Thirty-two NFL teams will make decisions that will change the course of their franchises, for better or for worse, Thursday night in Las Vegas. While NFL insiders are putting the finishing touches on the final versions of their mock drafts, the rumor mill will continue to churn out an intriguing mixture of signal and noise. Bettors will keep a close eye on the line movement, waiting for the perfect time to extract maximum value on their strongest positions.
The NFL draft has come a long way from the days when capturing a trade being finalized on a team helmet phone was the pinnacle of draft day excitement. Now that sports betting has become a larger part of the draft than ever, every single pick counts. As the first round unfolds on Thursday night, each team's selection has an impact, direct or indirect, on every bettor's card. It has developed into one of my favorite sports betting events, primarily because you can wager on it several different ways. A few weeks back, I detailed two bets focused on the top of the draft, and today I have two more that are team specific.
Position of the first player drafted - Tennessee Titans - Quarterback (+500)
Coach of the Year Mike Vrabel did a masterful job steering the Titans to the No.1 seed in the AFC through a turbulent year marred by injuries. Securing home-field advantage in a conference with Kansas City and Buffalo was a dream scenario for Tennessee. Ryan Tannehill's three-interception performance in the divisional round of the playoffs turned it into a nightmare. All the blame for Tennessee's 19-16 divisional round loss to Cincinnati shouldn't fall on Tannehill's shoulders, but it's fair to question whether he is the guy to lead them to a Super Bowl.
Tannehill excels at executing the offense efficiently behind the premier power running back in football in Derrick Henry. But last postseason with Henry ineffective, the Titans needed more and Tannehill failed to deliver in the biggest of moments. Ranking third in QB success rate and only 13th in EPA/Play highlights the challenge the Titans will have if they want to keep pace with the explosive offenses in their conference. Now that Russell Wilson is playing in Denver, it's hard to argue Tannehill cracks the Top 10 QBs in the AFC. The Titans need an upgrade, and this draft class provides them with multiple options at the bottom of the first round. Tannehill's contract has an out for 2023, where the dead money drops from $57,400,000 to $18,800,00. It's a win-win for the Titans to draft a QB at No. 26 overall and allow him to develop for a full year while making one last run with Tannehill.
Position of the first player drafted - Philadelphia Eagles - Wide Receiver (+200)
There are multiple rumors circulating that the Eagles have eyes for WR Jameson Williams. Anyone who has followed Philadelphia GM Howie Roseman's tenure is fully aware how aggressive he can be when he zeroes in on a player. The connection makes sense. Over the past few weeks, Williams' odds have positioned him alongside Ohio State's Garrett Wilson as one of favorites to be the first wide receiver selected in a very talented class.
The Eagles' recent history with wide receivers plays an important role in why I think they are most likely to target the position for the second consecutive year. Roseman's resume includes massive misses in evaluating the position, including selecting J.J Arcega-Whiteside and Jalen Reagor over D.K. Metcalf and Justin Jefferson. The Eagles adopted a new, simpler approach in last year's draft. Instead of relying on your ability to evaluate the players that fall, target your guy and do everything required to get in position to draft said player. The shift in philosophy worked as the Eagles traded into the top 10 to draft Alabama WR DeVonta Smith. With Jalen Hurts returning, the Eagles are committed to putting the necessary weapons around him as he enters a pivotal third year. Roseman has a stockpile of draft picks, and I wouldn't be surprised by the Eagles trading up from No. 15 to select Williams or whichever receiver they covet.