The dreams of hundreds of young men were realized over the past weekend, as both the NBA and NHL held their annual entry drafts. As with every sport that holds a draft, hockey and basketball pundits pretended to know what the future holds for every prospect, and reacted irrationally positively or negatively to teams’ selections.
The truth is, no one knows how any of these rookies will perform once they get to the highest level. The pressure of being a high pick can collapse the confidence of a Ryan Leaf, injuries can stop a Rick DiPietro from ever breaking out, and an Anthony Bennett can get overpraised in what is a weak draft class. At the same time, some of the best talents in today’s sports were found late in drafts, like Antonio Brown, Draymond Green, and Jamie Benn.
That all being said, we wouldn’t be doing our job if we weren’t forecasting way into the future. So here are the odds for who will win Rookie of the Year across the NBA, NHL, and NFL next year.
Ben Simmons (76ers): 3/1
Buddy Hield (Pelicans): 23/4
Brandon Ingram (Lakers): 23/4
Kris Dunn (Timberwolves): 8/1
Joel Embiid (76ers): 10/1
Marquese Chriss (Suns): 12/1
Jamal Murray (Nuggets): 12/1
Denzel Valentine (Bulls): 16/1
Projected for years to be the first selection in this year’s draft, Australia’s Ben Simmons has a lot of expectations to live up to in Philadelphia, where Sam Hinkie spent years crushing the hopes of 76ers fans. Simmons is far from a lock for this award though; given how much his game relies on raw athleticism, he could be in for a rude awakening playing against actual men in the NBA.
The other favorites to make an impact out of the gate are second-overall pick Brandon Ingram and sixth-overall pick Buddy Hield. Both should start immediately, as they fill needs for their new teams: Ingram gives Los Angeles a playmaker on the wing, while Hield gives New Orleans another actual scoring threat outside of Anthony Davis.
Some other talent that went later in the draft could have big rookie years, like point guard Kris Dunn on an exciting Minnesota squad. There’s also Joel Embiid, the third-overall pick from two years ago who has yet to make his NBA debut due to injuries.
Auston Matthews (Maple Leafs): 10/3
Patrick Laine (Jets): 4/1
Dylan Strome (Coyotes): 7/1
Ivan Provorov (Flyers): 9/1
Jesse Puljujarvi (Oilers): 11/1
William Nylander (Maple Leafs): 11/1
Haydn Fleury (Hurricanes): 15/1
Josh Ho-Sang (Islanders): 17/1
Being at the top of the draft isn’t usually a good sign, but for perennially middling Toronto, getting the first overall pick for the first time in 31 years was something to celebrate. Especially after it garnered them Matthews, a “can’t miss” prospect at center, a position of serious need for the Buds. Matthews will have plenty of competition to claim the Calder Trophy for top rookie next year, though.
The Finnish sniper Laine goes to Winnipeg, immediately drawing comparisons to Teemu Selanne. While he won’t be scoring 70 goals in his rookie year, he should provide much needed scoring touch to an offensively challenged club.
As is often the case with hockey, most of this year’s draft class will go back to the minors for next season, meaning the rest of the challengers should come from last year’s draft or earlier. Keep an eye on guys like defenseman Ivan Provorov and center Dylan Strome.
Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys): 7/5
Jared Goff (Rams): 11/2
Laquon Treadwell (Vikings): 12/1
Will Fuller (Texans): 12/1
Josh Docston (Redskins): 14/1
Corey Coleman (Browns): 14/1
C.J. Prosise (Seahawks): 20/1
Derrick Henry (Titans): 22/1
Despite this award favoring passers, the running back Elliott is still the runaway favorite. In line for a heavy workload in Dallas and playing behind one of the best offensive lines in football, he should have a strong rookie season that will be tough for other potential candidates to top.
For Goff, he doesn’t have a lot of great weapons around him in Los Angeles, and could struggle to get much done in his first year. As for a talented crop of receivers entering the league, each faces barriers that could stop them from making a huge splash. Treadwell and Coleman become the de facto best options in their offenses, and should draw tougher coverage as a result. Docston will be buried behind four established pass catchers in Washington.
Fuller may be the sleeper pick of the bunch. Playing opposite DeAndre Hopkins, he’ll have opportunities to get open and could make enough plays to garner some attention from voters.
Jalen Ramsey (Jaguars): 9/2
DeForest Buckner (49ers): 6/1
Joey Bosa (Chargers): 7/1
Myles Jack (Jaguars): 7/1
Shaq Lawson (Bills): 10/1
Reggie Ragland (Bills): 12/1
Leonard Floyd (Bears): 12/1
Robert Nkemdiche (Cardinals): 16/1
Last season, Marcus Peters broke a 16-year drought for secondary players winning the DROY. Now that it’s been proven rookie corners can make a sizable difference, look for Ramsey to put an exclamation point on that statement. The Jaguars overhauled a lot of their defense, but they’ll still need this rookie to be a lock-down defender on the outside if they’re going to make strides.
The rest of the contenders are the usual collection of linebackers and pass rushers: players who will rack up stats that are easily digestible. Buckner and Bosa should get big boosts if they can produce in their first year, because they are going to some truly awful defenses.
(Photo credit: Botend (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)
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