NFL Draft Odds: A Bettor’s Approach To Predicting The First Round

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Former Michigan Defensive End Aidan Hutchison could be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

The 2022 NFL Draft is upon us, and here is our forecast on how the first round will play out. The event will be held Thursday-Saturday in Las Vegas.

DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM are among the many sportsbooks offering odds on a variety of first-round props, including how many wide receivers will be taken (over/under 5.5), who will be the first cornerback off the board, and how many players from the SEC will be selected (over/under 10.5).

Mock drafts have fluctuated wildly regarding QBs. One analyst forecast four going in the top 10 picks. Another said no QBs will be taken at all in the first round. Yikes!

As it stands early Monday, 24 teams will be active in the opening round, with eight having two picks. The eight that currently won’t get into the action until Day 2 are Las Vegas, Chicago, Denver, Cleveland, Miami, the L.A. Rams, San Francisco, and Indianapolis. Of the eight, the Super Bowl champion Rams will have the longest wait to get involved, at No. 104 with a third-round compensatory pick.

Jacksonville is on the clock … again.

NFL Draft First-Round Picks

No. 1. Jacksonville: The Jaguars are the eighth team in NFL history to have the top pick in the draft in back-to-back seasons. Last year, it was a no-brainer in taking Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence. This year, though, it will be a brainer.

For the most part, analysts are somewhat torn between two edge rushers — Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson and Georgia’s Travon Walker. Hutchinson was the odds-on choice to be off the board first, but Walker has seen an uptick in popularity of late.

Hutchinson is said to have the highest floor and Walker more upside. But considering Jacksonville’s dreary past, the Jaguars should go with more of the sure thing in Hutchinson with the first of their 12 picks.

No. 2 Detroit: The Lions have the 32nd pick in the first round (from the Rams), too, so getting their quarterback of the future can wait if the team insists on giving up so soon on Jared Goff, despite his strong efforts late last sesaon.

Of more concern should be improving the pass rush, which ranked 30th last year with only 30 sacks. Thus, should Walker drop to second, Detroit grabs the Georgia product, marking the first time in 22 years defensive players were taken with the initial two picks.

No. 3 Houston: The Texans’ roster has been gutted over the past two years, with their star QB Deshaun Watson dealt to Cleveland (we all know his story), Arizona’s highway robbery of a trade for WR DeAndre Hopkins, and with three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt asking for and receiving his release.

So, any pick new coach Lovie Smith makes surely will fill a need. The Texans would be wise to grab the best offensive lineman on the board in NC State’s Ickey Ekwonu, who can play guard or tackle.

Not only will he help protect second-year QB Davis Mills, but he should greatly aid the league’s most anemic running game last year (83.6 yards a game, 3.4 a carry). For the betting man, though, it might be enticing to take OT Charles Cross (+800 DraftKings).

No. 4 N.Y. Jets: Like their Meadowlands buddies, the Giants, the Jets have two picks in the first 10 on Thursday.

It would make sense here for defensive-minded second-year coach Robert Saleh to take by far the top cornerback in the draft in Cincinnati’s “Sauce” Gardner (-450 DraftKings). He’d be a giant upgrade for a defense that ranked next to last in defensive passer rating last season.

No. 5 N.Y. Giants: The Giants will also have the No. 7 pick in their quest to bolster the offensive line and pass rush.

With two edge rushers already surely gone, the Giants won’t waste time in grabbing Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, who at one point was considered as the likely choice to go first overall. The offensive line can wait.

No. 6 Carolina: Two trains of thought here: If Carolina really does consider QB Sam Darnold its man this year, then the choice would be an offensive tackle to help protect him.

But then again, why have coach Matt Rhule and the Panthers been batting their eyes at all the highly-rated QB candidates and showing up at their Pro Days?

Nothing wrong with that, but with no QB standing out like Joe Burrow or Trevor Lawrence in past years, taking one here would seem to be a waste of draft capital.

Several analysts have them taking a QB in this spot, and for the most part it would be Pitt’s Kenny Pickett and his celebrated small hands. Pickett is +130 at BetMGM to be the first QB off the board, with Liberty’s Malik Willis at -155.

If the Panthers do want a QB they could trade down and still get a quality passer. But if they stay, the choice should be OT Charles Cross of Mississippi State.

No. 7 N.Y. Giants: Now they attend to the offensive line and grab massive Evan Neal (6-7, 337) from Alabama. He’s widely regarded to be instantly NFL-ready.

No. 8 Atlanta: Although there’s been buzz that the Falcons are interested in taking a QB (to be mentored by Marcus Mariota), or an offensive lineman, the Falcons also are in need of a speedy WR to complement standout TE Kyle Pitts and all-purpose receiver/running back/kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson.

With veteran WR Calvin Ridley suspended for the season for gambling, the favorite to help fill his shoes will be Alabama’s Jameson Williams, who is +200 at DraftKings to be the first wide receiver picked. That’s down from +400 a week and a half ago.

No. 9 Seattle (from Denver): The Seahawks are in need of help at offensive tackle and could use an edge rusher. But they also are desperate for help in the secondary and will go for LSU’s Derek Stingley, who’s the clear second choice on the board at this position.

No. 10 N.Y. Jets: As evidenced by their inability to land ex-K.C. star WR Tyreek Hill in free agency, they are in the market for a zippy receiver for second-year QB Zach Wilson. Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson, widely regarded as the top-rated WR on the board entering the draft is the choice.

No. 11 Washington: The Commanders need a wide receiver, too, but coach Ron Rivera can’t help but be tempted to take sensational Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton (-500 at DraftKings as first safety taken), who is seen as an all-purpose leader of the secondary.

No. 12 Minnesota: Some mock drafts have the Vikings going for another receiver after having such success with Justin Jefferson two years ago. But their defense needs help more, ranking 30th in yards allowed last year, so edge rusher Arnold Ebiketie of Penn State is a nice choice here.

No. 13 Houston: Now for defense. As mentioned earlier, the Texans have needs galore. But after after bolstering the offense, edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II of Florida State is the choice.

No. 14 Baltimore: The Ravens have needs at cornerback, edge rusher and offensive tackle. With their injury woes at OT, though, the attention goes there. Taking Trevor Penning (6-7, 325) of Northern Iowa makes sense.

No. 15 Philadelphia: Another first-round wide receiver for the Eagles? Why not! Tackle-busting WR Drake London of USC, coming off an ankle injury late last year, will have fans at the Linc roaring with his hustle and give QB Jalen Hurts another reliable target. FanDuel lists the Eagles at +300 taking a WR with their first pick.

No. 16 New Orleans: Are the Saints really interested in taking a QB in the first round to compete with Jameis Winston? In the past week and a half, the number at DraftKings has seen New Orleans go from 4-1 to take Pickett down to 2-1 — and from 16-1 to 9-1 to take Willis. Hmmm. Of greater need here is an offensive tackle or receiver. With top-quality OTs likely gone, the pick is WR Chris Olave of Ohio State.

No. 17 L.A. Chargers: With many of the top OLs gone, giving aid to a rushing defense that was third worst in the league takes precedence. It’s the time to take Georgia DL Jordan Davis. FanDuel lists the Chargers at +300 to take a defensive lineman first.

No. 18 Philadelphia: The Eagles probably were eyeing Davis, but they’ll stick with defense and go with the best LB on the board in Devin Lloyd of Utah.

No. 19 New Orleans: OK, maybe the Saints consider a QB here after all, since the prime OTs are gone. But the thinking is the Saints will take the best available OT in Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann. He was an Austrian exchange student, if that matters.

No. 20 Pittsburgh: With QB Willis available, the Liberty standout is chosen to battle with Mitch Trubisky to replace Ben Roethlisberger.

No. 21 New England: The Patriots also need OL help, but not in this round. They look to help the secondary with cornerback Trent McDuffie of Washington.

No. 22 Green Bay: The Packers don’t waste time attempting to fill the void left by the departures of WRs Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling by taking fleet Treylon Burks of Arkansas.

No. 23 Arizona: One of Arizona’s major needs is a guard. How about Kenyon Green of Texas A&M. FanDuel has the odds at +500 if the Cardinals make an OL their first pick.

No. 24 Dallas: The Cowboys’ once-dominant offensive line has dissolved of late. The top center on the board is avalable: Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum.

No. 25 Buffalo: The Bills, along with Houston, are the most likely candidate to take the first running back off the board. Iowa State’s Breece Hall gets generous high-fives from the scouts. FanDuel has odds of +600 if the Bills make a RB their first choice.

No. 26 Tennessee: Offensive guard also is a need for the Titans. Boston College’s Zion Johnson is available to help clear paths for Derrick Henry.

No. 27 Tampa Bay: What about tight end? The Bucs lost O.J. Howard in free agency and Tom Brady’s pal, Rob Gronkowki, may not come out of retirement a second time. Trey McBride of Colorado State fits the bill. He has been referred to as a solid blocker as well as a top receiver. Talk about a longshot: FanDuel is offering +1300 on Tampa Bay taking a tight end with its first pick.

No. 28 Green Bay: The Packers go for the best DL left, Devonte Wyatt (6-3, 304), yet another Georgia player picked.

Nos. 29 and 30 Kansas City: If the Chiefs don’t deal these picks to move up, they’ll likely go for defensive help, taking edge rusher George Karlaftis of Purdue and CB Andrew Booth of Clemson.

No. 31 Cincinnati: The Bengals are going all-in to revitalize an offensive line that yielded the most sacks in the league last year. In addition to free-agent signings, they reach for Tulsa tackle Andrew Smith, who’ll likely need a little seasoning before stepping in.

No. 32 Detroit: The Lions have this pick along with No. 34 and could well take one of the remaining QBs in either of these two spots, with Jacksonville in between and in no way interested in a quarterback.  But the Lions won’t gamble that a team trades up with the Jags and foils their plans. Detroit goes for Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder.

Also read: Odds to draft Pickett, Willis | NFL Draft Props: ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ | Plus-money props

About the Author

Bob Christ

Bob Christ, based in New Mexico, has been a gaming writer (primarily the NFL) for almost four decades, with his work appearing in publications/websites across North America. He's a big fan of the Arkansas Razorbacks, Philadelphia's Eagles and Phillies, and inexplicably the NHL's Winnipeg Jets.

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