Betting odds for the 2017 NFL offensive rookie of the year award were released in Las Vegas, and according to Bovada, Jacksonville running back Leonard Fournette is the favorite ahead of Carolina's Christian McCaffrey.
On Tuesday's episode of "Undisputed", Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe made their picks for the NFL's offensive rookie of the year, and Bayless made the case that Houston's Deshaun Watson could have a breakout year if he wins the starting job.
Christian McCaffrey will have the biggest opportunity to shine
“I like Christian McCaffrey, because I believe he’ll have more opportunities and more different ways to score the football. They will hand it to him, and earlier this week the offensive coordinator Mike Shula, he made it known Cam [Newton] could throw the ball to the running back. He’s just planting that seed, like ‘I got you a new, shiny toy. Go on out there and make sure you get him the ball.’ Also they’re probably going to punt the ball to him. He might get a few kick returns. So I think he’ll have more of the splash plays than Leonard Fournette - and that’s how Odell Beckham, if you remember, won the award. It was the splash plays, because they were a terrible team.
"They’re playing a last-place schedule this year, which will help.”
Jeremy BrevardJeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
It's tougher for quarterbacks to make the transition from college.
“Now here’s the interesting thing. If Deshuaun Watson gets in there and he plays well, that could be the game-changer.
"I believe that the easiest position to transition from college to pro is running back, because you go where your eyes tell you. The defenses in the NFL are a lot more complex, and that’s why you see quarterbacks struggle.
No matter how great the quarterback eventually becomes - Troy Aikman, John Elway, Terry Bradshaw - they struggle in their rookie year. What you saw was an anomaly or an outlier with Dak Prescott. That’s not how it normally happens. So that’s why I’m leaning toward McCaffrey.
"... If Deshaun Watson starts Day One and they win the division and make the playoffs, he’s probably going to win it. But right now as we sit, because we don’t know, I like [McCaffrey].”
Bill StreicherBill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Deshaun Watson can have a big year if Bill O'Brien gives him the chance
“I like Deshaun, but you know I liked him going into the draft. But this is a huge ‘if.’
"If Bill O’Brien has the vision and the guts and the patience to start and stick with Deshaun Watson as a rookie quarterback - and those are huge ifs - Deshaun will win Rookie of the Year. It is Dak-like. He will be Dak Watson, because he has fallen into a situation that is Dak-like last year. It’s rare for a quarterback to get drafted high and get to fall into a starting job with an offense that is packed with experience and weapons, and this one is.”
Shannon Sharpe: “But they don’t have the offensive line. [Or] Zeke.”
Brian SpurlockBrian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Watson would be surrounded by a number of weapons
“I get you on Zeke, but I’m going to say this again. The running back they stole in the third round out of the University of Texas, D’Onta Foreman, he is right there with Leonard Fournette to my eye test. You want to talk about a load who can fly? He’s got all that package, just look at his yards last year. He had a bunch of 250-yard games. He’s not quite as big as Fournette, I think he’s 235-ish. He’s not small, and he runs big, he runs strong.
"They’ve got Lamar Miller, so it’s going to be a 1-2 punch.
"When you’ve got Hopkins and Fuller and Braxton Miller on the outside, you have a decent offensive line.”
USA TODAY NETWORKThe Greenville News-USA TODAY Sports
Bill O’Brien is going to be the X-factor
“The point is that Bill O’Brien is going to be the X-factor here. He still thinks that he made Tom Brady [into] Tom Brady, and he just didn’t. Brady coached him, that’s what happened. Brady got him that job.”
Shannon Sharpe: “He got a head coaching job at Penn State… it’s like the Brett Favre effect. Think about how many guys became head coaches, Skip, off of Brett Favre’s back.”
Skip Bayless: “Dak had one huge advantage. [Cowboys offensive coordinator] Scott Linehan is a nice man. He is truly a quarterback whisperer… he’s a little more easy-going than Bill [O’Brien], he doesn’t blow up on the sidelines, and he keeps the quarterback in a comfort zone that I fear Deshaun won’t be kept in by Bill O’Brien - who is liable to throw a fit.”
Troy TaorminaTroy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Houston's record could secure Watson the award
“The point is, there are so many weapons here. They went 9-7 last year and won the division, right? I’m going to do a hypothetical, what if they swept the division this year? It’s very possible. And then I looked at their schedule, and what if I give them these games: at Cincinnati, Kansas City, Cleveland, at Rams, Arizona, San Francisco and Pittsburgh. If I give you those games, that gets you to 13-3. Let’s cut it back one game, they’ll blow one of those games, so what if they go 12-4?
Record’s going to matter [in the] Rookie of the Year [race]. Carolina went 6-10 last year, will they improve that much on that? They might. Jacksonville went 3-13 last year. Will Fournette take them to [6-10]? I don’t know.
On record alone, if Deshaun can start and finish for Bill O’Brien and stay in some sort of comfort zone… he’s got Dak’s intangibles. He’s got his poise, he’s got his presence. He’s got his feel for the game. And I think he’s got his cool under fire, because we saw it in the championship games."