For most of the past six weeks, the betting market seemed rather convinced that Aidan Hutchinson would be the first overall pick of the NFL draft. Last week, that began to change. Now, with the draft a few days away, Hutchinson is no longer the betting favorite to be the first overall pick.
As of Monday morning, Travon Walker is now a -175 favorite to be the first overall pick at BetMGM.
How the market has changed
Right after the NFL scouting combine, Evan Neal, an offensive tackle out of Alabama, emerged as a slight betting favorite to be the first overall pick. Shortly thereafter, Jacksonville franchise tagged tackle Cam Robinson and added guard Brandon Scherff in free agency. With Jacksonville's investment in the offensive line, conventional wisdom said the Jaguars might look to the defensive side of the ball with the first overall pick.
Hutchinson was viewed as one of the top prospects in the draft. He had a great final season at Michigan, and was one of the biggest parts of a team that surprised many en route to a College Football Playoff appearance. In mid-March, Hutchinson was a -350 favorite to be the first overall pick.
However, as usual during draft season, there has been a riser many didn't foresee coming. Walker opened at 30-to-1 to be the first overall pick. In mid-March, Walker was still 10-to-1 to go first. Last week, Walker was down to +140 at BetMGM. With the draft this week, Walker is now a -175 favorite to be the first overall pick.
With Walker moving into the favorite role, Hutchinson is now +135 to be the first overall pick. If you convert the odds to implied probability, Hutchinson has gone from a 78% chance of being the first overall pick to 42.5% over the past six weeks.
Bettors at BetMGM have been loading up on Walker draft props over the past few weeks. Walker has received 35% of the money in the first overall pick market, compared to Hutchinson who has gotten 25% of the money. Walker is the biggest liability of all players for the sportsbook.
It seems like the race for first overall pick is down to these two players. Behind Walker and Hutchinson, Ikem Ekwonu has the third best odds at 10-to-1. Evan Neal is at 16-to-1 and Kayvon Thibodeaux is 25-to-1.
Walker is an interesting case
Travon Walker's rise up the draft boards is a classic case of evaluating tools compared to production.
If you look at Walker's production at Georgia, it doesn't look like that of a potential first overall draft pick. He has 9.5 sacks over 32 games at Georgia. His pass rush win rate is 11%. Almost 50% of his production came on unblocked plays or cleanup plays. By almost all metrics, his production pales in comparison to his peers in this draft, especially Hutchinson.
2021 @PFF pass-rush win rates (no screens, PA or designed rollouts):
Kingsley Enagbare: 40%
Aidan Hutchinson: 33%
Nik Bonitto: 33%
Arnold Ebiketie: 32%
Kayvon Thibodeaux: 30%
George Karlaftis: 29%
Boye Mafe: 25%
David Ojabo: 23%
Jermaine Johnson II: 17%
Travon Walker: 11%
— Ben Linsey (@PFF_Linsey) March 30, 2022
He also doesn't have a lot of experience playing on the edge, as Georgia often lined him up inside. If the Jaguars draft him first overall, will they attempt to develop him into a true edge rusher? He doesn't have much experience in that regard at the college level.
Career snaps played outside the tackles, per @PFF:
Aidan Hutchinson — 1,514
Kayvon Thibodeaux — 1,353
George Karlaftis — 1,349
Arnold Ebiketie — 1,208
Jermaine Johnson — 1,032
Travon Walker — 529
Inexperience & role are reasons to combat the production concerns with Walker.
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) March 27, 2022
While Walker might not have the production and stats of others in this draft, he has them beat in terms of athleticism and measurables. Walker is 6-foot-5 and 272 pounds with almost 36 inch arms. At the combine, he ran a 4.51 second 40-yard dash and posted an eye-popping 35.5 inch vertical jump. Walker posted a 9.99 (out of 10) relative athletic score, ranking him third among 1,428 defensive ends since 1987.
Travon Walker is a DE prospect in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 9.99 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 3 out of 1428 DE from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/CzmPz8MWg5 #RAS pic.twitter.com/ZEisW2Otiy
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 25, 2022
While being athletic increases Walker's ability to be molded and develop into an elite talent, there are questions about how those traits will translate to a football field. Based on the current betting odds, the Jaguars might feel confident that they could develop Walker and use his insane traits to help their team win games.