A hot debate going into last year’s NFL draft centered on the Cincinnati Bengals, who needed to find immediate help for quarterback Joe Burrow: Would it be wiser for the team to use the No. 5 overall pick on an offensive lineman or wide receiver?
The Bengals opted to run with Ja’Marr Chase, Burrow’s former favorite target at LSU, and the rookie receiver was a catalyst in Cincinnati’s first Super Bowl appearance since 1988.
A year after the first three picks of the draft were used on quarterbacks, wide receivers will grab the spotlight when the first round plays out on Thursday, April 28 in Las Vegas.
“This is the first year in a long time that you’re not talking about a quarterback going in the first five or maybe first 10 picks, and that’s the biggest storyline to me,” Red Rock sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said. “A lot of teams need dynamic wide receivers, and I think you’re going to see six -- and maybe seven -- go in the first round.”
A week ago, in my first mock draft for Point Spread Weekly, I projected seven receivers to go in the first round and recommended Over 5.5 (-165) -- the opening number at DraftKings -- as a best bet. The price has moved to -250.
Esposito, who opened the Station Casinos Round 1 WR prop total at 6 (-115), said, “I thought there would be one-way play at 5.5, so that’s why we put it up at six. I would go Over 5.5 in a heartbeat.”
The draft stage is set in Las Vegas, yet it’s ironic the Raiders do not have a first-round pick, as they traded it to Green Bay for wide receiver Davante Adams in a mid-March deal that is contributing to a reshaping of the receiver market.
Adams and Tyreek Hill, a six-time Pro Bowl wideout who was traded from Kansas City to Miami in March, each hauled in contracts worth around $30 million per year. The aftershocks from the Adams and Hill trades are expected to be felt in this draft, as teams focus on wide receivers who can make an early impact and play on cost-friendly rookie contracts.
VSiN host Mike Pritchard, who played nine seasons in the NFL as a wide receiver, was the 13th overall pick by Atlanta in 1991. One of four receivers to get called in the first round, Pritchard has studied this year’s class at the position and is high on several prospects.