Oddsmakers appear to have high hopes for St. Louis Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin, making him the early favorite to capture Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Yet, as past history has shown, this is traditionally one of the most unpredictable award races of the season.
Here is a look at four darkhorse candidates for the NFL's top honor among offensive rookies (odds courtesy carbonsports.ag):
Geno Smith, New York Jets (+1,000)
One of the most talked-about freshman of the 2013 draft class may not even be the starter come Week 1. Smith finds himself in a battle with incumbent Mark Sanchez, who owns the worst rating of any quarterback in history who started for at least four seasons. It shouldn't take long for Smith to become the undisputed No. 1 QB in New York - and when it happens, expect strong results.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals (+1,000)
Eifert carries as much hype as any rookies coming into the season, already drawing comparisons to some of the top tight ends in the league. The Bengals have used Eifert as a wide receiver in some preseason sets, and he has quickly become a favorite target of quarterback Andy Dalton. With few passing options beyond A.J. Green, Cincinnati may go to Eifert a lot.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Minnesota Vikings (+1,500)
Patterson has yet to hit the field with starting quarterback Christian Ponder, and how the two mesh could go a long way in determining whether the electrifying wideout has a sensational first season. Patterson is said to have a strong understanding of the playbook, and with former No. 1 Percy Harvin bolting for Seattle in the offseason, the opportunity to seize the role is there.
Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee Titans (+2,000)
Hunter's preseason has been a difficult one, but at least one of his teammates believes he can be a star - and soon. "I can't wait until Justin Hunter realizes that he is a star," strong safety Bernard Pollard told the Tennessean. "It is out of control how good that guy could be." If the former Volunteers standout can get his act together before Week 1, his future may be now.