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How Notable NFL Rookies Fared at OTAs

First Look at Rookies Impacts Betting

Many NFL fans overlook OTAs, as they are voluntary and many star players do not participate. However, this is when teams begin to officially practice, giving us first looks at rookies trying to make a name for themselves and solidify a meaningful role on the roster. Some rookies stand out, while others look miles away from contributing. This should impact your NFL picks for Rookie of the Year (ROTY) awards.

We did the research for you, discovering which rookies impressed at OTAs and who disappointed. Check out how notable rookies fared and how it could impact NFL predictions.

How Notable NFL Rookies Fared at OTAs
Bryce Young #9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide - Chris Graythen/Getty Images/afp


Quarterbacks Leave Lasting Impressions

Rookie quarterbacks will always draw the most attention. The sportsbook’s top five favorites for Offensive ROTY include three signal-callers – Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson. All three impressed at OTAs.

Young’s IQ stood out as he took most of the first-team reps at OTAs. Stroud turned heads after completing six of eight passes with a touchdown in a two-minute drive drill. Richardson has already flashed his high potential, pushing Gardner Minshew for the starting gig. The first three QBs off of the board are living up to expectations.

Stetson Bennett is another quarterback that has impressed early. He was drafted earlier than most NFL expert picks predicted. He seems worth the fourth-round pick thus far, as coach Sean McVay stated, I think he’s taking it a day at a time, but I’ve been really pleased with him.”

The Houston Texans’ edge rusher Will Anderson Jr., Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Detroit Lions running back Jahmyr Gibbs are more high picks generating buzz. Coach DeMeco Ryans said Anderson has been who the Houston Texans thought they were drafting. DK Metcalf praised Smith-Njigba, “He’s come in and treated it like he’s a vet already,” said Metcalf. Gibbs’ versatility and route-running have also turned heads.

Most of the favorites for ROTY awards are fitting the billing thus far.

Early Sleepers for Hardware

Top rookie performers from OTAs could give us a jump on sleepers for ROTY. First-rounders edge rusher Nolan Smith (+1400) and cornerback Emmanuel Forbes (+1200) are outside the top six favorites to win Defensive ROTY. Both players have stood out, especially Forbes, who held up against wide receiver Terry McLaurin in several matchups. Forbes could enter the 2023 season as the Washington Commanders’ top cornerback.

Several players drafted in the later rounds have also drawn praise. Running backs Devon Achane and Tyjae Spears are worth keeping an eye on. According to NFL odds week 1, Achane is +3300 and Spears is +2800 to win Offensive ROTY. The Miami Dolphins do not have a clear No. 1 running back, and Achane’s speed and pass-catching were turning heads.

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It also seems Spear could be the perfect compliment for Derrick Henry with his receiving ability.

So far, it looks like the Texans crushed it in the 2023 NFL Draft. Third-round wide receiver Tank Dell was shining during OTAs. Ryans said he was consistently open. NFL lines week 1 do not have Dell as an option for Offensive ROTY. However, that could quickly change if he continues to excel.

For Defensive ROTY, Denver Broncos’ linebacker Drew Sanders and the San Francisco 49ers’ safety Ji’Ayir Brown are players to keep tabs on. Sanders is priced at +2200 to win the award, while Brown is not yet listed. Sanders’ athleticism and versatility were drawing rave reviews. Scouts questioned Sanders’ pass coverage; that has been emphatically silenced.

Brown totaled four interceptions within a few days of practice.

Not All Sunshine and Rainbows

Of course, not every rookie has thrived. Some have been on the receiving end of criticism. New York Giants wide receiver Jalin Hyatt was mostly getting third-team reps. Dan Duggan of The Athletic also reported it will be an “uphill climb” for Hyatt. The third-round wideout was drawing some attention on betting markets at +2800 for Offensive ROTY. This seems like a risky bet following OTAs. New England Patriots Kayshon Boutte was another receiver that underwhelmed. He was drafted in the sixth round, which some labeled as a steal.

Quarterback Will Levis sliding to the second round was one of the biggest stories of the 2023 NFL Draft. He got off to a rough start in OTAs. Newly retired defensive lineman J.J. Watt voiced his frustration with the critiques, “Rookie has rough practice in his first week of OTAs.’ Yeah, that’s called being a rookie. It’s called first week of OTAs. I had rough practices every single year in my 12 years. I’ve had rough games. I’ve had multiple rough games. S**t’s hard. It’s the National Football League,” said the future Hall of Famer.

Levis proved Watt’s point afterward, as his accuracy improved.

Ultimately, OTAs were only our first glimpse of rookies. Plenty of time goes into developing first-year players. For now, these could be the rookies to back or fade in online gambling.

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