NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Race: Can Anyone Challenge Micah Parsons?

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons is the heavy favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. Can anyone challenge him? Brett Oswalt takes a look.
Brett Oswalt
Sun, November 14, 1:20 AM EST

NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Race: Can Anyone Challenge Micah Parsons?

At -120 odds at DraftKings Sportsbook, Micah Parsons is the odds-on favorite to win the award given his involvement and versatility in the Cowboys’ front-seven. The Penn State alum has played on the edge and at his more typical linebacker role, turning in 52 total tackles, 5 sacks, and 10 tackles for a loss. He also has 14 quarterback hits while he’s started all eight contests.

That being said, is any other rook worth an investment at their longer odds? Let’s take a look at three that could provide a nice return in the event they pull the upset.

Click here for complete Defensive Rookie of the Year Odds

Gregory Rousseau, Buffalo Bills (+1600)

Rousseau has really paid off after experiencing a slight drop in the draft. The former Miami Hurricane has appeared and started in all eight games, and as a part-time player – averaging 31.5 snaps a game – has produced three sacks and five quarterback hits. Rousseau’s also added four tackles for a loss and one insane interception.

 

With athleticism like that, you can bet he’s done more than what the stat sheet shows. According to Pro Football Focus, Rousseau has earned a solid grade of 70.7 with 13 pressures on the year, trailing only teammate Jerry Hughes in that category. He and the Buffalo defense rank first overall in defensive DVOA, first against the pass and in a tie for eighth in adjusted sack rate.

Zaven Collins (+2500)

For those in the know or playing in a fantasy football league with individual defensive players, Collins might feel like a stretch as a serious candidate. He’s only played more than 50% of the Cardinals’ defensive snaps twice this year, and has totaled a mere six snaps since Week 8. Some suggest that there’s a lingering injury while others point to his inexperience and mistakes against more complicated offenses. Nevertheless, there is risk here.

Still, Collins’ play has warranted more of an opportunity. His 78.6 PFF grade is nothing to scoff at, outpacing his competition – Tanner Vallejo – by a gap of 33.2 in that respect. And although he has a mere 19 combined tackles, Arizona is 5-0 and has held their opponents to an average of 12.2 points in his starts. He just plays solid outside of the typical rookie mistakes. For the kind of defensive player he is, Collins is worthy of a shot at these odds.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Cleveland Browns (+5000)

The guy they call JOK is, for my money, the best value among the DPOY ranks. Drafted 52nd overall by the Browns, the versatile linebacker started five of his squad’s first six games this season and played 91% and 85% of snaps in Weeks 5 and 6, respectively. Over that two-game span, JOK produced 12 tackles, a forced fumble and one pass defense. He’s racked up another 17 tackles and a sack through Week 6. That’s before he suffered an injury that has since caused him to miss some valuable time. But the team is optimistic he’ll be back in the lineup against the Patriots this coming Sunday.

That could be big news. JOK has proven to be an explosive player, and for all his efforts he rates out with an 81.1 PFF grade. His sideline-to-sideline speed has been instrumental in Cleveland’s run-stopping game, as they rank fifth against the run, per Football Outsiders, limiting offenses to the second-fewest yards per attempt. Exhibit A:

 

All for a return of $5,000 for every $100 laid? That’s money well spent.

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