Teams that “stick to the board” during the NFL Draft have the best success in identifying and developing talent year after year, several scouts and executives told ESPN. Teams that jump for a “gut feel” or “late nugget” of information tend to whiff on prospects and find themselves with underwhelming or empty draft classes.
The board – or boards in some cases as teams occasionally use one big board and one or several smaller boards – is filled with several hundred names and peppered with different symbols, colors, and monikers, all obsessively placed after thousands of hours of film review, interviews, and, in-person scouting. The BetMGM NFL Draft Specials board, likewise, is filled with hundreds of betting options for positions, rounds, college football teams, and more.
One year ago, Trevor Lawrence opened as the favorite for the No. 1 pick with -250 odds. The number reached -1000 during the college football season, -3000 in early March, and -10000 a few weeks before the draft.
Trevor Lawrence is the pick in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ draft room and in NFL Draft betting
Zach Wilson, +2500 in odds for the No. 2 overall pick, will be the highest-drafted BYU player since Steve Young went first overall in 1984.
Twenty-three other players have odds for the No. 2 pick, though none are higher than Justin Fields at +1600.
The final selection with pick-specific odds, Mac Jones would be the San Francisco 49ers’ first first-round quarterback since Alex Smith in 2005.
Jones sat above Justin Fields and Trey Lance in odds for the No. 3 pick for weeks after the 49ers traded two future first-round picks to the Miami Dolphins. On April 15, two weeks before the draft, Fields hopped Jones, though the former Alabama quarterback returned to the top five days later.
With pick-specific odds ending at No. 3, Justin Fields is the first selection for team odds.
Of the 10 positions listed for the Atlanta Falcons’ first pick, only two are higher than +1200: Quarterback (+140) and tight end (+160). Sticking to the board, the Falcons pass on Kyle Pitts to draft Fields, who sits above Trey Lance (and three other quarterbacks) in positional odds to be the first quarterback selected.
The top three positions for the Cincinnati Bengals’ first pick: Offensive lineman (+115), wide receiver (+135), and tight end (+275).
Instead of landing Joe Burrow’s former LSU teammate, Ja’Marr Chase, the Bengals select Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell, who’s the heavy favorite to be the first offensive lineman selected.
One of only four teams with minus odds for one position, the Miami Dolphins add Ja’Marr Chase instead of Kyle Pitts because their receiver odds (-140) are higher than tight end (+260).
Tua Tagovailoa misses on an elite 12 personnel unit with Pitts beside Mike Gesicki, but he adds the draft’s top-ranked receiver in Chase.
Name one receiver on the Detroit Lions.
Name another one.
That’s a pathetically difficult exercise for an NFL team and one big reason why receiver (+100) is above quarterback (+450), linebacker (+600), and every other position for the Lions.
The second of four teams with minus odds for one position, the Carolina Panthers pass on Trey Lance to bolster left tackle after nearly a decade of instability.
At -105, offensive lineman is well above cornerback (+400), quarterback (+500), and receiver (+750).
Trey Lance’s slide ends at No. 9 as the Denver Broncos select a quarterback within the first two rounds for the third time in six years. Nine different quarterbacks have started a game for the Broncos over that time; Lance could be the 10th if he lands in Denver and starts at any point during his rookie season.
The Dallas Cowboys are the first team with a defensive position atop their odds board, thus the first team to select a defensive player.
If Surtain is the first defender off the board at No. 10, it will be the first draft without a defensive player in the top eight since the 1940s. And he’d be the fourth cornerback selected in the first round by the Cowboys since 2008, the most of any position over that time.
Joe Burrow became the third straight Heisman Trophy winner to be selected first in the NFL Draft, a streak that will end with 2020 Heisman winner DeVonta Smith in this year’s draft. Two previous Heisman winners were selected with the 11th pick, including most recently Ron Dayne, the 11th pick of the New York Giants in the 2000 draft.
With receiver (+240) narrowly above offensive lineman (+275) in Giants’ drafts odds, Smith is the pick at No. 11.
With the consensus top three receivers off the board, the Philadelphia Eagles are left with Rashod Bateman at No. 12. After selecting Jalen Reagor at No. 21 last year, it would be just the second time since the 1960s they took the same position in the first round of back-to-back drafts.
Bateman won the coin flip over Kadarius Toney; they tied at +5000 odds to be the first receiver drafted.
Rashawn Slater didn’t fall into the Los Angeles Chargers’ lap but they still land another offensive lineman (-125) at No. 13 in Christian Darrisaw. No other position is higher than +400 (cornerback) for the Chargers.
Instead of adding a defensive end (+240 for defensive lineman) in the first round for the first time since 2005, the Vikings take an offensive lineman (+120) two years after drafting Garrett Bradbury.
If Vera-Tucker plays guard, he’d be the Vikings’ first first-round guard since Randall McDaniel in 1988.
Stick to the board. And the board says a quarterback (+180) for the New England Patriots with their first selection.
With the top five quarterbacks gone within the first nine picks, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels are left with Kyle Trask, a projected second- or third-round pick.
For years, the Arizona Cardinals didn’t invest high picks or big money in cornerbacks opposite Patrick Peterson. With Peterson gone after 10 seasons, they draft a first-round cornerback (+125) for the first time since Peterson in 2011.
Mike Mayock was “excited” and “energized” about the offseason dismantling of the Las Vegas Raiders’ offensive line, saying they’re getting younger and more athletic. If Teven Jenkins is the pick at No. 17, they’re definitely getting younger and more athletic.
Jenkins (+5000 to be the first offensive lineman selected) won a coin flip against Liam Eichenberg.
Tight end isn’t the positional favorite for any team, including the Miami Dolphins, who landed Ja’Marr Chase at No. 6. Tight end, however, ranks second (+260), and per the arbitrary rules of this mock draft, they must take a tight end with their second first-round pick.
Steal of the draft.
Eichenberg lost the coin flip at No. 17 but falls only two spots to the Washington Football Team, where he becomes the sixth offensive lineman selected.
At +140, offensive lineman is ahead of linebacker (+325) and quarterback (+400).
If quarterback (+450) was atop the Chicago Bears’ board, they’d be flipping a coin between Kellen Mond and Jamie Newman. Instead, they’re flipping a coin between five offensive linemen (+175) at No. 20.
Former Alabama center Landon Dickerson (+10000 among offensive linemen) wins the flip over Jalen Mayfield, Samuel Cosmi, Dillon Radunz, and Creed Humphrey.
Two months after acquiring Carson Wentz, the Indianapolis Colts draft a new offensive tackle from Wentz’s alma mater.
Radunz, the de facto replacement for Anthony Castonzo, arrived at North Dakota State one year after Wentz’s departure and is the eighth offensive lineman drafted.
With cornerback (+225) edging out receiver (+260) and offensive lineman (+325), the Tennessee Titans take the first step in rebuilding their secondary with Caleb Farley.
Likely a top-10 pick if not for last year’s missed season (opt-out) and two back surgeries, Farley falls to No. 22 as a high-risk, high-reward pick for the Titans.
One of two teams without positional odds, the New York Jets flip a coin between the available players with highest positional odds: Micah Parsons (-400 for first linebacker drafted) and Trevon Moehrig (-400 for first safety drafted).
The Jets take Parsons in one of the most bizarre picks of the round.
The ninth offensive lineman drafted, Samuel Cosmi is the pick for a rebuilding Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line (+180).
The former Texas offensive tackle would be their first offensive first-round selection since David DeCastro in 2012.
The other team without positional odds, the Jacksonville Jaguars land the New York Jets’ leftovers, former TCU safety Trevon Moehrig. Najee Harris, at +140 for the first running back drafted, is the only other remaining player with minus positional odds.
Three defensive positions sit atop the Cleveland Browns’ odds board: linebacker (+200), defensive lineman (+240), and cornerback (+400). With Parsons gone three picks earlier, they settle for Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah from Notre Dame.
The first receiver drafted since the Eagles took Rashod Bateman at No. 12, Kadarius Toney is the Baltimore Ravens’ pick as receiver (+225) sits ahead of linebacker (+300), offensive lineman (+450), and defensive lineman (+500) on their board.
The only team with a tie atop their board, the New Orleans Saints flipped a coin between defensive lineman and cornerback (+300). And instead of a fourth cornerback (Greg Newsome II), the round’s first defensive lineman is taken as Kwity Paye goes to New Orleans.
One year after passing on receivers entirely, the Green Bay Packers take a receiver (+175) with a first-round pick for the first time in 17 years. And the pick is Terrace Marshall Jr., who wins a coin flip over Rondale Moore (both at +8000 for first receiver drafted).
Running back (+600) isn’t atop the Buffalo Bills’ board, therefore they can’t draft Najee Harris or Travis Etienne like many pundits think they might.
Defensive lineman (+225) is atop their board, leading them to Jaelan Phillips, who becomes Miami’s first first-rounder since 2017 (David Njoku) and highest-drafted player since 2015 (Erick Flowers and Phillip Dorsett).
Prior to acquiring Orlando Brown Jr. from the Baltimore Ravens in a trade six days before the NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs selected Creed Humphrey with this pick; the former Oklahoma center beat Jalen Mayfield for the final +10000 coin flip among offensive lineman.
With the Ravens selecting at No. 31, the pick is a linebacker (+300). And with Azeez Ojulari listed at linebacker instead of edge (i.e., defensive lineman), the Georgia pass-rusher lands in the first round.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven’t picked outside the top 20 in the first round since selecting Doug Martin with the second of two first-round picks in 2012. Nine years later, running back (+900) is buried on their board behind five other positions, including defensive lineman (+225).
Christian Barmore would be their second first-round selection of an Alabama player in the last five years (O.J. Howard, 2017). Had Azeez Ojulari been listed as a defensive lineman one pick earlier, the Bucs would’ve selected Penn State edge rusher Jayson Oweh instead of Barmore.
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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor by BetMGM, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has written for Sports Illustrated, HERO Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @DoughtyBetMGM