The Z Report

Lance Zierlein: Odds and End$ - I’ve got your props

Lance Zierlein: Odds and End$ - I’ve got your props
Leonard Fournette could be in for a big year. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

This is the time of year when the fantasy football owners out there are scouring the internet trying to glean as much information as they can about rookies, sleepers, expected targets for receivers, and emerging running backs.

For those who like to play the “game within the game”, this is the time of year they start looking for “futures” and finding the best values on the board. Because I love each and every one of you like you were my seventh or eighth child (I only have five), I’ve decided to give you action junkies my thoughts on some of the prop bets that I see right now. As for your fantasy ballers, I’ll get to you next week.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Derrius Guice (WAS) 10:1  * Update: Suffered torn ACL in 1st preseason game.

Sam Darnold (NYJ) 17:1

Calvin Ridley (ATL) 20:1

Saquon Barkley is the favorite at even money, but what fun is that? Sam Darnold has a good chance to be the man from start to finish with the Jets so 17:1 odds is a great value. Calvin Ridley is getting 23:1 odds which is terrific value considering his ability to hit big plays and his quarterback who can air it out. Derrius Guice is off to a strong start and I like him getting 10:1 better than Barkley at EVEN.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Roquan Smith (CHI) 3.5:1

Tremaine Edmunds (BUF) 9:1

Darius Leonard (IND) 20:1

I’m not going to lie, fading Broncos rookie DE Bradley Chubb at 3:1 won’t be easy, but the 2018 draft was the heavy with LB talent so let’s stick with these three. Roquan Smith is set to have a strong year right out of the gate and getting 3.5:1 is actually decent value. Tremaine Edmunds was as productive as they come in college and he has the athletic ability to translate that production into the pros. Leonard is flying under the radar somewhat, but he’s a great athlete who could end up playing all three downs for the Colts.

Rushing Leader

Leonard Fournette (JAX) 8.5:1

When you consider that Fournette had 268 carries last year, that young RBs are always most likely to get a heavy workload, and that Blake Bortles is the quarterback…. Well, you can see why I see this as such a value ticket.

Most Receiving Yards

Odell Beckham (NYG) 10:1

When he’s healthy (and happy?), Beckham might be the most talented receiver in the game today. Granted, it might not be safe to consider Beckham a happy camper right now, but he seems to believe that his contract will get worked out. If it does, then look out. If it doesn’t, he’s in a contract year and will likely be on his best behavior. Getting 10:1 for a talent like Beckham is great value.

Kirk Cousins OVER 25.5  Pass TDs

Alex Smith UNDER 23.5  Pass TDs

Ezekiel Elliott OVER 12.5 Rush TDs

Leonard Fournette OVER 10.5  Rush TDs

Michael Thomas OVER 7.5  Receiving TDs

Adam Thielen OVER 5.5  Receiving TDs


 

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Will robot umps improve baseball? Composite Getty Images.

Major League Baseball could test robot umpires as part of a challenge system in spring training next year, which could lead to regular-season use in 2026.

MLB has been experimenting with the automated ball-strike system in the minor leagues since 2019 but is still working on the shape of the strike zone.

“I said at the owners meeting it is not likely that we would bring ABS to the big leagues without a spring training test. OK, so if it’s ’24 that leaves me ’25 as the year to do your spring training test if we can get these issues resolved, which would make ’26 a viable possibility,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday during a meeting with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. "But is that going to be the year? I’m not going to be flat-footed on that issue.

“We have made material progress. I think that the technology is good to a 100th of an inch. The technology in terms of the path of the ball is pluperfect.”

Triple-A ballparks have used ABS this year for the second straight season, but there is little desire to call the strike zone as the cube defined in the rule book and MLB has experimented with modifications during minor league testing.

The ABS currently calls strikes solely based on where the ball crosses the midpoint of the plate, 8.5 inches from the front and the back. The top of the strike zone was increased to 53.5% of batter height this year from 51%, and the bottom remained at 27%.

"We do have technical issues surrounding the definition of the strike zone that still need to be worked out,” Manfred said.

After splitting having the robot alone for the first three games of each series and a human with a challenge system in the final three during the first 2 1/2 months of the Triple-A season, MLB on June 25 switched to an all-challenge system in which a human umpire makes nearly all decisions.

Each team currently has three challenges in the Pacific Coast League and two in the International League. A team retains its challenge if successful, similar to the regulations for big league teams with video reviews.

“The challenge system is more likely or more supported, if you will, than the straight ABS system,” players' association head Tony Clark said earlier Tuesday at a separate session with the BBWAA. "There are those that have no interest in it at all. There are those that have concerns even with the challenge system as to how the strike zone itself is going to be considered, what that looks like, how consistent it is going to be, what happens in a world where Wi-Fi goes down in the ballpark or the tech acts up on any given night.

“We’re seeing those issues, albeit in minor league ballparks," Clark added. "We do not want to end up in a world where in a major league ballpark we end up with more questions than answers as to the integrity of that night’s game or the calls associated with it.”

Playing rules changes go before an 11-member competition committee that includes four players, an umpire and six team representatives. Ahead of the 2023 season, the committee adopted a pitch clock and restrictions on defensive shifts without support from players.

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