Until it is announced, the No. 1 pick of the NFL Draft might remain a mystery. The Cleveland Browns are on the clock and seemingly face three options — Josh Allen, Sam Darnold or trading down. The down-and-out Browns usually get it wrong … someone should write a movie script for this and make Kevin Costner the clumsy, confused general manager.
Which quarterback will go first? In a matchup prop posted at the Westgate sports book, Darnold closed as a -250 favorite to be drafted before Allen. So the oddsmakers are buying Peter King’s inside info that Allen is not the Browns’ favorite quarterback.
Amid the fake news, smoke screens and rumored trades, predicting the exact order of the top 10 picks is virtually impossible. But cashing tickets is what this is all about and there were wagering edges to be found inside some of the information.
As for prop betting on the draft, the storm has passed. Most of the best betting opportunities were long gone by Monday, after some dramatic line moves in the past two weeks.
It’s a near certainty that five quarterbacks will go in the first round, so the prop number on QBs selected in the first (5) moved from Over/Under -110 to Over -230 when betting on the draft closed Wednesday night. If six quarterbacks go, it’s not going to be a huge surprise.
The most reliable NFL media sources are indicating Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield will go in the top five, UCLA’s Josh Rosen is slipping some and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson is seeing his stock rise to where he could land in the middle of the first round.
There were significant line moves on four props mentioned in this Point Spread Weekly column last week:
* Notre Dame players drafted in the first round: 1.5
It would be stunning if two Irish offensive linemen — Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey — do not go in the first round. Nelson will be a top-10 pick and there’s no way McGlinchey should slip below the mid-20s. The Westgate opened the Over price at -240 (way too low) and sharp money forced the line all the way up to -1,600 as of closing time Wednesday.
* Who will get drafted first: Quenton Nelson or Bradley Chubb
Chubb, the North Carolina State defensive end, figures to go as high as No. 2 or slip as low as No. 6 to Indianapolis. The Colts like Chubb and Nelson, who is not slipping by Chicago at No. 8. If Indianapolis has the chance to choose between Nelson and Chubb, the pick should be the pass rusher. Chubb’s price was -160 last week and closed -450, so that was another sharp money move.
* Who will get drafted first: Josh Rosen or Saquon Barkley
The former Penn State running back could go No. 2 to the New York Giants or No. 4 to the Browns. It seems the ceiling for Rosen is No. 3 to the Jets, and there are rumors he could slip as low as No. 11. A week ago, Rosen was a -300 favorite, with Barkley plus-250. Barkley closed as a -340 favorite.
* Will there be more offensive or defensive players selected in the first round? Offensive 1.5
The bottom of the first round is a guessing game. This mock projects 17 offensive and 15 defensive players. Sure, that could flip the other way in favor of defense or end in a 16-16 split. Last week, the South Point offered plus-120 on more offensive players. The offensive players line closed -140 at the Westgate.
A look at two other popular props:
* Wide receivers drafted in first round: 2.5 (Over plus-120)
This mock projects four wideouts — Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, Maryland’s D.J. Moore, SMU’s Courtland Sutton and Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk — to go in the first. Four is probably too optimistic, because the enthusiasm about this wideout class faded in the past week, but plus-money on three receivers picked in the first round is decent value. This will not be an easy ticket to cash either way, so expect nervous moments when the last few picks of the first round are announced.
* Running backs drafted in first round: 1.5 (Over -200)
Barkley is a top-10 lock and Derrius Guice from LSU is a decent bet to go late in the first. There is even a shot that USC’s Ronald Jones or Georgia’s Sony Michel could be a late pick. This prop price is right because Guice, Jones or Michel likely get called and the Over should be a favorite.
The first round will be staged Thursday in Arlington, Texas, and it could play out something like this:
1. Cleveland: Sam Darnold, QB, Southern California
The top pick is shaping up as a decision between Darnold and Josh Allen. There is no clear-cut No. 1 quarterback in this class, but Darnold is widely considered the safest bet to be a reliable NFL starter. Will he be a star? That’s far from a sure thing. He’s big (6-4, 220), durable and athletic enough to make plays outside of the pocket. On the downside, his flaws were exposed in USC’s lopsided loss to Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl, where he threw an interception, lost two fumbles and was sacked eight times. Expect the QB picked here to stand on the sideline while Buffalo castoff Tyrod Taylor opens 2018 as the starter.
2. New York Giants: Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
With three need positions — quarterback, running back and defensive end — the Giants face a tough call. It’s extremely difficult to pass on Saquon Barkley. Still, this draft is deep in running backs and grabbing Eli Manning’s heir apparent can wait. The great Giants teams of the past had great pass rushers, and the defense must replace Jason Pierre-Paul, who left for Tampa Bay. Most scouts say Chubb is a better rush end than Myles Garrett, the Browns’ No. 1 pick last year. Dominant defensive ends can help a team win a Super Bowl. If Barkley is the pick here, Chubb will not fall far.
3. New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
The Jets foolishly traded up three spots and gave away too much to make sure they get their quarterback. Is that Mayfield or Josh Rosen? The most reliable sources are saying it’s the Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma. Mayfield is the shortest of the top quarterback prospects and seemingly more of a gamble. His height (6-0) and character will be questioned, but he’s a fiery competitor. The Pro Football Focus analytics experts rate Mayfield as the top passer in the class. Widespread speculation has the Bills and Dolphins trying to trade up for a quarterback. If this pick is not Rosen, how far will he fall?
4. Cleveland: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Dave Gettleman, the Giants’ new general manager, said his philosophy is to “take the best player” available. Barkley and Chubb rate as the best two players in the draft. If the Giants go with Chubb at No. 2, the Browns would be crazy if they did not draft Barkley, who rushed for 1,271 yards and 18 touchdowns and made 54 receptions out of the backfield at Penn State. Barkley blew away scouts with his combine performance. Running backs still have value. Barkley can do for the Browns what Ezekiel Elliott did as a rookie for the Cowboys, and Barkley is a high-character guy who could surpass Elliott on and off the field.
5. Denver: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
John Elway will field trade offers at this spot and, although he’s desperate to find the right quarterback, moving down might make more sense. The Broncos can win with Case Keenum for a year or two, believe it or not, if Elway is not sold on the quarterbacks. Denver needs defensive backs and push rushers. Still, Elway will have a hard time passing on a QB, and he’ll probably be choosing from Allen, Mayfield or Rosen. Bet on Elway going with the bigger guy. Allen (6-5, 235) is mobile and can rifle the ball 80 yards. Buffalo, which is looking to trade up for a QB, probably prefers Allen and Mayfield over Rosen.
6. Indianapolis: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
The Colts went 4-12 without Andrew Luck, so their primary need is to get their quarterback healthy. Luck’s primary need is a line that can protect him, though he also needs better wideouts. Nelson should be the pick here unless Barkley or Chubb are available. Nelson (6-5, 330) is as mean as a bull, moves well in space and looks to bury defenders, not just block. He’s definitely the best interior lineman in the draft.
7. Miami (trade): Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Dolphins coach Adam Gase is rumored to love Rosen, who’s considered to have the highest upside due to his fluid throwing motion and skills as a pure pocket passer. His football IQ is high, too, and reading defenses at the line of scrimmage is a big reason Tom Brady and Drew Brees are still playing at an elite level. This more than any other is an intellectual position. Passing accuracy (refer again to Brady and Brees) is imperative, and Rosen also has that. Durability is the major question mark with Rosen, who was beat up at the college level and had concussion issues. This calls for Miami to trade up four spots with Tampa Bay to get Gase’s guy.
8. Chicago: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Opposite of last year, the Bears could trade down with a team looking to move up for a QB. A year after finding their quarterback and now with a new coach, the Bears are in better shape on the offensive side and should look at pass rushers or the best defensive player available. The Bears also could draft for their offensive line, especially if Nelson slides. Edmunds (6-5, 245) was a college and combine star. He’s a big, fast middle linebacker in the mold of Brian Urlacher.
9. San Francisco: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
John Lynch is putting the 49ers together the right way. He found his quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo and still needs a speed receiver for Garoppolo, but his top priority is to find pass rushers. He will look at defensive ends with this pick, yet if Smith or Edmunds are still on the board, it will be tempting to grab a dominant and versatile linebacker to replace the troubled Reuben Foster. The Raiders are next on the clock and eyeing Smith.
10. Oakland: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
It would easy to assume Jon Gruden wants to go offense, but the Raiders need a lot of defensive help. Middle linebacker is a priority, so Edmunds and Smith will be high on their wish list, but ball-hawkers in the secondary are sorely needed, too. Fitzpatrick is a playmaker with legit 4.4 speed. The two teams immediately ahead of Oakland in the draft order are expected to go with defense, too, so the Raiders will grab the best player remaining on the board.
11. Tampa Bay (trade): Derwin James, S, Florida State
Defensive help will be the Buccaneers’ focus, and they have a variety of options at this spot. James is big (6-2, 215), physically tough and capable of playing linebacker or handling receivers in man coverage. He ran a 4.47-second 40 at the combine. James could go No. 7 or slip a few spots, because not much separates the top defensive players in this draft. It will be tough for Tampa to pass on the high-motor Florida State star.
12. Buffalo: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
A quarterback is a must in this draft, and Buffalo seems to want Allen or Mayfield. But the Bills are a blindfolded driver on the highway. After ditching a talented QB (Taylor) who led them to the playoffs, what will they do next? A move up for a QB is a real possibility, but since AJ McCarron is the new starter, it makes sense to help him by grabbing Ridley, who is the top receiver in the draft and could replace Sammy Watkins.
13. Washington: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
A quarterback is not a consideration for the Redskins, who are rolling with Alex Smith while looking to boost all three levels of their defense. Vea (6-4, 350) is a mountain-sized run stopper in the middle and potential Pro Bowler. He’s got surprisingly quick feet and projects as a dominant nose tackle. This is not a sexy pick, but it would be a smart one. Washington also needs linebackers and defensive backs.
14. Green Bay: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Aaron Rodgers could use another receiver (Dez Bryant?) and offensive line help. He might have to wait for the second round. Pass rushers, cornerbacks and safeties are atop the Packers’ draft board. Ward is a top-10 pick in several mock drafts, but he’s not a big corner (5-11, 180) and there is a possibility he slips. Ward, who ran a 4.32 at the combine, fills a gaping hole because the Packers’ pass defense has been awful.
15. Arizona: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
Or is this Lamar Jackson? This is just a guess. The rebuilding Cardinals have several areas that must be addressed — quarterback, wideout, offensive line and defensive backfield — so this pick is a mystery. With an early run on quarterbacks anticipated, it’s Sam Bradford or bust next season. Probably bust. And maybe Jackson. Moore has respectable size (6-0, 210), good speed (4.42) and eventually could try to replace Larry Fitzgerald.
16. Baltimore: Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas-San Antonio
By signing Michael Crabtree, the Ravens found a receiver for Joe Flacco. Now they need a tight end and help on the defensive front. Baltimore tends to think defense first, and Davenport (6-6, 260) fits the profile. He’s an impressive athlete who can be a stand-up rusher. San Francisco is high on Davenport, but if he drops the Ravens probably will jump on him.
17. L.A. Chargers: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are bookend edge rushers, but the Chargers need to get stronger inside. This pick should be used on an interior defensive lineman or offensive tackle. Payne (6-2, 305) was a run stuffer for the Crimson Tide and projects as an NFL starter right away. There are some appealing offensive linemen on the board, but Payne is the smart choice.
18: Seattle: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
The Cardinals are not the only NFC West team in rebuild mode. At least the Seahawks are set at quarterback. Seattle should address its offensive line before looking at tight end, defensive line and cornerback. McGlinchey (6-8, 310) is a strong pass protector and run blocker. He could go as high as No. 8 or slide to later in the round. The Seahawks should not pass on him.
19. Dallas: Courtland Sutton, WR, Southern Methodist
Defensive line and linebacker are the Cowboys’ biggest positions of need. But Jerry Jones likes to pursue offensive playmakers, and wideout is another priority position. Sutton (6-3, 220) is big and fast. He reportedly has made a positive impression on Dallas coach Jason Garrett, who is looking to help Dak Prescott and replace Dez Bryant.
20. Detroit: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
The Lions are likely to go with a defensive lineman, running back or tight end. Hurst (6-2, 290) is expected to be an immediate starter in the middle. He has a heart issue that scared off some teams at the combine, but he has been cleared by cardiologists to play football, so his stock has stabilized. Hurst definitely would fill a need on the Detroit defense.
21. Cincinnati: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
An offensive lineman with this pick would fill a need, and the Bengals also must strengthen their defensive front seven. With two of the top six QBs possibly still on the board, Cincinnati could get trade offers. The Bengals are unpredictable, and considering they cannot win a playoff game with Andy Dalton, why not roll the dice on Jackson’s exciting potential?
22. Buffalo: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
If the Bills do not trade up or snap up a QB with their No. 12 pick, Rudolph should be appealing. The Patriots are showing interest in Rudolph, and that alone will pique the Bills’ interest. He has worked out for both teams. He’s a 6-5 gunslinger who put up big numbers for the Cowboys. Realistically, Rudolph should be a second-round pick, but QBs are obviously in high demand.
23. New England: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
If Bill Belichick packages picks and trades up for a quarterback, he has lost his mind. But he’s too smart to do that. The Patriots must improve their offensive line depth and the protection for Tom Brady. Miller (6-9, 310) is a powerful stud in run blocking and pass protecting. He can step in right away for Nate Solder, who signed a big free-agent deal with the Giants.
24. Carolina: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
The Panthers are looking for a speed receiver for Cam Newton. On the defensive side, cornerback and safety are areas of dire need. Jackson has decent size (6-1, 190), but his standout quality is his nose for the ball. He led the nation with eight interceptions last season. His 40-yard dash at the combine was a tick slow (4.56) but he’s a dynamic playmaker.
25. Tennessee: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
After signing cornerback Malcolm Butler in March, the Titans can focus of finding offensive and defensive linemen. The Cowboys pick earlier and are high on Vander Esch, who’s the type of relentless edge rusher that new coach Mike Vrabel likes. Vander Esch (6-4, 255) totaled 141 tackles last season and impressed scouts with his offseason workouts.
26. Atlanta: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
Of the Falcons’ few needs, defensive tackle tops the list after Dontari Poe left for Carolina. Bryan (6-4, 290) is drawing frequent comparisons to J.J. Watt, though that might be a stretch. Atlanta, a candidate to potentially trade down, might also consider drafting a wide receiver or tight end to complement Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.
27. New Orleans: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
For the first time in a long time, the Saints feel good about their defense. This pick is probably going to be an offensive player — tight end, wideout, lineman or developmental quarterback. Goedert (6-5, 255) was a highly productive college player who showed good hands and speed. If Drew Brees does not get Goedert to be his Gronk, he could get a wide receiver here.
28. Pittsburgh: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
The Steelers are searching for an inside linebacker and defensive back, and their top priority should be replacing Ryan Shazier, who was lost to a spinal injury. Evans is a fast, tough playmaker who looks like an ideal replacement, if he’s still on the board. It should be noted the Steelers and Saints each aced last year’s draft with several quality picks.
29. Jacksonville: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
If Lamar Jackson is still on the board, would the Jaguars jump at him in this spot? Probably not. Jacksonville has more pressing needs at linebacker and wide receiver. The guess is Blake Bortles gets a speedy slot receiver. Kirk (5-10, 200) ran a 4.47 at the combine, and he was always a big-play threat for the Aggies.
30. Minnesota: Connor Williams, OG, Texas
Kirk Cousins is the new franchise quarterback, so expect the Vikings to attend to his needs early by getting offensive line and tight end additions. Williams (6-5, 320) is an outstanding athlete who’s also capable of playing left tackle. He makes a lot of sense for a maligned Minnesota offensive line. Texas-El Paso guard Will Hernandez could be another option at this spot.
31. New England: Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
If Belichick drafts an offensive lineman at No. 23, as most expect, he’s likely to look for an edge rusher with his second first-round pick. Landry is a good fit, a relentless rusher who totaled 21.5 sacks in his last two seasons. If Belichick wants a cornerback instead, Iowa’s Jackson or Central Florida’s Mike Hughes are prime candidates for the Patriots. A QB can wait.
32. Philadelphia: Derrius Guice, RB, Louisiana State
The Super Bowl champs could go defense with this pick — Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander is a popular mock draft choice — but if Guice slips the Eagles should snatch him as a power runner capable of replacing LeGarrette Blount. Philadelphia has shown a lot of interest in Guice.
Matt Youmans’ Top 50 Big Board
1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
2. Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
3. Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
4. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
5. Derwin James, S, Florida State
6. Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
7. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
8. Sam Darnold, QB, USC
9. Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
10. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
11. Vita Vea, DT, Washington
12. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
13. Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
14. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
15. Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
16. Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
17. Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
18. Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas-San Antonio
19. Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
20. Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
21. Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
22. Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
23. Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
24. Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
25. Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida
26. Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
27. Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
28. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
29. Connor Williams, OG, Texas
30. Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
31. Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
32. D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
33. Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia
34. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
35. Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State
36. Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
37. Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
38. Ronald Jones, RB, USC
39. James Daniels, C, Iowa
40. Lorenzo Carter, LB, Georgia
41. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
42. Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford
43. Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa
44. Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame
45. Uchenna Nwosu, LB, USC
46. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
47. Donte Jackson, CB, LSU
48. Will Hernandez, OG, Texas-El Paso
49. Billy Price, C, Ohio State
50. Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
Matt Youmans’ Top 10 Running Backs
1. Saquon Barkley, Penn State
2. Derrius Guice, LSU
3. Rashaad Penny, San Diego State
4. Sony Michel, Georgia
5. Ronald Jones, USC
6. Nick Chubb, Georgia
7. Kerryon Johnson, Auburn
8. Josh Adams, Notre Dame
9. Royce Freeman, Oregon
10. Nyheim Hines, North Carolina State
Matt Youmans’ Top 10 Wide Receivers
1. Calvin Ridley, Alabama
2. Courtland Sutton, SMU
3. D.J. Moore, Maryland
4. Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
5. James Washington, Oklahoma State
6. Equanimeous St. Brown, Notre Dame
7. DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State
8. Deon Cain, Clemson
9. Anthony Miller, Memphis
10. D.J. Chark, LSU