We are closing in on one of the best nights of the year. We will sit around for hours Thursday night and listen to a man read the names of other men off a sheet of paper. As mundane as this event sounds when you look at it that way, NFL draft night really is one of my favorite nights of the year. In a typical year, the draft intersects with the NBA and NHL playoffs and accompanies a full MLB card. With the sports calendar rejiggered and the winter sports pushed back, the playoffs are still a few weeks away, but the draft remains an exciting event to watch and a profitable one to bet. Now let’s draft some winners, shall we?
Patrick Surtain II Draft Position Under 10.5
First, how old are we? How is it possible that the outstanding former Dolphins cornerback has a son who is already entering the NFL? Nothing makes me feel my age more than seeing the kids of former athletes old enough to play in the pros. Anyway, with the Cowboys picking 10th, it seems unlikely Surtain will make it past that point. “People I really trust say Patrick Surtain is a lock to be taken by Dallas if he’s still available at 10,” said ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay. Most mock drafts agree. Before the Cowboys lost quarterback Dak Prescott for the season last year, they were engaging in a “basketball on grass” style, hoping to outscore their opponents and holding little chance of keeping teams out of the end zone. Owner Jerry Jones likes to make a splash, he was recently fawning over Kyle Pitts in an interview and last year he drafted flashy receiver CeeDee Lamb in the first round when Dallas had many other needs. Surtain isn’t another toy on offense but has some name value coming from national champion Alabama, a program from which the Cowboys plucked cornerback Trevon Diggs last year in Round 2. Here’s to a Diggs-Surtain reunion in Big D.
Justin Fields Draft Position Over 4.5
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported late Sunday what VSiN’s Michael Lombardi told everyone 10 days ago: Justin Fields is not in the discussion for and will not be the third pick in the draft. Lombardi and others have also recently reported the Falcons are unlikely to trade the fourth pick and are unlikely to draft a quarterback. McShay and Lombardi have stated fairly definitively that the Falcons will take Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. Pitts’ draft-position prop is widely available at 5.5, juiced heavily toward the Under, and still worth a play in concert with this position on Fields. The Fields prop is also heavily juiced toward the Under, making plus money widely available on the Over. Look for Fields to drop to the back half of the top 10, and maybe take a flier on the Lions or Panthers to draft him at long odds. Not sure we’ll see a Brady Quinn- or Aaron Rodgers-type fall, but look for Fields to slide further than most had anticipated earlier.
Milwaukee Bucks to Win the East (+ 475)
James Harden will not return before the start of the playoffs, meaning the star-studded trio of Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will have played a total of seven games together for the Nets by the time the postseason starts. Durant, returning after tearing his Achilles tendon in the 2019 NBA Finals, has also missed games with quad and hamstring injuries. Irving, the most injury-riddled of all, has missed games for various undisclosed reasons. And by the way, this team is pretty much even money to come out of the Eastern Conference and the favorite to win it all. I know we don’t fully trust Milwaukee after its flameout last year against Miami, but that was in a unique circumstance in the bubble and before the acquisition of criminally underrated Jrue Holiday. I said he was underrated; I didn’t say he was cheap or underpaid. The Bucks gave up four first-round picks to get him, then signed him to a massive four-year, $134 million contract extension. He gives them a legitimate third option who can defend, play the point, play off the ball and guard multiple positions. If the Bucks were to face the Nets in the playoffs, they would have massive edges on the glass as well as on defense, even if the Nets are fully healthy. The Sixers, the other real contender in the East, have also struggled in the postseason and have huge question marks in terms of shotmaking. Their best players are a center and a point guard who literally does not shoot 3s. Milwaukee is a bargain at this price.