2022 NFL draft: Betting predictions and strategies for top prospects at each position

2022 NFL draft: Betting predictions and strategies for top prospects at each position

2022 NFL draft: Betting predictions and strategies for top prospects at each position

6:51 AM ET

  • ESPN Betting Insiders

The 2022 NFL draft has quickly become a betting holiday for football fans during the offseason. While this year's draft projects to be one of the most unpredictable in recent memory, if you play your cards right, you could end up with a good profit.

In a year when nothing is certain, there are plenty of questions on where the value lies in one of the biggest sports events of the year.

Our betting experts answer everything you need to know to make smart wagering decisions ahead of Thursday night.

All odds are courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook

Aidan Hutchinson was the odds-on favorite to go No. 1 until Monday. Is he the smart bet or are you looking at Travon Walker or another player to be the first off the board?

Moody: The odds at the top of the board have changed a lot, but I still favor Hutchinson. In my opinion, it is difficult to see any other players being drafted with the top pick besides Hutchinson or Walker. The Jaguars are desperate to improve their pass rush and had only 32 sacks last season, tied for fifth fewest in the NFL. Hutchinson is the more proven college player as a Heisman finalist, whereas Walker has all the traits and potential to be a top pass-rusher but didn't play much on the edge for Georgia. While there are reports of an internal battle over the No. 1 pick, Jaguars owner Shad Khan will still get what he wants.

Fulghum: Hutchinson is not a smart bet to go No. 1 overall in my eyes. I have him ranked 10th on my board, but I'm not an NFL GM, so take that for what you will. Bottom line is: He has only one year of production at Michigan. He tested very well but is missing some key measurable traits that you want in a defensive end (arm length and flexibility being the two biggest). Walker and Kayvon Thibodeaux are both better prospects at the same position due to elite measurables and better production. The market is recognizing this now as Walker has passed Hutchinson as the odds-on favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick.

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Marks: The biggest concern with Hutchinson is his arm length, or lack thereof. He measures at 32.13 inches, compared to Thibodeaux's 34-inch arm length and Travon Walker's 35.50-inch arm length. Even with a tremendous motor, there are very few dominant NFL pass-rushers with short arms. Walker's physical attributes give him a much higher ceiling, with comparisons to Bruce Smith and Jadeveon Clowney. I expect Walker to go No. 1 overall.

What is your betting approach to this year's QB class?

Fortenbaugh: I'm taking Desmond Ridder over 28.5 (-135). Ridder is a winner and a great culture guy. The problem, however, is that his arm strength and accuracy are lacking... and those are two extremely integral skills to succeeding as an NFL quarterback. I think we get locked into the notion that because quarterbacks are so valuable and first-round picks include a fifth-year option, that lots of quarterbacks will be selected in the first round. I'm not subscribing to that this season because this QB class is weak.

Moody: There are two approaches that I would take. The first is to considerKenny Pickett under 12.5 (+140). It seems highly likely that the Panthers will select a quarterback with the No. 6 pick after failing to land any high-end options through trades. Pickett is the most pro-ready QB prospect in this class, and probably the safer pick with Matt Rhule potentially on the hot seat. Pickett finished his career as the school's all-time leader in passing yards (12,303), completions (1,045), total offense (13,112) and passing touchdowns (81). He has good size at 6-foot-3 and mobility. Rhule has experience with Pickett and there is no clear-cut top quarterback prospect in this class.

The second approach is to go with under 3.0 quarterbacks drafted in Round 1 (-110). Pickett and Malik Willis are locks, but I can't see how Ridder or Matt Corral would sneak in.

Marks: None these quarterbacks is worthy of a first-round pick. This has to be one of the worst QB draft classes we have seen in a while, and considering the depth at a variety of positions, I would not be shocked if no QBs are selected in the first round. Take the under at 3.5 this year.

Kezirian: I echo Anita's sentiments. While there is always a chance a general manager feels pressure, when push comes to shove, they ultimately will not waste a precious first-round pick on a guy who is not a franchise quarterback. I would play

We haven't seen many teams take running backs with their top pick. Who do you see as the first one off the board on Thursday, or are we waiting until Friday?

Moody: Friday. Only 2.1 running backs on average have been taken in the first round over the past two decades. The 2022 class isn't the best for finding a true every-down back, but there are a number of prospects who have specific skills to help NFL teams. Breece Hall is the first running back selected No. 37 overall in Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay's most recent mock draft.

Marks: This is a weak RB class as well. History has shown teams can find diamonds in the rough in later rounds. There is too much talent at other positions to take a complementary RB in the first round. Kenneth Walker III should be the first RB selected, but I anticipate him going in the second round.

Walder: Friday, for two reason. For starters, the Draft Day Predictor thinks there's only a 16% chance Hall -- the top back in the class -- will go in the first round. While some have speculated the Bills could take Hall at 25, they do not make sense to me as a team that would select a running back in the first. Buffalo is an analytically inclined organization that has eschewed using running backs in the running game in favor of passing and using designed QB runs -- a very strong trade-off. Investing heavily in the least efficient part of their offense would run antithetical to the Bills' strategy.

Five WRs went off the board in the first round last year in addition to TE Kyle Pitts. What are you looking to bet with the WR position this year?

Moody: For me, it is who will be selected first among wide receivers. Garrett Wilson (+120), Jameson Williams (+200) and Drake London (+200) are currently the favorites according to Caesars. Kiper Jr. and McShay's most recent mock drafts have Wilson as the first receiver off the board and I agree with them. The Falcons need help at receiver after Calvin Ridley was suspended for the season. Wilson's frame and combine measurables are eerily similar to Ridley's and he is the most complete wide receiver in this class, who can make an immediate impact.

Kezirian: Honestly, I would not play the WR props. There is just too wide of a range with the top guys and we aren't sure what teams near the back end are thinking. That's just my personal preference, as I hope (and sort of expect) to win every draft bet or at least have ridiculous value with long-shot odds. I see what Tyler is saying (below), but I do lean to over 36.5 for George Pickens, due to his uncertain injury history.

Marks: One of my favorite prop bets is Wilson to go in the top 10. He is by far the best WR in this draft. He is a smooth route runner, has great body control and more importantly -- offensive coordinators can place him anywhere to create mismatches. This is what teams in the NFL are looking for and Wilson is one of few who can do it. Don't be surprised if the Texans take him No. 3 overall, but he certainly won't get past the Falcons at 8.

How many offensive linemen will be taken in the first round (over/under 7.5)?

Moody: I am leaning toward the under. There are many elite offensive line prospects in this class and we could see top prospects come off the board on Day 2 and 3. Only the Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints have the need to prioritize offensive line in Round 1.

Kezirian: Honestly, this prop doesn't make sense. 7.5 is just too high. The juice has finally adjusted to -200 but other shops have 6.5 and that's more accurate. So at 7.5, even at -200, I would say the under is one of my strongest plays. We could see only five drafted in the first round, but it's really hard to see eight.

Fulghum: I have long thought the UNDER was a strong play with this OL prop. A couple of days before the draft we've seen the price move to a heavily juiced -200. Tackles Ikem Ekwonu, Evan Neal, Charles Cross and Trevor Penning seem like first-round locks because of positional value. Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum is certainly a first-round talent, but his position does not garner near as much first-round consideration. The same could be said for guards like Kenyon Green (Texas A&M) and Zion Johnson (Boston College). They are both really nice prospects, but teams don't spend premium picks on guards unless they are Quenton Nelson. The remaining tackle prospects behind the four just mentioned all have enough question marks to slide into the second round. Ultimately, I think only six offensive linemen (Ekwonu, Neal, Cross, Penning, Linderbaum, Green) end up going in the first round, but that still gives a buffer of one more to sneak in to cash the under

Walder: Under, but I hope you were able to get this back when the juice was only -130. This was the Draft Day Predictor's strongest call a week ago, and it still thinks under is the right play at -200. There's probably only four first-round OL locks: Ekwonu, Neal, Cross and Penning. Linderbaum, Johnson and Green are all somewhere from maybe to probably, and Tyler Smith and Bernhard Raimann have a shot too. But here's the key: Their chances of being selected are not independent of one another. They're competing for some of the same spots, so you really need to simulate out the draft to get the answer here. Our model suggests there's an 87% chance the under hits.

Are there any players whose over/under stand out as a top bet?

Fulghum: WR George Pickens under 36.5 (-130) and LB Quay Walker under 38.5 (-115) are two that stand out to me. I think both SHOULD be taken in the first round of this draft. Pickens is a true X-receiver in this crop of wideout prospects, and that skill set is so valuable in today's NFL. He has, perhaps, the best hands in the class and can block in the run game. His only knock is the ACL injury he suffered before last season, but he came back to contribute in the College Football Playoff National Championship. If Jameson Williams' knee is not a concern for teams, I can't fathom why Pickens' would be more concerning.

Walker has the requisite size and dimensions to thrive at the next level. His teammate Nakobe Dean gets more attention, but scouts likely value Walker's measurables (6-foot-4, 241 pounds, 32⅝-inch arms, 4.52 40-yard dash) more for the next level, where length is becoming far more important for linebackers to match up with RBs and TEs simultaneously. I wouldn't be shocked if Walker hears his name called late in the first round while Dean slides to the second.

Kezirian: Over 21.5 George Karlaftis. Karlaftis continues to slide on big boards and might not even be a first-round pick. This prop opened at 14.5 and has steadily been bet over. Oddsmakers did not move it aggressively enough. On a recent podcast, Mel Kiper Jr. said Karlaftis' likelihood merely starts at the 22nd pick.

Marks: Thinking I wager a bottle of wine with Doug in regard to his Karlaftis prediction. I'm hearing he doesn't get past the Eagles at 18. Scouts I've spoken with compare his upside to a T.J. Watt -- so I actually like the under at 21.5. Sam Howell under 45.5 and Treylon Burks under 23.5. Howell is the best QB of this class and Burks is the best slot WR. I'll take Chris Olave over 16.5 since his 32-inch vertical likely won't cut it in the NFL. Trent McDuffie under 17.5 is another one of my favorite bets. McDuffie could end up being the best CB in this draft. He has great cover skills, is a great tackler and plays the ball well, even at 5-foot-11.

Walder: I like Cross over 7.5 at +210. He certainly could go before then -- our colleague Matt Miller wrote last Tuesday that "the buzz surrounding the Giants and Cross has been building for weeks," but with all the plus-money I'm playing the uncertainty game. There's more ways this can go off script -- surprise non-Cross early picks, the Giants trading out to accumulate 2023 picks or New York preferring a different tackle. Plus, there's not much room left in that top seven after we cross off Walker, Hutchinson, Thibodeaux and Ahmad Gardner, the two other top tackles, and perhaps a quarterback or someone like Derek Stingley Jr.

What are the best and worst landing spots for budding fantasy stars in this draft class?

Moody: Hall would have top-10 potential at the running back position if he was drafted by the Texans. He'll be a starter in Houston sooner rather than later due to his unique mix of size, power and creativity. Hall became the ninth player in Iowa State history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in multiple seasons, the fifth-best total in the school's history.

If the Falcons select Wilson, he will be positioned to succeed and have a high fantasy ceiling. The Falcons have 225 available targets and 1,982 available air yards heading into the 2022 season.

Trey McBride could finish as a TE1 if he goes to the Giants. McBride was named college football's most outstanding tight end last season and would find himself on a team that gives him the opportunity to shine. There are 206 available targets for a Giants team looking to replace Evan Engram.

Marks: If Wilson ends up in Atlanta, his fantasy potential will be huge due to the volume he will receive. Green Bay has two selections in the first round, 22 and 28. I believe the Packers will use one of those on a WR. Williams, Burks, London or Jahan Dotson could be on the board and Burks is my favorite of the group. If he goes to the Packers a Rodgers-to-Burks connection will be fun to watch. Another prospect to keep an eye is North Dakota State WR Christian Watson . Scouts compare him to Deebo Samuel.

What are the top props we should be looking at based on the ESPN Draft Day predictor?

Walder: One of the Predictor's favorite props now is under 10.5 SEC players selected in the first round (+120). Walker, Neal, Stingley Jr., Cross, Williams, Davis, Burks, Devonte Wyatt and Dean could all be first-round locks, though Todd McShay wrote Monday that Dean might fall out of the first. Still, that's nine players. For the over to hit all nine of those have to land, plus two of Green, Corral, Lewis Cine, or Kaiir Elam -- the last two being long shots -- have to be selected. The Predictor is betting more often than not, the SEC won't get two of those.

Its other favorite is under 16.5 offensive players selected in the first round (-115). There are too many permutations to run through every scenario, but that's precisely why I trust the model. The Predictor is very confident (83%) -- probably too confident -- that this will hit. I think we're probably underestimating the QBs here, and teams' desire to trade back into the first to take one late and land that fifth-year option. Even acknowledging that I think under is the right side.

Last one, a favorite: Breece Hall to be the first running back selected

Is there a favorite prop not mentioned above that you are playing?

Fortenbaugh: You have to shop around, but if you can find the over/under for Pac-12 players selected in the first round listed at 4, play the over because I think this is a freeroll. Thibodeaux, London, McDuffie, and Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd should all hear their respective names called on Thursday. That gives us a push as a worst-case scenario. If Washington CB Kyler Gordon can slip into the first round, we have ourselves a winner.

Editor's Picks

UGA's Walker consensus favorite to be No. 1 pick1dDavid Purdum

Walder: Houston DT Logan Hall over 37.5 (-115). This is one where the Predictor -- based on mock drafts, team needs and Scouts Inc. grades (Hall's Scouts Inc. rank is 40th) -- and the line just don't match up. The Draft Day Predictor puts Hall's median selection position at No. 53. His range begins at the top of the second round, so the under is possible, but remember that every year there are players who unexpectedly fall out of the first. They're the most attractive options at the top of the second.