Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins wasn't the first offensive player taken in the 2014 NFL Draft -- Central Florida QB Blake Bortles was at No. 3 to Jacksonville -- but Watkins is the favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year, 9/2 at sportsbook.
Long Drought For Buffalo
Can you name the only Buffalo Bills player to win Offensive Rookie of the Year? My first thought was O.J. Simpson. He rushed for 697 yards and two touchdowns and caught 30 passes for 343 yards and three scores in 1969, his first season. However, the winner that year was Cowboys running back Calvin Hill. Buffalo's lone winner came the next season, quarterback Dennis Shaw. Can honestly say I've never heard of that guy and it would be the highlight of his career.
Buffalo traded up from No. 9 to No. 4 overall to nab Watkins, giving up to Cleveland its first-round pick next season (and fourth), which really could be valuable. The Bills clearly wanted to get ahead of the Oakland Raiders, who might have taken Watkins at No. 5. Watkins set career records at Clemson with 240 receptions and 3,391 receiving yards. His 27 TD catches were tied for the most. The guy is electric, but did the Bills really need him that badly? They had a good young receiver in Robert Woods and a three-time 1,000-yard guy in Stevie Johnson already on the roster. They ended up trading Johnson to San Francisco after adding Watkins.
Receivers have won the OROY just twice this century: Arizona's Anquan Boldin in 2003 and Minnesota's Percy Harvin in 2009; neither is with those teams any longer. Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans, who went No. 7 overall, is the 5/1 second-favorite on NFL odds. The Bucs' last OROY was running back Cadillac Williams in 2005. Evans has a few advantages over Watkins. The first is a veteran quarterback in Josh McCown; Watkins has second-year guy E.J. Manuel, and the jury is still out on him. To be fair, it probably is on McCown too as his only good season was last year as a fill-in for Jay Cutler in Chicago. Certainly the weather also helps Evans. It's obviously a bit tougher for receivers in Buffalo in November and December than it would be in Tampa.
Cleveland quarterback Johnny Manziel is the 6/1 third-favorite on NFL odds. Apparently the sportsbooks aren't buying what the Browns are selling: i.e. that Manziel is not the team's starter. That likely is hogwash. Cleveland fans are fed up with the ineptness of that franchise and the pressure will be on to play Manziel over Brian Hoyer sooner rather than later. The Browns have never had an Offensive Rookie of the Year. I found that surprising.
Saints receiver Brandin Cooks (Oregon State), Lions tight end Eric Ebron (North Carolina) and Jaguars receiver Marqise Lee (Southern Cal) are all 10/1. Interesting that Lee is favored ahead of Bortles (20/1). Jacksonville is insistent that Bortles will sit and watch all season behind Chad Henne. Lee is also the only second-round pick among the favorites. He was a superstar in 2012 at USC when Matt Barkley was there but his numbers were off last year when the Trojans didn't have good quarterback play. Cooks should see plenty of targets from Drew Brees right away. Ebron is a tight end in name only; he's really a receiver. However, he's also at best the No. 3 target on the Lions behind Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush (out of the backfield).
The third quarterback taken in the first round of the draft, Minnesota's Teddy Bridgewater, is 12/1. He also isn't considered likely to start Week 1. I would avoid him with my NFL picks for this option.
NFL free picks: Titans running back Bishop Sankey at 14/1. He broke Corey Dillon’s single-season rushing record for at the University of Washington last year with 1,870 yards, and he can catch the ball. It's quite possible Sankey is the team's featured back from the get-go. Right now the only guy ahead of him is Shonn Greene. He was lousy last year, just had knee surgery and could be cut. The Titans' last OROY was Vince Young in 2006.