NFL Draft Props: Part One
We’re just two days away from the first round of the NFL Draft and we’ve got some intriguing props to discuss at BetUS. While the first two picks of the draft are increasingly looking like they’ll be quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, the rest of the first round appears more wide open.
After trading up from the 12th pick, San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have a crucial QB decision to make at No. 3. A favorite has emerged but there are certainly conflicting reports coming out of San Francisco. We’ll also discuss who might be the first running back, wide receiver and offensive lineman off the board.
Who Will Go at Third Pick?
In an unexpected shift, the markets have moved from favoring Ohio State QB Justin Fields to Alabama QB Mac Jones. We discussed this pick in detail a few weeks ago and I thought the Niners would narrow their decision down to Fields and Trey Lance while ultimately picking Fields.
This comes after NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the 49ers are choosing between Jones and Lance. The general sense is that Shanahan’s choice is Jones while the scouting department prefers Lance. While Jones won a national title at Alabama and has impressed NFL front offices with his football IQ, his doesn’t appear to have a ceiling as high as Fields and Lance. He simply doesn’t have the arm strength or athleticism of Fields or Lance.
It seems unconscionable to trade three first-round picks to draft a QB who would have most likely been available at No. 12. So, while I do believe there is a distinct possibility that the Niners draft Jones, it could still be smoke and mirrors from the front office.
Lance is still a bit of an unknown quantity after playing just one full season at North Dakota State. However, he did go 17-0 as a starter and his upside is undeniable. He could be a good fit with the 49ers, especially with them contending. It might make sense for Shanahan to let Jimmy Garoppolo have one last shot at a Super Bowl and let Lance could take over next season.
Fields is the best value pick in the sportsbook at +350. He put together a six-touchdown performance in the College Football Playoff Semifinal against Lawrence and Clemson. He left Ohio State with a 20-2 record as a starter and a perfect record in the regular season. The knock on him is that he can be a bit slow to make decisions, but he has all of the tools to be a great player in the league. Some draft analysts, like Mel Kiper Jr., even believe the New York Jets should take Fields at two. It’s certainly possible the Niners are trying to throw the rest of the league off and will take Fields at three.
Pick: Justin Fields +350
Who Will Be First Running Back Drafted?
In each of the last two drafts, only one running back has been selected in the first round. Clyde Edwards-Helaire was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs with the last pick of the first round in 2020 and Josh Jacobs was picked number 24 in 2019 by the Oakland Raiders. Teams have recently been wary of selecting backs in the first round and history suggests that their hesitancy is warranted. However, we should see at least one back taken in the first round this year. The two most likely candidates are Alabama’s Najee Harris and Clemson’s Travis Etienne
Harris is the favorite to be the first back selected, with -225 NFL Betting odds. He had an excellent senior season at Alabama, rushing for 1,466 yards and posting 30 total touchdowns en route to a national title. He averaged six yards per carry in four years and is a big, strong and durable back who could help out a bunch of teams.
Etienne (+175) saw a drop-off in production in 2020. He averaged 7.8 yards per carry in 2019 but just 5.4 YPC in 2020. He did have a comparatively inexperienced offensive line in 2020 but the dip is a red flag nonetheless. If he gets drafted before Harris, it’ll be because teams see his potential as a pass catcher and like his speed. He managed 588 receiving yards during his senior season and ran a 4.41 40-yard dash.
Etienne’s advantage in the passing game might be overstated, as Harris forced the most missed tackles in the nation on passes in 2020. Harris also had a lower drop rate than Etienne. I’m taking Harris as the first RB to be selected on Thursday.
Pick: Najee Harris -225
Who Will Be First Wide Receiver Drafted?
I projected that LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase would be the first wide receiver off of the board in my mock draft and he has emerged as a heavy favorite. The sportsbook lists him at -1400 to be the first wideout taken on Thursday night.
As much as Chase is a great prospect, teams might be intrigued by DeVonta Smith. The 2020 Heisman Trophy winner from Alabama is listed at +900 and I like him at those odds. He is only the fourth wide receiver to win the Heisman and recent bias could positively affect his perception. Chase was a COVID opt-out in 2020 and prepared for the draft instead after an incredible 2019 season. I do still think Chase will be the first receiver taken but there’s certainly a case to be made for Smith at these odds.
Pick: DeVonta Smith +900
Who Will Be First Offensive Lineman Drafted?
Oregon’s Penei Sewell, like Chase, was a COVID opt-out, but is still the heavy favorite at -650. Sewell was a unanimous All-American in 2019, winning both the Outland and Morris trophies.
Sewell has drawn some criticism in the lead-up to the draft with one scout saying, “He’s going high because there’s nobody else.” There is a sense that Sewell is the de facto number one left tackle despite some concerns about his footwork and technique. Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater, at +375, has been discussed as an early first-rounder, but the vast majority of mock drafts have him going after Sewell.