Back in August when Romeo Doubs was the darling of Green Bay Packers training camp and seemingly on the fast track to emerge as the No. 2 target for four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, we wrote about soaring odds for the fourth-round wideout to take home the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Fast-forward to Dec. 6 – and the Packers still have a rookie receiver in contention for top honors.
But it’s not Doubs, who has missed the past four games due to a high ankle sprain. It's Christian Watson.
That’s right. The specimen that Green Bay traded up to acquire in the 2022 NFL draft out of North Dakota State. The FCS star, selected 34th overall, possessing a freakish blend of size, speed and raw skill.
Watson’s chances of claiming the award presented to the best first-year player were slim at the start of the year. An egregious drop Week 1 sunk him further down the list of candidates, as did his receiving line through the first nine weeks of the season – 10-88-0 – a stretch frustratingly interrupted by injuries.
You’re acquainted with the story from there. Watson broke out in Week 10, catching three touchdowns in Green Bay’s frantic come-from-behind win over the Cowboys. He’s added five touchdowns since then and is gaining serious ground on the league’s other suitors to follow 2021 OROTY winner Ja’Marr Chase.
Let’s peep the case for the six players with +2000 odds or better of winning the OROTY award:
Seahawks RB Kenneth Walker III | Current odds: +150
The present-day favorite, Walker went on a five-game tear from Weeks 5-9 that witnessed the 41st overall draft choice, and second running back picked last spring, rush for 512 yards and seven TDs on 96 carries (5.3 avg.). Overall, Walker ranks 20th in the NFL and second among rookies with 649 yards on the ground. He also has chipped in 19 catches for 116 yards out of the backfield on a Seattle squad that’s positioned to make the playoffs. Walker’s nine rushing touchdowns is tied for fifth most in the NFL. He has 20 runs of 10+ yards and has forced 35 missed tackles, both top-15 marks. To join the likes of Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara and Todd Gurley – the only running backs since 2015 to collect the OROTY trophy – Walker likely will need to shrug off his last three games, where he was limited to 147 total yards. To be able to do so, he’ll need to play. Walker unfortunately exited Seattle’s Week 13 tilt with an ankle injury. He might’ve been a runaway to win this award had he not come off the bench in his first four NFL games.
Jets WR Garrett Wilson | Current odds: +250
The OROTY conversation might’ve ended weeks ago if Wilson lucked out with a top-tier QB. Instead, he’s caught passes from an aged Joe Flacco, a far-from-ready face of the franchise in Zach Wilson and Mike White, a gunslinger off the streets (White was a fifth-rounder in 2019, released by his original team). Despite the Jets’ mess under center, Wilson has been phenomenal. He owns a receiving line of 57-790-4 in 12 games (seven starts), has topped the century mark on three occasions and is coming off an electric eight-catch, 162-yard performance in New York’s narrow defeat to the 10-2 Minnesota Vikings. One of two Ohio State wide receivers drafted inside the top 15 last spring, Wilson already is the Jets’ best offensive player and is on track to shatter the franchise record for receiving yards by a rookie, set in 1996 by No. 1 overall pick Keyshawn Johnson (844). For some perspective, last year’s winner of this award, Chase, compiled 81 receptions for 1,455 yards and 13 TDs on 128 targets over 17 games for Cincinnati.
Packers WR Christian Watson | Current odds: +350
Watson is unlike anyone else on this shortlist. He’s hardly touched the football, hardly scraped his potential. Yet arguably is amidst the most dominant stretch by a rookie in recent memory. In four games dating to Nov. 13, the 6-foot-5, 200-pound Watson has recorded 15 catches for 313 yards and seven TDs. He also has a pair of rushes in that timeframe, for 49 yards, including a 43-yard sprint for six on an end-around. Astonishingly, that’s the bulk of what Watson has accomplished. Aside from another rushing TD earlier in the season, his impact was minor – his entire OROTY campaign was born in the last 24 days. Watson stands apart from other rookies this season, as the only with a streak of 3+ games reaching the end zone – he’s done it in four straight – and is tied with Walker for the rookie lead with nine touchdowns. Watson is a literal threat to score whenever he touches the football. His 30% TD rate is superhuman.
Saints WR Chris Olave | Current odds: +1600
The other Ohio State WR checks in at No. 10 on the NFL’s chart for receiving yards, with 887. Olave is everything scouts anticipated he would be – a sure-handed, savvy route runner who has underrated field-stretching ability. Already the top option in the Saints passing attack, Olave is averaging a healthy 14.8 yards per reception, which is 10th best among pass catchers who’ve been targeted 50+ times. His three receiving touchdowns pale in comparison to Watson’s seven, but Olave’s volume is more impressive – not to mention what he’s achieved has primarily been with embattled veteran Andy Dalton, a backup not too long ago, slinging the football. Here’s two eyebrow-raising Olave stats: 1) He’s picked up 174 yards after the catch. That’s nothing for someone who’s caught 60 passes. 2) He’s third in the league in air yards, with 1,419, barely trailing a couple superstars in Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill (both 1,524).
Texans RB Dameon Pierce | Current odds: +2000
Only a couple ball carriers in the NFL run with more wiggle and authority than Pierce, who somehow fell all the way to Houston in the fourth round (No. 107 overall) of the 2022 NFL draft. Pierce has given Texans fans reason to be optimistic about the future of the franchise. He’s first among rookie RBs with 861 yards rushing (tied with Colts star Jonathan Taylor for the eighth most across the league) and has gained the sixth-most yards after contact (658). The one knock on Pierce is his four touchdowns through 12 games – but should he be blamed for Houston’s miserable offense and inability to move the chains? Pierce was unstoppable across seven outings spanning Weeks 3-10. His red-hot run featured 670 ground yards (95.7 per game) plus an additional 112 via the passing game. It’ll be difficult for Pierce to leapfrog others on this list due to Houston’s status as a noncontender, but no rookie has handled a larger load.
Commanders RB Brian Robinson Jr. | Current odds: +2000
Robinson Jr. has the best narrative of the bunch. Wounded in a shooting in August just weeks before he was supposed to make his NFL debut as RB1, a role he earned thanks to a strong preseason and training camp, the Alabama product spent the first four weeks rehabilitating and getting up to speed. His debut Oct. 9 was really cool – Robinson Jr. entered FedEx Field to the 50 Cent track “Many Men (Wish Death)” – and his first start was special, highlighted by 60 rushing yards and touchdown No. 1 as a professional. Robinson Jr. ran rugged his next five games but didn’t average more than 3.8 yards per carry. His breakout finally happened in Week 12 against Atlanta. In that contest, which Washington won 19-13, Robinson Jr. toted the rock 18 times for 105 yards (5.83 avg.) and had two catches for 20 more and a TD. He’s definitely a longshot to win the award – in part because of his early-season absence – but is worth keeping a watchful eye on, especially if the Commanders continue to win games as the underdog.
Rounding out the top 10: Steelers QB Kenny Pickett (+2500), Chiefs RB Isiah Pacheco (+2500), Steelers WR George Pickens (+5000), Buccaneers RB Rachaad White (+10000), Colts WR Alec Pierce (+10000).
Note: All odds courtesy sportsbettingdime.com.