The 2022 NFL Draft began with the Jacksonville Jaguars selecting Georgia edge rusher Travon Walker with the first overall pick. While it may have been a surprise to some, the betting market reflected heavy steam on Walker late, especially over the final week before the Draft. Walker opened at +3000 to be drafted first overall, got down to roughly +250 two weeks ago, flipped to a -200 favorite to start the week and then closed -500. The late steam never let up on Walker and it proved correct in the end.
The Lions selected Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson with the second pick. Hutchinson closed as a -250 favorite to be drafted second. The big "surprise" came when the Texans took LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. with the 3rd pick. However, late steam also predicted Stingley's rise. He flipped from a +200 dog to a -125 favorite to be selected third overall in the final 24-hours leading up to the draft. Overall, data-driven betting and tracking late line moves paid off with chalk going 1-2-3.
Ikem Ekwonu cashed as the first offensive player (-250) and first offensive linemen (-200) to be drafted, with the Panthers taking the NC State tackle 6th overall. The first betting upset of the night took place when the Falcons selected USC wide receiver Drake London with the 8th overall pick. London was a +250 dog to be the first wide receiver selected. Garrett Willson was the favorite at -130. Wilson ended up going 10th to the Jets.
Surprisingly, only one quarterback, Kenny Pickett, was selected in the first round. The over/under was 2.5, with the under cashing easily. The Steelers took Pickett with the 20th pick. Pickett's over/under was 16.5 with the over juiced to -160, which proved correct. However, Pickett did cash as a +170 dog to be the first quarterback selected. Malik Willis was the favorite at -190. Willis was not selected in round one, which means his over 13.5 draft position (-155) easily cashed.
One of the more popular bets was over 5.5 wide receivers. It got hit so hard that oddsmakers were forced to adjust the line to 6.5. In yet another example of how critical it is to be early and not late, the total landed right on 6. This means early over 5.5 bettors cashed while late over 6 bettors pushed and over 6.5 bettors lost. Savvy bettors could have also middled the prop by taking Over 5.5 and Under 6.5. The first-round wideouts drafted included London (12th to Falcons), Wilson (10th to Jets), Olave (11th to Saints), Jameson Williams (12th to Lions), Dotson (16th to Commanders) and Burks (18th to Titans).
The biggest faller in the draft was FSU edge rusher Jermaine Johnson. He was expected to be a top-10 pick with an over/under of 7.5. He went 26th to the Jets.
Not a single running back was selected in round one, which means the under 0.5 running backs prop cashed (-200). Not a single tight end was drafted either. The under 0.5 was -700.
The first round also saw a pair of big-name trades take place. The Titans traded wide receiver A.J. Brown to the Eagles for the 18th overall pick. Philadelphia immediately signed Brown to a 4-year, $100-million extension. The Cardinals also dealt a first round pick to the Ravens in exchange for wide receiver Marquise Brown.
Here are some more first-round betting nuggets from VSiN's Dave Tuley...
1. Bettors who thought teams would go with local heroes to sell tickets probably fared well with the Detroit Lions taking MIchigan star Aidan Hutchinson with the No. 2 pick and the Pittsburgh Steelers taking Pitt QB Kenny Pickett at No. 20. Hutchinson was the betting favorite to go No. 1 for the better part of February, March and this month until Georgia's Travon Walker took over favoritism. After that, many though it was a slam dunk for the Lions to take Hutchinson, though many mock drafts had him slipping further. In the end, the Lions took the hometown hero.
Pickett's Over/Under was 16.5, so it wasn't certain that the Steelers would be able to draft him unless they traded up. DraftKIngs had the Steelers at +300 to pick Pickett (behind the Saints and Panthers), but he was still available at No. 20. But so was Liberty's Malik Willis, but the Steelers opted for the player more familiar to most of its fans. And don't forget that the Cincinnati Bengals took Cincinnati CB Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner.
2. Draft bettors heard conflicting reports for weeks about whether Derek Stingley Jr. or Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner would be picked first. It certainly mattered for those betting which cornerback would be taken off the board first, but for those betting the individual players to go Under their projected spot, both cashed with Stingley Jr. going No. 3 to the Houston Texans and Gardner going No. 4 to the New York Jets.
3. The biggest smokescreen in my opinion involved Mississippi State OT Charles Cross. We all heard how the New York Giants loved him, and the only question seemed to remain whether they would take him with the No. 5 pick, or certainly with their pick at No. 7. His Over/Under was right in that range at 6.5, but the G-Men passed on him both times as he went No. 9 to the Seattle Seahawks.