In order to cash “over” props for the number of wide receivers selected in this NFL Draft’s first round, a couple of sportsbooks are dictating that the all-time record for players selected at the position must be matched.
Oddsmakers know you’ve heard that scouts are calling this the deepest crop of wideouts ever and have acted accordingly. Make no mistake, the number is fair and attainable. It’s just high.
If you’re willing to bank on at least seven receivers being selected on Thursday night, the payoff at Caesars is +170. Online at FanDuel, the number was +192 as of Monday afternoon. The “under” was -200 at Caesars but way up there at -260 at FanDuel.
Line shopping is always a must.
On that note, William Hill books and DraftKings have more manageable numbers available for high-side bettors. If you’re looking to go “over” 5.5, you’re laying juice in the -190/-200 range but face much less of a sweat. The “under” would net you +160 at both shops but I’d advise against playing naysayer at that number. If you’re riding the “under,” swallow the juice on the low side of 6.5.
The wide receiver crop is indeed as talented and highly regarded as you’ve heard. Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb look special and may wind up as Top-10 picks. Six wideouts being selected in Round 1 would be substantial but not uncommon. That number of first-round receivers have been drafted six times (’98, ’01 ’05, ’07, ’09, ’15) over the past quarter-century but we’ve only seen seven players chosen once.
Larry Fitzgerald led a class back in ’04 that featured one bust after another following the future Hall of Famer’s selection with the No. 3 pick. Arizona selected him third — only Calvin Johnson (No. 2 in ’07) has gone higher since — but it’s historically been risky to utilize first-round selections on skill position players considering how often they fail to pan out.
Over the past five drafts, there have been 17 receivers taken in the opening round. The number of guys who haven’t panned out reaches double-digits. Only Amari Cooper has made a Pro Bowl and he’s not even with the team that drafted him after being deemed expendable by the Raiders. Kevin White, John Ross and Corey Coleman have barely gotten started due to injuries.
Corey Davis, Mike Williams and Ross were top 10 picks in ’17 and have each missed significant time. That’s apparently spooked teams since only two receivers were taken in the first round of each of the past two drafts. No one has gone before the 24th selection. Teams have resisted the urge to take a wideout too early, helping lead to 13 second-round picks, matching the most for any two-year period ever. Given that seven players were chosen in Round 2 last April, look for a new two-year standard to be in place following Friday night’s festivities.
Jeudy’s route-running and fantastic hands have been on display for the Crimson Tide over the past few years since he emerged as Tua Tagovailoa’s top receiver. Teammate Henry Ruggs III also made huge plays at Alabama and ran the combine’s fastest 40-yard time in February, finishing in 4.27 seconds. He’s a Top-20 lock.
Lamb’s size and body control is also no secret. He was 2019 No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray’s favorite target with the Sooners and made plays with ’18 top pick Baker Mayfield as a freshman. He caught 14 touchdown passes from ‘Bama transfer Jalen Hurts, averaging 21.4 yards per reception as a junior. I’d take him ahead of Jeudy, a popular prop you can find as a pick’em at most shops. Lamb should emerge as an elite possession receiver.
LSU’s Justin Jefferson is considered the top slot threat in this draft. You probably remember his four first-half touchdowns against Oklahoma in a CFP semifinal win in which he finished with 14 catches for 227 yards. Jefferson led the nation with 118 receptions last season and is also a first-round lock.
The Cardinals, Jaguars, Jets, Raiders, 49ers, Bucs, Broncos, Eagles, Vikings, Patriots, Saints and Packers could all be in the market to fortify their receiving corps.
To reach the magic number of seven, teams picking in the 19-32 range will have to opt for receivers over defensive backs or offensive linemen since there’s solid depth at both those spots as well. Baylor’s Denzel Mims, a fantastic athlete with great ball skills who dominated at the combine, ranks fifth on my board. Clemson’s Tee Higgins is 6-foot-3 and has shown he can shine on the brightest stage.
Colorado’s Laviska Shenault would be a first-round lock if he hadn’t been injured most of last season. He got a letter from a doctor released to teams stating that he’ll soon be 100 percent after undergoing core surgery. Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk, TCU’s Jalen Reagor, Penn State’s KJ Hamler, South Carolina’s Bryan Edwards, USC’s Michael Pittman Jr. and Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool all should be top-50 choices, so expect a run on trades to get up in position from a number of teams who have locked in on their favorites.
The sheer volume of quality options may work against matching the all-time record since teams may opt to wait until Round 2 to pull the trigger. Aiyuk is a popular sleeper pick who definitely looks the part, while Edwards is my choice as the gem being overshadowed in this group. If he can stay healthy, Shenault will be in the conversation as the best receiver in this ’20 crop.
Lamb and Jeudy are the real deal and won’t be busts. If you’re looking for a sure thing in this draft from a betting standpoint, it’s riding the “over” 5.5 if you can still find that number prior to Thursday’s first pick. At 6.5, the “under” would be the play, but those final few picks being announced should produce quite the sweat.