2021 Awards Futures with Borg & Betz (Fantasy Football)

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On the latest Fantasy Footballers DFS Podcast, Matthew Betz and I discussed our upcoming BestBall rankings (found only in the DFS Pass) as well as some insights on the 2021 Awards Futures Market.

Awards such as the MVP are about more than just predicting winners and finding the best odds. This comes down to our projections related to team performance (ie. win totals) and forecasting at end of the year narrative to produces an optimum scenario where a player can win that award. For more on win totals, go back and listen to the AFC and NFC win total podcasts.

Let’s break down historical trends, filter through the candidates by setting a few parameters with insightful questions, and give our current selections based on each “tier” for

  • Most Valuable Player
  • Defensive Player of the Year
  • Offensive Rookie of the Year
  • Comeback Player of the Year

Note: All odds are based on DraftKings Sportsbook at the recording of this podcast.

Most Valuable Player

Most valuable is a relative term and in each sport, the defining quality of “valuable” can be wide-ranging. However, for football purposes, MVP is essentially the best QB on a top-seeded playoff team. You need an absolute outlier of a season at the RB position to even be considered. Here are the winners dating back to 2005:

Year MVP Winner Position
2005 Shaun Alexander
2006 LaDanian Tomlinson
2007 Tom Brady
2008 Peyton Manning
2009 Peyton Manning
2010 Tom Brady
2011 Aaron Rodgers
2012 Adrian Peterson RB
2013 Peyton Manning
2014 Aaron Rodgers
2015 Cam Newton
2016 Matt Ryan
2017 Tom Brady
2018 Patrick Mahomes
2019 Lamar Jackson
2020 Aaron Rodgers

Quick stats

  • QBs dominate the award… but you already knew that. But on top of that, since 2010 every QB that won the MVP also sported a 1st round bye as a top-2 seed in their conference.
  • You also can spot some long shots among the winners. In hindsight, it’s wild to think of Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson as long shots but before the season, they were buried in Vegas odds. Six of the last 11 MVP winners were considered long shots.
  • We typically want to ignore the RBs and WRs in this category because you can have a monster offensive season and yet not sniff a vote for MVP. Take for instance the last two years. Derrick Henry (2020) and Michael Thomas (2019) both had record-setting seasons at their positions and won AP Offensive Player of the Year. Incredible. Yet neither one garnered even one MVP vote.

Questions to Narrow the Field

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  • Is this player capable of an outlier TD season?
  • Can their team end up as the No. 1 seed in their conference?

The Current Favorites: Mahomes +450, Rodgers +900, Allen +1110, Brady +1500, Stafford +1500, Lamar +1600, Russ +1600, Dak +1700

The Middle Tier: Herbert +2000, Murray +2000, Mayfield +3300, Ryan +3300, Tannehill +4000, Wentz +4000, Burrow +5000, Cousins +5000, Hurts +5000, Derrick Henry/CMC +5000

The Longshots: Tua +6000, Winston +6000, Cook +6600, Newton +6600, Carr +7000, Jimmy G +8000, Lawrence +8000, Saquon +10000, Chubb +10000, Darnold +10000, Fields +10000, Fitzpatrick +10000

  • Borg Take- Dalvin Cook is my fav RB on the board. I can foresee a scenario where he gets 25+ TDs & the Vikings are a top-2 seed.
  • Betz Take- Tua Tagovailoa

Getty Images / Chris Coduto

Defensive Player of the Year

The Defensive POY award should be renamed the Aaron Donald memorial award. And shortly before that it was sponsored by J.J. Watt. Yes, six out of the last nine years those two defensive linemen have won the award. As you look through

Year Defensive POY Position Key Stat Team Record Playoffs?
2005 Brian Urlacher MLB ??? 11-5 x
2006 Jason Taylor DE 13.5 sacks/9 FF/2 TDs 6-10
2007 Bob Sanders S ??? 13-3 x
2008 James Harrison ROLB 16 sacks + 7 FF 12-4 x
2009 Charles Woodson CB 9 INTs + 3 TDs 11-5 x
2010 Troy Polamalu S 7 INT + 1 TD 12-4 x
2011 Terrell Suggs LOLB 14 sacks + 7 FF 12-4 x
2012 J.J. Watt DE 20.5 sacks + 39 TFL 12-4 x
2013 Luke Kuechly MLB 156 tackles + 4 INT 12-4 x
2014 J.J. Watt DE 20.5 sacks + 29 TFL 9-7
2015 J.J. Watt DE 17.5 sacks + 29 TFL 9-7 x
2016 Khalil Mack OLB 11 sacks + 5 FF + TD 12-4 x
2017 Aaron Donald DT 11 sacks + 5 FF 11-5 x
2018 Aaron Donald DT 20.5 sacks + 25 TFL 13-3 x
2019 Stephon Gilmore CB 6 INTs + 2 TDs + 20 PDs 12-4 x
2020 Aaron Donald DT 13.5 sacks + 4 FF 10-6 x

Quick stats

  • Since 2005, 14 of the last 16 winners were on playoff teams. Only two of them (Polamalu-2010 & Donald-2018) were on teams that made the Super Bowl.
  • Sacks, tackles for loss, forced fumbles, and INTs are the headliners in terms of statistical benchmarks. But when you go back and look at the winners, another common theme is turnovers returned for a TD. This looms especially large for cornerbacks and safeties.
  • There also is a narrative aspect to this award as sometimes the “face” of one of the best defenses in the league wins the award. Brian Urlacher and Bob Sanders did not have any discernable statistic that should’ve separated them. This is a “football guy” award so there is room for advanced statistics to be ignored with this award.

Questions to Narrow the Field

  • Is the player involved as a pass rusher who can fill the stat sheet?
  • Will they be on a playoff team?

The Current Favorites: Aaron Donald +400, Myles Garrett +600, TJ Watt +700, Nick Bosa +1100, Joey Bosa +1200, Chase Young +1600

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  • Borg Take- Nick Bosa
  • Betz Take- Myles Garrett

The Middle Tier: Khalil Mack +2000, Derwin James +2500, [Shaquil Barrett, Minkah Fitzpatrick Stephon Gilmore, Danielle Hunter, Darius Leonard, Von Miller, Jalen Ramsey, Bobby Wagner,  JJ Watt, Devin White, Tre’Davious White +3300]

  • Borg Take- Danielle Hunter
  • Betz Take- Minkah Fitzpatrick

The Longshots:[Bradley Chubb, Jadeveon Clowney, Xavien Howard, Chandler Jones, Marcus Peters +4000], [Jamal Adams, Jaire Alexander, Chris Jones, Eric Kendricks, Marshon Lattimore, Demarcus Lawrence, Za’Darius Smith, Tyrann Mathieu, Yannick Ngakoue +5000]

  • Borg Take- Bradley Chubb or Za’Darius Smith
  • Betz Take- Xavien Howard
Offensive Rookie of the Year

The new hotness… we love it. If you’re in dynasty mode, this year’s rookie class is just about the greatest thing you could spend your time discussing. This award differs greatly from the MVP as QBs are not a slam dunk by any means. Here are the offensive rookie of the year winners since 2005 including Vince Young, who won the award despite throwing for more INTs than TDs?!?!

Year Off. Rookie of The Year Position Key Stat Team Record Playoffs?
2005 Cadillac Williams RB 1178/6 11-5 x
2006 Vince Young QB 5 GWDs/ 2199/12 /13 8-8
2007 Adrian Peterson RB Ran for 1341 & 12 8-8
2008 Matt Ryan QB 3440/16/11 11-5 x
2009 Percy Harvin WR 2,000 All-Purpose 12-4 x
2010 Sam Bradford QB 3500/18/15 7-9
2011 Cam Newton QB All-Timer 6-10
2012 Robert Griffin III QB He was electric 10-6 x
2013 Eddie Lacy RB 1435 Total Yards & 11 8- 7-1 x
2014 Odell Beckham Jr. WR Unreal in 12 games 6-10
2015 Todd Gurley RB 1106 & 10 7-9
2016 Dak Prescott QB Dak & Zeke 13-3 x
2017 Alvin Kamara RB Caught 81 passes 11-5 x
2018 Saquon Barkley RB Production monster 5-11
2019 Kyler Murray QB 24 total TDs 5-10
2020 Justin Herbert QB 31 passing TDs 7-9

Quick stats

  • Don’t go fishing for the long shots. Since 2005, 13 of the last 16 rookie of the year winners were 1st round picks. In fact, 11 of those 13 were top-10 picks with only the WRs (Percy Harvin & Odell Beckham Jr.) having outlier-type of seasons.
  • It may sound obvious but playoffs usually aren’t on the table for rookies as the teams that draft them high in the first round, likely got there due to horrible record. The 49ers are in a unique situation this year grabbing Trey Lance at pick 3 although they are projected for 10.5 wins.
  • RBs have a real shot in this category due to the fact they can gain meaningful roles in Year One. Teams that spend 1st round draft capital at the RB position (even if we think it’s a sub-optimal team-building strategy) usually end up giving those players huge workloads right away.
  • QBs aren’t a guarantee because there is such a huge adjustment to the NFL. Their stats usually are 60% of what an MVP candidate might put up. Justin Herbert set the rookie TD record this past year but before then Baker Mayfield (27) and Peyton Manning/Russell Wilson (26). by the way, 5th on that list is Daniel Jones with 24.
  • A tight-end has never won the Associated Press award although Pepsi has a ROY award they handed out to Jeremy Shockey with its initial 2002 award. Kyle Pitts truthers be warned!

Questions to Narrow the Field

  • Is this player a 1st Rounder?
  • Is there a story mixed with their stats?

The Current Favorites: T. Lawrence +300, [Justin Fields & Trey Lance +600] Zach Wilson +700, Najee Harris +800

  • Borg Take- Trevor Lawrence will start from Day 1. Harris is also a solid bet.
  • Betz Take- Najee Harris at +1300 on FanDuel

The Middle Tier: Mac Jones +1000, Ja’Marr Chase +1100, Kyle Pitts +1100, DeVonta Smith +1400, Jaylen Waddle +1600, Travis Etienne +2000, Javonte Williams +2000, Trey Sermon +2500

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  • Borg Take- If Julio Jones is shipped out of town, Kyle Pitts certainly will have the opportunity and the narrative in place to be the first TE to win this thing. Williams is probably my favorite of this tier.
  • Betz Take- Trey Sermon & Javonte Williams.

Getty Images Sport / Icon Sportswire

The LongshotsRashod Bateman +3300, Michael Carter +3300, Kadarius Toney +3300, Elijah Moore +4000, Terrace Marshall Jr +5000, Rondale Moore +6600

  • Borg Take- No thanks.
  • Betz Take- Meh, none of the above.
Comeback Player of the Year

An award made for Hollywood. The Comeback player of the year award winner is about a good storyline more than anything. Alex Smith started only six games throwing for fewer passing yards than Nick Foles and finishing with only six passing TDs, fewer than Mike Glennon! (If you’re a listener to the DFS Podcast, you know I had to get in a good Glennon reference… Mr. NSFW!) I need to give some props to ETR’s Ryan Reynolds who recently put out a sharp article on this exact topic.

Year Player Name Pos Team Record Injury/Adversity Playoffs?
2010 Michael Vick QB 10-6 Prison x
2011 Matthew Stafford QB 10-6 Injury x
2012 Peyton Manning QB 13-3 Injury x
2013 Philip Rivers QB 9-7 Poor Play x
2014 Rob Gronkowski TE 12-4 Injury x
2015 Eric Berry S 11-5 Cancer x
2016 Jordy Nelson WR 10-6 Injury x
2017 Keenan Allen WR 9-7 Injury
2018 Andrew Luck QB 10-6 Injury x
2019 Ryan Tannehill QB 9-7 Injury x
2020 Alex Smith QB 7-9 Injury x

Quick stats

  • If we look over the last decade, 10 of the 11 previous winners were on playoff teams with the lone exception being my boy Keenan Allen whose team.
  • A winning record looks like a must but remember, we’re all suckers for a good storyline. Returning from a horrible injury and exceeding expectations is the actual prerequisite over exact records.
  • Being a QB is easily the best bet in this category although this year we have a few unique elite talents among the favorites that are non-QBs. Dak is the overwhelming favorite this year and the fact he is still plus money is shocking.

Questions to Narrow the Field

  • Are they coming off a relatively significant injury?
  • Does their team exceed expectations and/or make the playoffs?

The Current Favorites: Dak Prescott (+175), Saquon Barkley (+600), Joe Burrow (+600), Christian McCaffrey (+600), Nick Bosa (+700)

  • Borg Take- Dak FTW!
  • Betz Take- Dak- Able to get this at +200 last week!

The Middle Tier: Carson Wentz (+900), Sam Darnold (+1600), Derwin James (+1600), Von Miller (+1600)

  • Borg Take- Carson Wentz is intriguing if you stroll down narrative street long enough.
  • Betz Take- No thanks.

The LongshotsJoe Mixon (+2000), Odell Beckham Jr.(+2500), Jameis Winston (+3300), Danielle Hunter (+3300), Julio Jones (+3300), Tim Tebow (+3300), Jimmy Garoppolo (+5000)

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  • Borg Take- I mean, bet against Tim Tebow? Couldn’t be me. But for real, don’t spend your money there.
  • Betz Take- Odell Beckham Jr.

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