NFL betting: With Kenneth Walker III hurting, Offensive Rookie of the Year race tightens

For a stretch, Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III looked like the easy pick for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

After Rashaad Penny suffered a season-ending injury, Walker was the lead back in the Seahawks' backfield and he delivered a few fantastic performances. Then he injured his ankle.

We don't know yet if Walker will play on Sunday — we don't even really know what the injury is, because Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is being dodgy about it — but he did miss practice on Wednesday or Thursday. That's not a good sign for Sunday.

If Walker misses any time, it changes the Offensive Rookie of the Year race. And there are many good candidates this season.

Kenneth Walker III leads OROY odds

The past few years, multiple rookies have come in and played at a really high level. Partially it's good fortune with some talented classes, but rookies are more ready than ever to make an immediate impact.

Good rookies like Washington Commanders running back Brian Robinson Jr., Houston Texans running back Dameon Pierce and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett are all at 20-to-1 or longer for OROY at BetMGM. In other seasons they might be favored. It's a strong rookie field this year.

Here are the top rookies in the race, via BetMGM's odds:

Walker +200

Garrett Wilson +275

Christian Watson +300

Chris Olave +400

Watson is the most interesting name because he's the late riser. He has eight touchdowns in four games. Some of them have been huge plays. If he continues his touchdown binge, that will get voters' attention. Even if Watson doesn't have the other counting stats to compare to his competition (he has just 30 touches all season), those highlight plays will carry a lot of weight.

Meanwhile, the other two receivers on that list have already proven to be future superstars too.

Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III is the favorite for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III is the favorite for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Who will win OROY?

Here are the key stats for the four favorites:

Walker: 649 rushing yards, 116 receiving yards, nine total TDs

Wilson: 57 receptions, 790 yards, four TDs

Watson: 25 catches, 401 yards, 68 rushing yards, nine total TDs

Olave: 60 catches, 887 yards, three TDs

Nobody is running away with it, especially if Walker misses a game or two. Wilson and Olave seem certain to pass 1,000 yards this season, which is a key number. Both of them are exceptional players. Wilson in particular could rise late in the season; his numbers when Zach Wilson isn't playing quarterback are ridiculous.

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Pierce has 861 rushing yards, and getting to 1,000 could at least get him back in the conversation again. Pickett has been playing better and while his stats aren't great (four TDs, eight INTs), a strong finish could get some attention because voters want to pick a quarterback if possible.

While someone down the list could make a run, it does seem the award will go to one of the top four in the odds. Walker is the favorite for a good reason but his injury makes the race a lot cloudier.

Regardless of who wins, there are a lot of 2022 rookies to be excited about the next few years.