The green jacket has been awarded, and the NFL draft is now well within shouting distance. So it’s a great time to scour the market for value not only for draft props but for NFL futures. After all, is there ever really a bad time to think about betting on football? As much as we all love the draft, the futures market typically remains stagnant after the draft compared with before it. It’s not that it’s insignificant, it’s just that bookmakers are as clueless as any of us in determining its significance. So if you think a team should address a certain need in the draft and that its 2021 success depends on whom it drafts in a couple of weeks, don’t be afraid to wait: The line will likely not budge from now until then. Now let’s find some winners ...
NFL Draft: Under 1.5 Running Backs Taken in Round 1
It’s a cliche, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true: It’s a passing league. Quarterbacks, receivers and guys who can disrupt those quarterbacks and cover those receivers are at a premium in the modern NFL. Running backs seem fairly interchangeable and don’t seem to last that long. Ezekiel Elliott was taken at the top of the draft five years ago and given a lucrative second contract, about which the Cowboys certainly have regrets. A year later Leonard Fournette was taken in the same draft slot, and he helped bring home a Super Bowl to the state of Florida — just not for the Jaguars, who drafted him. Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, Derrick Henry … it’s an endless list of elite backs who were taken after the first round. Last year Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the only running back off the board in the first round. He went to the Chiefs with the final pick of the round, and I believe the Chiefs would probably reconsider if given truth serum. I expect that trend from last year to continue, so let’s go under 1.5.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+ 800) To Win AFC South
Before you laugh, let’s take a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood. The Texans are a mess with almost no draft capital, and they might not have Deshaun Watson because of a trade or a possible suspension. The Colts are pinning their QB hopes on a Carson Wentz reclamation project, a player who has not only played poorly but struggled to stay healthy. The Titans lost respected offensive coordinator Arthur Smith to Atlanta, and many credit Smith with reviving Ryan Tannehill’s career and wonder how the QB will perform outside his system. But in Jacksonville, in comes Urban Meyer, who has won and won big everywhere he has been — Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State. He will not so coincidentally inherit a player regarded as a generational-type prospect at the most important position as well as the top pick in each ensuing round. The Jaguars have already added wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. and cornerback Shaquill Griffin and have a valuable trade chip in soon-to-be-backup-QB Gardner Minshew. Is it a stretch to say this team jumps to win double-digit games? Maybe, but at long odds in a possibly messy division, I think it’s well worth a shot.
Seattle Seahawks (+ 350) To Win NFC West
In what is likely the best division in the NFL and one with no weak teams, I believe the Seahawks will win double-digit games and make the playoffs, and I think this is a bargain at + 350. Why am I so certain they’ll win at least 10 games? Well, Russell Wilson took over in Seattle in 2012. In nine seasons he has led his team to the playoffs and double-digit wins all but once — in 2017, where the team went 9-7. He has never had a losing season and has missed the playoffs once in nine years. After a torrid start in 2020, it seemed as if the MVP award was Wilson’s to lose. And, well, he lost it. A rash of turnovers in the middle of the season took him out of the running for the award, and the season ended in ugly fashion with a home playoff loss to the Rams. The Seahawks certainly have flaws, and I’d be concerned with the way they were dominated in the playoffs, but at plus money this is a solid bet. The 49ers seem like they will have a rookie quarterback, and if not, Jimmy Garoppolo has been inconsistent and injury-prone. The Rams are top-heavy with elite talent but lack depth and draft capital, meaning an injury or two can derail the season. The Cardinals are certainly competitive but have a small quarterback who will have to prove he can endure the punishment of a 17-game season. Wilson and the Seahawks will sniff around for a playoff spot and a division title, just like they always do.