• Felix Anudike-Uzomah could step up early: The Chiefs are replacing 846 pass-rushing snaps at edge defender in 2023, so Anudike-Uzomah may be in line for a significant role.
• Joey Porter Jr. set to face a gauntlet of elite receivers: The new Steelers cornerback will have a chance to impress against some of the NFL's top wideouts.
• Will Bengals DC Lou Anarumo work his magic on Myles Murphy? Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard have excelled under Anarumo, and Murphy could be next up.
Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins
There’s still a long way to go before the 2023 NFL season begins, but it’s never too early to start looking at futures bets, including some of the award races. Let's dive into the best long-shot bets for Defensive Rookie of the Year, an award won by the New York Jets‘ Sauce Gardner a year ago.
Sometimes it’s best to start by looking back at past winners and seeing if there’s a pattern and for the award. And with the exception of linebacker Shaquille Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts in 2018, it has gone to a cornerback or edge defender in each of the past 10 seasons. Micah Parsons was technically classified as a linebacker in 2021, but he spent a significant amount of time as an edge defender and rushed the passer more than he dropped into coverage that season.
Taking that into consideration, here are three long shots who I think are worth placing a bet on heading into the 2023 season.
Note: Odds sourced from FanDuel Sportsbook
EDGE Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Kansas City Chiefs
It’s unlikely that Anudike-Uzomah even opens the season as a starter, with Charles Omenihu joining the team via free agency while Frank Clark is still an unsigned free agent. However, given that the Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes, we know there’s a good chance they will be leading games late, which means we can assume a relatively high number of pass-rushing snaps for Anudike-Uzomah. Between Clark and Carlos Dunlap, the Chiefs are replacing 846 pass-rushing snaps at the position.
Anudike-Uzomah has proven that he knows how to get to the quarterback, and in 2021 he posted an 89.9 PFF pass-rushing grade, registering 43 total pressures, including 13 sacks, from just 280 pass-rushing snaps. He might have been the seventh edge defender off the board, but where he landed puts him in prime position to be on the field for pass-rushing snaps late in games, where he can put up some flashy numbers.
Read more: Best division winners bets, including the Chargers to sit atop the AFC West
CB Joey Porter Jr., Pittsburgh Steelers
Porter may start right away on the outside for the Steelers in what is a solid secondary, and he could see some high-profile matchups, battling with Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins of the Cincinnati Bengals, Odell Beckham Jr. with the Baltimore Ravens and Amari Cooper with the Cleveland Browns in the AFC North. And his out-of-division battles could include Davante Adams of the Las Vegas Raiders, DeAndre Hopkins of the Arizona Cardinals and the combination of D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett of the Seattle Seahawks, so there are enough big-name matchups to build a narrative if Porter can put up some solid coverage snaps.
In his final season at Penn State, he was on the field for 275 coverage snaps and was targeted 30 times. From those 30 targets, he allowed just 15 receptions for 143 yards and had nine pass breakups. There’s already some hype around him as a player who fell further than expected, and he has the skill set to put himself firmly in the race for Defensive Rookie of the Year early in 2023.
Read more: Market-implied power rankings and ELO strength of schedule
EDGE Myles Murphy, Cincinnati Bengals
Bengals edge defender Trey Hendrickson has produced two seasons with an 85.0-plus PFF pass-rushing grade, and both have come in the past two seasons under defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo. Fellow edge defender Sam Hubbard has produced PFF pass-rushing grades of 61.0 and 58.9 over the past two regular seasons but has registered 50 or more pressures and nine sacks in each of those seasons. Anarumo knows how to help his edge defenders win, and Murphy is exactly the type of talent he can unlock.
Murphy’s highest-graded season at Clemson came as a freshman in 2020, when he produced an 85.2 PFF grade, his lone season above 80.0. However, his 78.5 PFF pass-rushing grade in 2022 was a career high. The raw tools to work with are there for Murphy, and he’s landed in the right spot to unlock his potential early in his career.