Our favorite futures bets for the 2021 NFL season
Here are the best values to target before Thursday's opener.
Brian Burns to win Defensive Player of the Year (+12500)
There are many tantalizing values in the player futures market - from Tua Tagovailoa winning MVP (+6000) to the Rookie of the Year odds for Joe Tryon (+2800) and Michael Carter (+10000), respectively. But I can't stop thinking about Burns as a dark-horse candidate to be named DPOY, which tends to reward pass-rushers with high sack totals.
The Panthers' third-year edge rusher finished with 7.5 sacks as a rookie and added nine sacks and three forced fumbles as a sophomore. He also ranked fourth in ESPN's pass-rush win rate (25%) and seventh in PFF's pass-rush grade (86.9) and pass-rush productivity (8.5) among players with at least 400 pass-rushing snaps in 2020. Translation: More sacks are coming.
Burns is a star in the making with his elite spin moves along the edge, and as he continues to build out his frame, the power will follow. He should be dealing closer to 50-1, and he'd be a steal at that price, too. At this one? He's a must-bet.
- C Jackson Cowart
Jared Goff to throw the most INTs (+800)
Traded from a Super Bowl contender in sunny Los Angeles to a bottom-feeder in snowy Detroit, things already looked bad for Goff without me piling on, but I really can't get enough of this bet.
For the first time in his pro career, Goff is learning a new offense, and that's especially significant because he's used to Sean McVay scheming receivers wide-open. Historically, he's struggled when he has to look beyond his first read, which will be a regular occurrence with the Lions given the downgrade in both scheme and talent at the skill positions.
Volume is also key for this bet, and as much as new head coach Dan Campbell wants to establish a ground-and-pound identity, the Lions will be playing from behind in most of their games. Goff faces zero threat of losing his job to backup David Blough, while the offensive line is good enough to keep his likelihood of injury low. He should attempt north of 600 passes, and the last time Goff did that, he threw a career-high 16 interceptions for a good Rams team. His 13 total interceptions last season fell just two shy of the league lead.
- Alex Moretto
49ers to win NFC championship (+600)
The last time we saw the 49ers fully healthy, they were one defensive stop away from winning the Super Bowl. In 2020, they were ravaged by the injury bug to an almost impossible extent. A partial list: They started three different quarterbacks; Deebo Samuel, Raheem Mostert, and George Kittle missed half the season; and star defensive ends Nick Bosa and Dee Ford appeared in just three combined games. San Francisco simply couldn't get the sort of heroic quarterback play needed to recover.
The 49ers addressed that by drafting exciting prospect Trey Lance No. 3 overall. Whether it's the talented Lance or a comeback season for Jimmy Garoppolo, the team's signal-caller will have the pleasure of working in a Kyle Shanahan offense with an abundance of weapons.
The reason I'm backing the 49ers to win the NFC is two-fold. First, there's the divisional element. Rather than bet the 49ers to top the NFC West, which will likely require them to post a very good record, let's instead see if that record is enough to secure the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Sure, the defending champion Buccaneers will have something to say about that, but even if the 49ers fall short of the top seed, I like their chances on the road in the playoffs. As they say: Defense and a strong running game travel well.
- Matt Russell