We’re in the dark days of the NFL offseason. With the 2022 NFL Draft and free agency long gone and only a few silly quotes from Arthur Smith to keep us engaged while we watch the NBA playoffs or the USFL, it might be easy to forget that we’re only a few short months away from NFL football.
Luckily, we can still bet on future events. Our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook have been gracious enough to post player props for notable NFL rookies ahead of their inaugural season. We at PFF will be debuting a lot of new fantasy and gambling interfaces this fall, but for now, you can look at their projections and compare them to these lines. I’ll give opinions on which ones I like and don’t like below. Enjoy!
WR Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints: 719.5 receiving yards (over -125/under -105) & 4.5 touchdowns (over -130/under +100)
The Saints traded up to get the Ohio State star, likely with the intention of using him. The version of Jameis Winston we saw in Tampa Bay would make me very bullish on this number, while the New Orleans version makes me less so. Add in the fact that Sean Payton has left for greener life pastures and that Michael Thomas’ injury situation is (still) in flux, and the range of outcomes here is wide. Olave's median projection is 679.7 yards and 4.2 touchdowns, so the bet is under for us on both props.
WR Christian Watson, Green Bay Packers: 675 receiving yards (-115/-115)
It was fun to do some FCS analysis this past month, and a lot of it was inspired by players like Watson, for whom PFF has collected the full data set only back to the 2020 season (which was weirdly played in the spring of 2021). At the FCS level, Watson was worth 0.70 wins above the average player, translating to about 0.11 wins above the average FBS player.
— Eric Eager ???????? (@PFF_Eric) May 14, 2022
What does this mean for Watson with Green Bay? I think, at least initially, that the athleticism Watson possesses, along with his elevated drop rate, means that he’s going to contribute in ways that likely won't move the fantasy or betting needle all that much early on, though he might be a player for whom individual game props show value later in the season. We make the number 591.1 receiving yards, which points to an under in terms of a season-long play.
WR Drake London, Atlanta Falcons: 764.5 receiving yards (-115/-115) & 4.5 touchdowns (-140/+110)
London was initially the favorite to be the first wide receiver chosen but became an underdog once Garrett Wilson to the Jets gained steam. The Falcons ultimately took the USC product to pair with tight end Kyle Pitts and eventually Calvin “Billy Walters” Ridley in a rebuilding Falcons passing game.
With Marcus Mariota at quarterback, there’s not necessarily a whole lot we can expect in terms of production: The top wide receivers in Mariota offenses thus far have earned 549 yards, 945 yards, 837 yards and 891 yards, which are modest totals. Still, I think London has a pretty good chance of becoming the No. 1 wide receiver in this offense. And he’s a much better player than Rishard Matthews, the man who earned two of those totals.
Our projections for London are 1005.7 yards and 5.7 touchdowns, given how bad the Falcons will be and how much they will need to pass. Bet the over on London.
WR Garrett Wilson, New York Jets: 749.5 receiving yards (-115/-115) & 3.5 touchdowns (-140/+110)
The Jets struggled a lot last year, and despite game scripts conducive to more passing, their productivity at the wide receiver position topped off at Elijah Moore’s 538 yards. Despite this, you can contend that this receiving corps, with Corey Davis, Moore and Braxton Berrios, is something of a crowded lot.
Despite this, we project some improvement from quarterback Zach Wilson and continued passing game scripts, which gives us a projection of 813.5 receiving yards and 5.2 touchdowns for the rookie. Both of these suggest we lean over.
WR Jahan Dotson, Washington Commanders: 611.5 receiving yards (-115/-115)
For the purposes of this bet, you just need the upgrade from Heinicke to Wentz to be maintained for a significant part of the season. I think that happens, as does our projection of 834.4 yards for Dotson, who was a surprise 16th overall pick in the draft. Bet the over on Dotson, a player who was wonderful at generating separation and tracking the football at Penn State.
WR Skyy Moore, Kansas City Chiefs: 680.5 receiving yards (-115/-115)
This is an interesting one. Moore has the best quarterback of any of the rookie wide receivers, and as such, the tail of his distribution is fat. Moore was the 22nd best player on PFF's draft board, but he was taken more than 30 picks later, suggesting that the league is a little down on him relative to us.
Furthermore, with JuJu Smith-Schuster coming to Kansas City (frankly a year late) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling getting a decent-sized deal to come over from Green Bay, Moore might not be a contributor right away. We make the number 494.6 receiving yards, which would lead us to bet under here.
WR Treylon Burks, Tennessee Titans: 869.5 receiving yards (-115/-115) & 5.5 touchdowns (-110/-120)
Reports of Burks not being able to make it through a spring practice session made their way around the internet and led George Chahrouri and me to take the under on him during an episode of the PFF Forecast.
This goes against our numbers a bit, as we project Burks for 954.6 receiving yards and 6.1 touchdowns, in large part due to the fact that the Titans are likely to be worse this year, have to pass more and have only the recovering Robert Woods to throw to at the wide receiver position. Despite the projections, I would not bet the over.
RB Breece Hall, New York Jets: 830.5 rushing yards (-115/-115) & 5.5 touchdowns (+100/-130)
Last week, I wrote about projecting the different rookie runners into their situations at the NFL level. Given the Jets’ composition of run concepts and how they paired with Hall’s athleticism and his proficiency in running these at the college level, I had Hall with an average of 4.2 yards per carry. To achieve 830.5 rushing yards with that efficiency, Hall would need to earn 198 carries, which amounts to about 11.6 carries per game.
I think most Jets fans would tell you that that’s an easy number, and so Hall should be a smash bet to the over here. Michael Carter II, the man the Jets took in Round 4 last year, earned 147 carries, after all.
But I would caution a bit on Hall due to a.) Carter’s existence, and b.) the risk of injury. For example, if Hall were to miss three games, the average number of carries per game goes up to 14.1, a harder hill to climb. Javonte Williams, with a similar situation and draft capital usage as Hall, earned 203 carries while playing in all 17 games last year. — and that’s right on the border. So, I wouldn’t bet either side of this prop.
Edge Aidan Hutchinson, Detroit Lions: 8.5 sacks (+110/-145)
Two weeks ago, I wrote about projecting Hutchinson, Thibodeaux, Walker and others into their NFL situations and gave projections there. I project Hutchinson to record 9.4 sacks if he earns 450 pass-rushing snaps, which makes this over a pretty good bet. Restore the roar.
Edge Kayvon Thibodeaux, New York Giants: 7.5 sacks (-115/-115)
I have Thibodeaux getting 8.9 sacks if he plays 450 pass-rushing snaps in Year 1. Relative to this price, it means an over for the former Oregon star.
Edge Travon Walker, Jacksonville Jaguars: 6.5 sacks (+100/-135)
I think we all find it funny that Walker, the first overall pick in the draft, has a lower expectation from the markets in Year 1 than the second and fifth overall picks. If given 450 pass-rushing snaps, though, we make the number 7.2 sacks, which would also mean over is the play if you assume a healthy season from the former Bulldog.