybody else could quality as a longshot. The guy I like the most to emerge from that pack is Jeff Okudah. If -- and again, this is a very conditional statement -- if the Lions are anything like a contender this year, Okudah is going to get a lot of love as the rookie replacement for Darius Slay.

Incidentally, please don't put money on Grant Delpit, as he's already out for the season with a torn Achilles. We wish him a full and quick recovery.

Bryan: I feel we should have one non-first-rounder here, just for completeness' sake, so I'll bite the bullet and take Jaylon Johnson, assuming he can get onto the field as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery. The Bears lost Artie Burns for the season, which opens up a spot for someone to get on the field. Moving Buster Skrine to the outside would be a disaster waiting to happen, and I'd have to think Johnson's a better option than Kevin Toliver.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Chase Young (+200) Chase Young (+200) Jeff Okudah (+1600)
Bryan Chase Young (+200) Chase Young (+200) Jaylon Johnson (+3000)

Comeback Player of the Year

Comeback Player of the Year
Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Ben Roethlisberger +300 Andy Dalton +2200 Keanu Neal +7700
Cam Newton +300 Antonio Brown +2200 Kwon Alexander +7700
J.J. Watt +725 Bradley Chubb +3300 Malcolm Butler +7700
Matthew Stafford +725 DeSean Jackson +3300 Stephen Gostkowski +7700
Rob Gronkowski +725 C.J. Mosley +4400 Trent Williams +7700
A.J. Green +1000 Joe Flacco +4400 Xavien Howard +9000
Alex Smith +1200 Jordan Reed +5500 Jerick McKinnon +10000
Colin Kaepernick +1500 Alshon Jeffery +6600 Josh Rosen +12500
Myles Garrett +1500 T.Y. Hilton +6600 Eli Manning +15000
Nick Foles +1800 Akiem Hicks +7700 Lamar Miller +15000

Andrew: What is the bare minimum a player can do in terms of on-field performance and still win this award? That question might be answered by Alex Smith this season. Just getting back onto the field would be such a massive achievement for a guy who reportedly almost lost his leg. He's unlikely to play a down, yet in the top 10 for this award.

Bryan: It's worse than that. There was a point of time where Smith's life was in danger due to sepsis from one of his 17 operations. There was talk that he'd have his leg amputated above the knee, which is the worst version of an already terrible situation. The fact that he's in uniform at all is beyond astonishing. If he plays any significant action, he's the winner. If he plays a few snaps, he's in the running. Hell, I wouldn't be stunned if he wins the award despite sitting on the bench all year, though there would at least be a significant debate about that.

Andrew: If he does that though, hard to see the coach not at least giving him a couple of kneeldowns at the end of a game if the team's out of contention. Just to get him back out there.

Bryan: We can debate all we want about whether Ben Roethlisberger or Cam Newton are best set to return to their previous form after missing much of 2019 with injuries, but Smith has to be my favorite and best value at this point in time.

Andrew: And the longest of longshots, too, no matter what the oddsmakers say.

I am, however, going to make alternative picks here, for the still-strong possibility that Smith does not make it all the way back. In such an event, my favorite would be Cam Newton. Newton is surely going to be the starter in New England -- we're not sure what Jarrett Stidham is, but we're quite confident it's not good, whereas we know full well what Brian Hoyer is, and that it is not good. Whatever Newton has left, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels will drag it out of him, and even a solid starter-level season may be enough for Newton if he lasts all 16 games.

For value, I like A.J. Green if he can make it back onto the field for Cincinnati. Green missed the entirety of last season through injury, but would still be the presumptive No. 1 target for Joe Burrow if he comes back. That's a good position to be in for a comeback story.

Bryan: My longshot is the rare non-quarterback whom I believe can change an offense entirely. The Eagles were counting on DeSean Jackson to open up the offense last season; they fell into a very conservative shell when he went down early with a sports hernia. The return of Jackson (plus Jalen Reagor, if he's healthy after this weekend's injury scare) should see Philadelphia return an element of verticality to their passing attack, and if none of the quarterbacks have particularly good seasons, that might be enough to win the award.

Andrew: I don't really see any longshot picks I like, so I'm happy to second your pick of Jackson. The longest shot I see on the board is Colin Kaepernick, who won't win because I don't see how he ever gets back into the league. His odds are far too short, suggesting too many people are putting money on him. That's definitely more hope than expectation.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Cam Newton (+300) A.J. Green (+1000) DeSean Jackson (+3300)
Bryan Alex Smith (+1200) Alex Smith (+1200) DeSean Jackson (+3300)

Super Bowl Winner

Super Bowl Winner
Team Odds   Team Odds   Team Odds
Kansas City Chiefs +600 Philadelphia Eagles +2200 Denver Broncos +6000
Baltimore Ravens +650 Pittsburgh Steelers +2200 Los Angeles Rams +6000
San Francisco 49ers +900 Cleveland Browns +3000 Detroit Lions +7500
New Orleans Saints +1000 Los Angeles Chargers +3000 Miami Dolphins +8000
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +1000 Minnesota Vikings +3000 New York Giants +12500
New England Patriots +1200 Atlanta Falcons +3500 New York Jets +12500
Dallas Cowboys +1500 Chicago Bears +4000 Carolina Panthers +15000
Seattle Seahawks +1800 Tennessee Titans +4000 Cincinnati Bengals +15000
Indianapolis Colts +2000 Arizona Cardinals +4500 Washington Football Team +15000
Buffalo Bills +2200 Houston Texans +4500 Jacksonville Jaguars +20000
Green Bay Packers +2200 Las Vegas Raiders +5500    

Andrew: Speaking of hope and expectation, my favorite here is the New Orleans Saints because they have the most complete roster in the league. Just like they did last year. And the year before. It worked out so well those times, why shouldn't I pick them again? Sigh.

Bryan: Last year, you had the Saints as your best bet, and you've bumped them up to favorites, joining ... well, me, from last season. I, too, am on New Orleans, winning a tight game over the Chiefs to end the year and, I would assume, Drew Brees' career. End it on a high note, right?

Andrew: My best value is Dallas, who I expect to surprise some people. Mike McCarthy is not Andy Reid, but he had a very similar set of circumstances in Green Bay to Reid in Philadelphia. McCarthy landed on his feet in Dallas, with a talented roster that should benefit simply from McCarthy not being Jason Garrett. A Super Bowl-winning head coach in his own right, McCarthy can do enough of what Dallas does well, and mask enough of what Dallas does poorly, to make them pretty good value for the division at the very least.

Bryan: For best value, I'm stabbing myself repeatedly in the knee as I go ahead and take the Seattle Seahawks. I am wary of a revival of the Legion of Boom, and I do think that Russ Cooking is one of the most frightening things to face off against in the entire NFL. If Wilson is allowed to be Wilson more frequently, there's no reason Seattle shouldn't be near the top of the league; pretty good for the eighth-longest odds. Yes, the NFC West is a beast of a division, but the Seahawks are one of the reasons it's a beast; they were an inch short of the division title last year, and it's not that hard to get better by an inch.

For my longshot, I'm going with the Minnesota Vikings. Someone has to win the NFC North -- I know; I checked; the rules are quite clear on this. We have all four NFC North teams in a big mashmash to do it, so the Vikings have as good a chance as anyone else. They just added Yannick Ngakoue to their defense, which means they have a pair of elite players on every level. So you give them the division, that gives them a home game, assuming football is still being played in non-bubble format in January. Then, they'd still have to upset the Saints in the postseason at some point, but the Vikings have gotten pretty good at doing that over the past couple seasons!

Andrew: My longshot is a nonsensical stab in the dark, as the team with arguably the worst starting quarterback in their division, but the issue is this: if they can get there, the Buffalo Bills are built exactly right that a four-week hot patch could get them to the big dance. Strong front seven that generates a heap of pressure, great coverage, big-play potential from the offense, and a soft conference outside the big two. That's the Flacco Ravens, except with bigger booms (and, it should be noted, bigger busts). Now they could also easily finish last and need to draft a quarterback, but hey, that's why they're a longshot.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew New Orleans Saints (+1000) Dallas Cowboys (+1500) Buffalo Bills (+2200)
Bryan New Orleans Saints (+1000) Seattle Seahawks (+1800) Minnesota Vikings (+3000)

Bryan: I think that just about covers things, unless you're about to tell me there are other divisions outside the NFC South I should be watching. I didn't realize going in just how heavy I was going to go on that division, but man, things just ended up working out that way for the group I called the one with the highest ceiling in the league two weeks ago.

Andrew: It's not the number of NFC South players I didn't expect, it's the number of Panthers players. McCaffrey sure, but Teddy B? This season should be a lot of fun if the Panthers are any good.

Bryan: Hey, I said they have a ceiling of 8-8, and if they do get there, it'll be on the back of their offense! ... I also said they have a floor of 0-16, in which case I'll look like a massive idiot.

Andrew: ... a massiver idiot. Which will make up for me looking like one last year, with the same franchise!

Bryan: Ironically, the Panthers appear to be our catnip.

Andrew: It's long been considered bad luck for a black cat to cross your path.

That does it for this lot of preseason picks. We'll be back next week, on Tuesday instead of Wednesday, with our topic yet to be determined. A mystery topic! A spoooooky mystery topic!

Bryan: As soon as we think of what it is, I'm sure!


16 comments, Last at 07 Sep 2020, 3:58pm

#1 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 02, 2020 - 12:27pm

If the Patriots are, say, a 10-win team after losing their Hall of Fame quarterback, he has to win, right?

They still play in the AFC East, and their best opposing QB is Josh Allen, yes?

So no. 10 wins is basically the floor for a competent team playing that mess. Buffalo went 10-6 and got NE twice, and that was still only half a team.

Points: 0

#11 by nat // Sep 04, 2020 - 10:11am

I dunno.

”That mess” went 15-15 outside the division. Seems pretty average to me.

Points: 0

#13 by DIVISION // Sep 07, 2020 - 2:32pm

Based on what NE lost in the off-season, I don't think Cam Newton and a patchwork offense is going to be able to work magic.  He's not Brady, not even close.  This year will show how much Brady held that offense together.

At best, NE is a .500 team.  They may win 10 games, won't even get to where they did last year because the talent isn't there.

The division is ripe for Buffalo is they're going to do anything at all in the Josh Allen era.  NE still doesn't even have a kicker!

Being cheap isn't easy and doesn't always work.

Points: 0

#16 by johonny // Sep 07, 2020 - 3:58pm

If Brady looks lights out in Tampa, people will likely hold it against Bill for not finding a way to keep him. Particularly if the Pats only look so-so and manage 10-6. The expectations for the Pats at this point are win the East, make the conference championship. Anything short of that, and fans and the New England press will be acting like they've been watching the Dolphins all season. 

Points: 0

#2 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 02, 2020 - 12:31pm

Andrew: I hope you realize that every single Lions fan who is reading this article just called you a rude name.

If Patricia wins coach of the year*, I will buy a hat and eat it.

* -- it does not count for purposes of the wager is Patricia is fired mid-season and wins a pee-wee league CoY title**.
** -- the hat is likely still safe even in that pee-wee league.

Points: 0

#3 by theslothook // Sep 02, 2020 - 12:53pm

I will revisit this comment in the future(provided the season unfolds as planned).

I have the Seahawks winning the SB and Wilson as the MVP. One thing I have learned over and over - very little if anything carries over year to year unless you are the Patriots with Brady (and I guess the Chiefs now with Mahomes). 

Points: 0

#4 by KaosTheory // Sep 02, 2020 - 2:03pm

Not that anyone cares, but it was fun to follow along, so to speak, and make my own choices.

Pass yds: Mahomes/Murray/Mayfield
Pass TD: Mahomes/Watson/Cousins
Rush yds: Elliott/Cook/Connor
Rush TD: Elliott/Elliott/Kamara
Rec yds: Adams/Adams/Parker
Rec TD: Thomas/Jones/Metcalf
MVP: Mahomes/Wilson/Prescott
COY: Belichick/McCarthy/Pederson
First coach fired: Marrone/Nagy/Taylor
OPOY: Mahomes/Prescott/Elliott
DPOY: N. Bosa/J. Bosa/Jordan
OROY: Burrow/Lamb/Dobbins
DROY: Young/Queen/Okudah
CPOY: Stafford/Green/Smith
Champ: Chiefs/Saints/Cardinals

Points: 0

#14 by DIVISION // Sep 07, 2020 - 2:34pm

If Kyler Murray has the MVP season that Mahomes and Jackson did before him, the Cards will have won the NFC West or the WC. 

If they manage to get through the NFC West, I like their chances against anyone from any division.

Would be great to see Murray vs. Mahomes or Jackson in the SB.

Points: 0

#5 by Tutenkharnage // Sep 02, 2020 - 6:32pm

If the Bills are the team that finally breaks the Patriots dynasty, people are going to be looking for somebody to honour. One of those somebodys will be Sean McDonough (who neither of us picked in our Coach of the Year poll but one of us probably should have), and another will be one of their star defenders.

Neither of you picked Sean McDonough because he wasn’t on the list. That McDermott guy, though ...

Points: 0

#6 by theslothook // Sep 02, 2020 - 6:42pm

Isn't that perfectly in line with the Bills? The only player anyone knows on that team is Josh Allen who hasn't been very good. (They should know T.White at least). 

Points: 0

#10 by RevBackjoy // Sep 03, 2020 - 1:12pm

I can't wait for his voice to crack during his acceptance speech!

Points: 0

#7 by theslothook // Sep 02, 2020 - 6:56pm

If Doug Marone is able to coax 6 or more wins out of the Jags roster, he needs to get some serious coach of the year love. That roster is tailor made to lose and lose badly. Every quality player they had was shipped off or released. Its weird to see a team that made the AFC title game hit the reboot so aggressively

Points: 0

#8 by MarkV // Sep 03, 2020 - 8:56am

Best Longshot odds on winning the Superbowl and neither considered the Rams, at excellent odds.  They were a good team last year, great the two before, and even the best decision seems to not be good enough that they aren't worth consideration.

Points: 0

#9 by Ryan // Sep 03, 2020 - 11:36am

This has become my favorite recurring column on the site, and I'm sure it takes a lot more planning and editing than we realize. Thanks guys!

Points: 0

#12 by T0r0 // Sep 06, 2020 - 8:55am

can I get the Short on Prescott at +800? 

with Zeek to pound the rock unless he suffers a major injury between now and week 2 I see no way for Dak to get anywhere near the top of the passing yards. 

Sure he has 2 bazillion great receivers but once they get a lead it'll be the Elliot show. 

Points: 0

#15 by DIVISION // Sep 07, 2020 - 2:37pm

Dallas is way too unpredictable for me.  Nothing would surprise me with them, except winning the SB.  I see them as the team they always were until they prove otherwise.  I'm not sold on Mike McCarthy as the savior after seeing him in GB.  I actually see more of the same with Dallas being .500 with padded stats but very little to show for it.

If they played in the NFC West, they would be battling the Rams for the cellar.

Points: 0

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