We're starting to see some separation in the betting market for a lot of the end of season NFL awards. Josh Allen is down to +110 to win NFL MVP. The expectation is in the coming weeks, he'll become an odds-on favorite. On the defensive side, Micah Parsons is already there. Parsons is -225 to win Defensive Player of the Year.
One award that remains pretty wide open is the AP Offensive Player of the Year award. Coincidentally, it's an award that is hard to predict based on historical trends, though recent years perhaps provide us an insight into voters' thought process. It seems like the uncertainty has given us some potential value.
Tyreek Hill is on a record setting pace
Through eight games of the NFL season, Tyreek Hill has 961 receiving yards. No other wide receiver in football has more than 764 yards. Only three other players are over 700 yards on the season, and one of those players is Jaylen Waddle, Hill's teammate.
This statistic might be a little misleading, as Hill has played one more game than a lot of his counterparts. However, outside of DeAndre Hopkins (who has played just two games), Hill has the highest per-game average with 120 yards per game. Stefon Diggs is second, averaging 109 yards per game.
Remarkably, at his current production, Hill is on pace for 2042 receiving yards over a 17 game season. No receiver in NFL history has eclipsed the 2000-yard mark. Calvin Johnson has the all-time single season record with 1964 yards. Notably, that record was set in just 16 games. Last season, Cooper Kupp had 1947 yards in a 17-game season, which is the second highest mark of all-time.
Hill currently leads the NFL with 69 receptions. Kupp has 64 receptions and no other receiver has more than 55 catches. The lone issue with Hill's season so far has been finding the end zone, as he has just two scores. However, touchdowns are largely random and it would shock no one to see Hill have a three-touchdown game and get back to a respectable number.
It's impossible to overstate the impact that Hill has had on the development of Tua Tagovailoa. Entering the season, many questioned whether he had a future in the NFL and a lot of people viewed this year as a tryout of sorts for Tagovailoa. Now, those questions and skeptics are a lot more quiet.
Hill has proven to be quarterback-proof as he has had success with Teddy Bridgewater and Skylar Thompson while Tagovailoa was hurt. Entering the season, a lot of people questioned whether Hill's production was inflated because he caught passes from Patrick Mahomes the last few seasons. Hill has quickly proven that he's one of the best receivers in the game, no matter who's throwing him the ball.
Despite the record-setting pace, you can still bet Hill to win AP Offensive Player of the Year at +800 odds, which seems like a steal at that price.
Is the award trending away from quarterbacks?
Tyreek Hill is currently +800 to win Offensive Player of the Year. Those are the fourth best odds of any player. The three players with better odds than Hill are all quarterbacks. Jalen Hurts is the betting favorite at +350. Josh Allen is +500 and Lamar Jackson is +750 to win the award.
However, recent history surrounding this award suggests that a quarterback might be a bad bet to win it. Four of the last five winners of the award have either played running back or wide receiver. The only quarterback to win the award over that span is Patrick Mahomes, who threw 50 touchdown passes in 2018. That's a feat that has only been accomplished three times in NFL history. It was an all-time great season.
The idea of position groups having their own award is not a foreign concept across sports. In baseball, pitchers rarely win MVP. They have the Cy Young award. In hockey, goaltenders rarely win the Hart Trophy (league MVP). They have the Vezina Award. Sure, there are some exceptions in both sports, but those are reserved for all-time great seasons.
The voters for NFL awards have made it clear that the MVP is going to be given to the league's best quarterback, fair or not. They have the Defensive Player of the Year award for the best defensive player. With recent voting trends, it seems like the Offensive Player of the Year award might be trending towards awarding the best skill position player.
The current betting odds suggest a high value being placed on a quarterback's ability to run the ball. Hurts, Allen and Jackson are all quarterbacks very capable of moving the ball with their legs. However, there's really no precedent for this award rewarding that type of quarterback. Cam Newton won the award in 2015, but he also won MVP that season.
I don't think it's crazy to move forward under the assumption that this award is trending towards awarding the best receiver or running back in the league. Through the first half of this season, that has clearly been Tyreek Hill. He's on a record-setting pace. At his current odds of +800, I think there's plenty of value. Based on recent trends, you can easily make the case he should be the betting favorite to win Offensive Player of the Year.