Best Value Bets For The 2021 NFL Season

Football is back! With training camps in full swing and a chance to take a look at each team play a couple of preseason games, it’s time to take a look at the futures market and see if we can take advantage of some numbers before the season starts. I have also highlighted where you can find the best number as we can take advantage of the variance between the sites as well. 

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Ezekiel Elliott, Most Rushing Yards (+2100 FanDuel)

Elliott, who just turned 26 in July, has already led the league in rushing twice in his five-year career. While he is coming off of a down year in 2020, we can chalk a lot of that up to an injury-depleted offensive line that ranked 27th in the league per PFF and an injury to Dak Prescott that allowed defenses to key in more on Zeke. With not just starters, but All-Pros, returning to the offensive line in Zach Martin and Tyron Smith to go along with La’el Collins, the Cowboys had the third-best offensive line in our unit rankings this offseason.

With reports that doctors have recommended that Prescott ease back into the season, expect the Cowboys to lean more on Elliott to take some of the burden off of Prescott and return to a similar workload which resulted in him having the most rushing yards in the league not once but twice. Elliott is +2000 at BetMGM and just +1600 at DraftKings for this same prop.

Justin Fields, Offensive Rookie of the Year (+700 BetMGM)

Typically I wouldn’t quantify +700 and the second favorite on the board as value but he is already down to +500 on FanDuel and to +600 on DraftKings, which is down from +850 after his first two preseason games. I expect those odds to go even lower the minute he is named the starter and be more in line with Trevor Lawrence’s odds as the current favorite. While head coach Matt Nagy reiterated after the second preseason game that Andy Dalton would still be the Week 1 starter, it’s hard to ignore his preseason drives so far which are as follows:


So Nagy still has another three weeks to change his mind, but even if he doesn’t, it could be a short leash for Dalton in Week 1 against Aaron Donald and the Rams’ defense. Fields, on the other hand, has shown flashes of why he should be the starter, particularly in his first preseason game where he went 14-20 for 142 yards with a touchdown and had a passer rating of 106.7. He also showed off his dual threat capability running for 33 yards and a touchdown on just five carries. Even with Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles under center last year, the Bears still ranked eighth in total pass attempts last year so Matt Nagy should have no issues letting Fields air it out and give him plenty of opportunity to lead rookies in passing yards which has won the award the past two seasons.

Azeez Ojulari, Defensive Rookie of the Year (+2000 BetMGM)

When it comes to Rookie of the Year betting, sometimes opportunity is just as important as talent. While Ojulari did slip to the second round on draft night, it wasn’t due to his talent evaluation. Instead, it was due to some long-term injury concerns with his knee but nothing that should affect his availability in Year 1.

Falling to the Giants in the second round may have been a blessing in disguise for his rookie of the year chances as he should have plenty of opportunity to see the field in New York with incumbents Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximes coming off of injuries and not having the talent that Ojuari is considered to have.

Taking a look at the history of the award, it does tend to favor the players who get sacks, as seven of the last 11 award winners finished either first or second in sacks for rookies. As just a sophomore last year, Ojulari led the SEC in both sacks (9.5) and forced fumbles (four). With a lack of pass rushers in this year’s rookie class, Ojulari could very well fit the criteria that has historically won the award. His number has dropped to +1600 at DraftKings from +2000 and is +1700 at FanDuel but you can still get him at +2000 at BetMGM.

Derwin James, Comeback Player of the Year (+3000 BetMGM)

You want a good story when voting for Comeback Player of the Year. After missing not one but the past two seasons due to injury, James certainly qualifies for that. In his one full season in 2018, which happened to be his rookie year, he made first-team All-Pro while putting up a stat line of 105 tackles, 3.5 sacks, three interceptions, 13 passes defensed, and six quarterback hits. 

Per Football Outsiders, he ranked third in the league against the pass with a stop rate of 55%. In his five games in 2019 he actually improved on that, ranked first in the league with a stop rate of 71%, and was well on his way to another first-team All-Pro selection.

All reports out of Chargers training camp is that he is 100% healthy and videos are circulating of him shutting down former Comeback Player of the Year award winner Keenan Allen and returning an interception for a touchdown in one-on-one coverage against George Kittle. DraftKings not only has his odds down to +1600 to win the Comeback Player of the Year award but has him at just +2000 to win the Defensive Player of the Year award as well.

Urban Meyer, Coach of the Year (+2800 FanDuel)

This is typically even more of a narrative award than the Comeback Player of the Year, which actually makes it a little bit easier to figure out the typical parameters that voters look for. If we take a look at the past 30 years, there is one stat that stands out above all others: win totals over the previous season. 28 of the last 30 winners improved their team’s win total at least four games over the prior year. Digging deeper, 24 of those 30 winners had a team that won seven games or fewer in the year prior.

No coach in the league is in a better position to improve his team’s win total than Meyer, who is taking over a team that went just 1-15 last season. DraftKings currently has the Jacksonville season win total at 6.5. One other key stat of the past 30 winners is that 12 of them have been first-year coaches, including last year’s winner Kevin Stefanski.

Meyer certainly could check off the boxes that typically meet the criteria of past winners and it probably doesn’t hurt that he was just a member of the media who happen to vote on this award. There is also a huge variance in his number between the different sites as BetMGM has him at +1600 and DraftKings has him at just +1400, so certainly lock this in at FanDuel if you can.