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Kerryon Johnson Cracks Top 4 in NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Odds

Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson
Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson has rushed for 444 yards over his first six games. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire)
  • Kerryon Johnson has moved into the top 4 in the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year race
  • Can Johnson overtake Saquon Barkley, Baker Mayfield, and Sam Darnold?
  • Will Matt Patricia screw things up for Johnson?

Kerryon my wayward son, you hit the hole and you were gone. Don’t hit your head like Jahvid Best, and Lions fans will roar.

Excellent Kansas parodies aside, Detroit’s rookie running back Kerryon Johnson has climbed all the way to fourth in the Offensive Rookie of the Year odds following a huge day at Miami (and a Sony Michel injury). See the “Top 5 Contenders” tab in the graph below.

2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Average Odds

Johnson’s still a ways back from the leaders near the midseason point, but he has plenty of time to make up ground. Can he do it?

Odds to Win 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year

Player Pos Team Odds to win 2018 NFL OROY
Saquon Barkley RB NYG +120
Baker Mayfield QB CLE +130
Sam Darnold QB NYJ +700
Kerryon Johnson RB DET +1600
Calvin Ridley WR ATL +2000

There was a time when a Lions running back winning hardware wasn’t laughable, but rather expected. Mel Farr grabbed the first AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award in the Super Bowl era in 1967. Billie Sims collected one in 1980. Then a little guy named Barry Sanders got the first of many awards in his career in 1989.

But since Sanders abruptly called it quits in 1998, the Lions have basically been cursed at the position. Both Kevin Jones and Kevin Smith had solid starts to their careers, but got completely outclassed by their fellow rookies in 2004 in 2008 and went on to do virtually nothing in their careers. Things got so bad for the Lions well…

But Johnson finally busted that streak. In fact, he has 444 rushing yards on a nice number of carries (69), giving him 6.4  yards per tote: the kind of seemingly unsustainable production that last year’s winner Alvin Kamara had. So obviously he has a shot at this, right?

How Matt Patricia will screw this up

Last week was the first time all season Johnson had the majority of snaps at running back. It’s been evident he has more talent than LeGarrette Blount since, always. And yet the big thumper continues to get way too many touches, particularly down around the goal line.  Even though this offensive line can create some big holes…

In the red zone, Patricia would rather have a cow plod through there than let his horse gallop. Blount has 13 carries inside the 10 yard line to Johnson’s three. If those carries don’t swing the rookie’s way, he’ll never score enough to truly enter the conversation. The last OROY winner with less than 10 touchdowns was Percy Harvin back in the garbage class of 2009.

Johnson won’t get enough exposure

Another problem for Johnson is even now when the NFL has never been more accessible, some teams just don’t garner national attention. Did you even know the Lions are 4-2?

Just kidding, they’re really 3-3. But you had to look it up didn’t you? No one knows Detroit’s record off by heart, because no one cares about them. The Giants are a complete tire fire and yet every week we hear announcers ogle Barkley’s calves because New York is always in prime time.

Not only does Johnson still have a long way to go to catch Barkley in terms of production (he’s 372 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns behind in one fewer game) but he’s also got a lot of ground to make up in name recognition.

Does Johnson offer value?

He’s never going to win this award. Even if Barkley gets hurt. The winner is already in that top three. And Lions fans won’t care, just as long as he doesn’t go the way of Ameer Abdullah after this season.

Right now, Darnold offers the best value of realistic winners. He and Mayfield have similar numbers, but the Jets have actually managed to rout some opponents, rather than always go to OT. Why sportsbooks have him at +700 right now is beyond me.

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