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NFL Offensive ROY

By Robert Ferringo

Do you remember your first job out of college? It was probably some low-paying joke of an employment that had nothing to do with your degree. More than likely you showed up late a lot, thinking that your boss couldn't tell how hung over or stoned you were, and would sleep-walk through shifts thinking about how great it will be when you get a "real" job.

Yeah, I lasted about six weeks at the paint store.

Some people start out as bartenders or waitresses. Some work at the mall and others at Daddy's company. And still others begin their post-college career as million-dollar running backs or wide receivers for National Football League teams. To each his own.

Sportsbook.com is currently holding odds on who will win this year's NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. The odds were first posted on May 12, just two weeks after the draft. However, some major changes have taken place since then.

The Rookie of the Year Award has been given every year since 1967. Certain trends have emerged that can help predict the winner, but I noticed that they've either reversed or contradicted themselves in recent years.

Here are five questions whose answers can help you determine who is worth betting for this potentially lucrative futures play:

Questions #1: Which position has the highest rate of success?
Absolutely. An overwhelming 30 of the 39 recipients have been running backs. That includes a stretch of 10 rushers in the past 13 seasons. Of the nine non-runners to take home the hardware only two were quarterbacks and six were wide receivers. Only once - Earl McCullouch in 1968 - has an offensive lineman been recognized.

While a majority (77 percent) of winners has been running backs, only one of the last three ROY's was a tailback. That was Cadillac Williams last year. Before that it was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wideout Anquan Boldin.

There were 18 running backs taken in the 2006 draft and 14 of them have odds posted on Sportsbook. You have to like any bet with a 77 percent track record, and when you account for some of the other trends we're about to explore you'll see that you can narrow that field of 14 down even more to further increase your probability.

Question #2: Does it matter what round a rookie was selected in?
Definitely. Twenty-seven of the 39 players honored (69 percent) were taken in the first round.

But recently we've had a divergence from that trend. Since 2000, only two of the last six recipients were first rounders, and those were Williams and Roethlisberger. Further, only six of the last 11 and eight of the past 14 ROY's were top picks.

There is a strong possibility that this recent anti-trend could continue this year. There were only 10 offensive skill position players - including four running backs - chosen among the initial 32 picks in April's draft.

Question #3: Does it matter if the rookie is on a winning team?
In the last twenty years there has been a dramatic change in the impact that being on a winning team has in determining the league's top rookie.

Between 1985 and 1996 all of the award-winners came from non-playoff teams. In fact, the ROY played on a winning team only twice during that span.

But a sea change has taken place since Eddie George bagged the award for the 8-8 Houston Oilers in 1996. In nine of the past ten seasons the ROY has come from a team with a .500 or better record. The only exception was Boldin in 2004. Also, in seven of those ten years the winner has come from a playoff club.

Question #4: Does it matter what conference the rookie plays in?
Not really. The ROY Award went to an NFC player in 13 of the first 20 years, but has only been from that conference in eight of the past 19 seasons.

There is no solid empirical explanation for why this occurred, but that majority has helped the National Conference to a 21-19 advantage in overall recipients. In each of the past six seasons it has alternated from one conference to another.

Question #5: Does it matter which college the rookie came from?
Not really. The University of Miami boasts five ROY's and Southern California is second with three. Besides those powerhouses, we've had winners from Yale, Marshall and San Diego State.

Seven of the past 16 winners played their college ball for either an SEC school or a school in Florida. That's helpful as a guide, but isn't indicative of a definitive trend.

Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at robert@docsports.com.

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