Justin Jefferson tops odds for Offensive Player of the Year, but A.J. Brown has value
The Vikings star receiver is the early favorite to win the award after a stellar Week 1 performance.
If there were any questions about how Justin Jefferson would fit in coach Kevin O’Connell’s new scheme in Minnesota, his eye-popping stat line from Week 1 served as a resounding answer.
The third-year receiver posted a career-high 184 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday – leading the league in both marks – with all but 26 yards of that coming in the first half alone. That prompted swift reaction from oddsmakers, who have already priced the Vikings star as the early favorite (+600) to win NFL Offensive Player of the Year at BetMGM.
It’s not like Jefferson got lucky with a few big plays, either. Sure, he ripped off a 64-yard gain in the second quarter, but he amassed a ridiculous 138 of his receiving yards with at least three yards of separation, and he averaged four yards of separation on his 11 targets. That’s saying something against this Green Bay secondary, which many considered the best in the NFL coming into the season.
It doesn’t look like Jefferson will be slowing down anytime soon. But with 16 weeks left to play, anything can happen. Here are a few other players worth betting at BetMGM after Week 1:
Derrick Henry, RB, Titans (+2500)
It’s trendy to bury the Titans after their lackluster loss to the Giants to open the season. And, yes, this offense has clearly lost a step after sending star wideout A.J. Brown to the Eagles this offseason. But that doesn’t mean we should bail on Henry, who entered this season among the favorites at 16/1.
His stat line on Sunday (21 carries, 82 yards) shouldn’t worry bettors. Henry averaged 70 yards through his first three games in 2019 before pacing the league in rushing yards (1,540) and touchdowns (16), and he rushed for fewer than 85 yards in four of his first eight games of 2020 before ultimately winning this award, anyway.
Henry was the runaway favorite to win it last year, too, before a midseason injury ended his campaign. The Titans star is notoriously a slow starter – he averages just 4.0 yards per carry in September but a stellar 5.6 yards in November and 5.5 yards in December. With the betting market already tossing Henry aside after one game, now is the time to strike.
A.J. Brown, WR, Eagles (+6600)
How in the world is Brown dealing at this long-shot price? While Jefferson stole the headlines among star receivers, Brown had a career day of his own in his Eagles debut and deserves much more respect than this.
The fourth-year star tied his career high with 155 yards in Sunday’s win over the Lions and was responsible for a whopping 63.8% of his team’s receiving production. His 40.6% target share also bodes well for his role as a safety blanket for emerging passer Jalen Hurts, who will have the keys to this offense more than ever before in Nick Sirianni’s second year at the helm.
No, Brown probably won’t maintain his 2,635-yard pace across an entire season, but it’s still mind-boggling to see one of the NFL’s best receivers dealing at 66/1 odds after a debut like that. I can’t imagine this price will last long.
Austin Ekeler, RB, Chargers (+8000)
I’ve long been a fan of Ekeler, who has quietly established himself as one of the best all-around offensive players in the league. And he has the talent to make a run at this award as an early-season long shot.
Yes, he was relatively quiet last week (18 touches, 72 yards) against the Raiders, but don’t expect that to last for the fulcrum of this high-powered Chargers attack. Ekeler led the league in total touchdowns (20) in 2021 and ranked fifth in scrimmage yards (1,558), and he’s still the best weapon for Los Angeles – even more so after the recent injury to Keenan Allen (hamstring).
It pays to be Justin Herbert’s top target, especially if the third-year passer posts MVP-level numbers like many expect he will. Ekeler should be a healthy recipient of this team’s gaudy yardage and touchdown totals, which makes him a fascinating play at long odds.
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