2022 NFL Draft Prop Bet: First Overall Draft Pick

Mar 23, 2022
2022 NFL Draft Prop Bet: First Overall Draft Pick

Every year, one of the least sharp markets available to football fans who like to wager is that of the “NFL Player Selection Meeting”, better known as the NFL Draft.

Sportsbooks are great at setting fairly close betting lines when the data in play are largely agreed-upon stats and metrics—but the draft demands a more hybrid approach. Not only are a player’s measurables and production valued differently by different teams, but his psychology and personality fit with his potential future franchise also has to be considered. There’s also the ever-present debate between best player available (BPA) and reaching a little on value to fill team needs. In short, for a sportsbook, it ain’t easy making green on the NFL Draft.

That means the draft presents opportunities for the rest of us to seize on wider margins between a betting line's implied odds and its true value, and one of the best spots to do that is when betting the first overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft. We’ll walk through a couple of the most likely scenarios for the 1.01, breaking down the most likely players to go there, their betting odds on the FanDuel and DraftKings sportsbooks, and what expert draft mockers and the wisdom of the crowds say about their chances.

More 2022 NFL Draft Resources: Mock Draft | Big Board

With the Jacksonville Jaguars currently holding the pick, what could they do with the first selection of the 2022 NFL Draft once they’re on the clock?

Offensive Lineman

Before free agency opened, offensive tackle was the most commonly mocked position at 1.01, per a survey of expert mockers on Grinding the Mocks. It is still a very close 1.02 as of now, but the sentiment among the industry seems to be shifting away from offensive linemen at the top as a whole.

2021 first overall draft selection Trevor Lawrence was under siege on 32.9% of his dropbacks in his first season—the 17th-highest rate among 30 NFL quarterbacks to drop back at least 350 times. The Jaguars have repeatedly seen their early-drafted passers flame out due to poor protection; they certainly want to avoid that fate for Lawrence. That’s by no means the most glaring hole, though. By franchise-tagging left tackle Cam Robinson and backing up the Brink's truck for right guard Brandon Scherff, it seems the Jaguars might be content to solve their offensive line woes via free agency.

In addition, when we look deeper at the issues plaguing the Jags’ protection, Pro Football Focus’ Allowed Pressure stat indicates Lawrence was responsible for over a fifth of the pressures he sustained. This means Jacksonville’s offensive line—as mediocre as it appears at first blush—allowed the 10th-lowest pressure rate on their quarterback among the 30 quarterbacks to drop back at least 400 times last year.

Alabama tackle Evan Neal didn’t do any athletic testing at the NFL Combine but measured at a towering 6-foot-7, weighing an incredibly lithe-looking 337 pounds. He has proven to be an adept pass blocker on the left side against the best college talent in 2021, but he had an even better season at right tackle a few years back. Ikem Ekwonu out of North Carolina State is the other offensive lineman mocked to the Jaguars at the top spot, and he sets himself apart as a highly-versatile prospect. Some teams may see Ekwonu as an interior lineman, but he has the requisite measurables and athleticism to be a high-end tackle and may have a higher physical ceiling than Neal. The mocks seem to give an edge to Neal’s polish over Ekwonu’s traits, however, for the time being.

As important as it is to build an offense through the trenches, the Jaguars may already have the foundation of a great protection unit for their offense without the services of Neal or Ekwonu.

EDGE Rusher

Outside of a fluky February blip, Grinding the Mocks shows the mock draft industry giving a slight edge to the EDGE rusher position group at first overall.

For all of the 2021 college football season, Oregon EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux was one of the top choices in mocks. Thibodeaux put together an above-average college career, headlined by a 14.3% pressure rate and 22 sacks. When the mocks shifted, Michigan EDGE Aidan Hutchinson took over the top spot—thanks in part to winning three major awards and coming in second in Heisman Trophy voting in his senior year. It should be no surprise now that Hutchinson is atop most mocks—including the most recent mock from our own Anthony Staggs—as the man to beat for the top spot.

In 2021, the Jaguars ranked 18th in the NFL in team pressure rate, despite blitzing the fifth-most often on opposing dropbacks. They were also 25th in converting their pressures into sacks, a metric fairly indicative of pass-rush talent. 2019 first-rounder Josh Allen did very well by PFF’s grading, coming in 18th among EDGE rushers out of 107 qualifying players. Dawuane Smoot was above-average as well, ranking 40th, but 2020 first-round prospect K'Lavon Chaisson looks to already be a bust; he ranked fifth-worst among qualifiers at EDGE in his rookie campaign and declined to third-worst this past year.

While EDGE rusher might be the biggest issue, Jacksonville also has some holes in the middle of its defensive front. Defensive lineman Malcolm Brown ranked ninth-worst by PFF Player Grades among qualifying players at his position, despite seeing over 670 snaps last season, and Roy Robertson-Harris was the lone interior defender able to accrue both a 7.5% pressure rate and run stop rate.

Betting Odds

With the Jaguars plugging their offensive line needs through other means, it seems all but certain that EDGE rusher will be the spot they look to address if they are the ones running to the podium first on Draft Day 2022.


Not coincidentally, top EDGE prospect Aidan Hutchinson has -400 odds on DraftKings and -420 on FanDuel to be the first player selected in the draft. This corresponds to an 80-81% implied probability; essentially about as close to a lock as one could expect for this prop. That said, this still isn’t the craziest line to get in on at this point. Hutchinson can play both as a wide rusher (both hand in the dirt and standing up) as well as an interior player (22.1% of his snaps came as a defensive tackle in 2020), especially on passing downs, so he fills two of the Jags’ defensive needs for the price of one. Add in the awards and the elite peak already seen this past season (17.4% pressure rate and 9.9% run stop rate) and Hutchinson feels like he’s an ironclad elite prospect with a perfect fit.

That said, if we assume EDGE is the likeliest position to be picked, Kayvon Thibodeaux (+2000 on both DK and FD) led the mocks as recently as late December. He’s still a year younger than Hutchison as well, and perhaps the Jaguars do want the purest pass-rusher rather than the well-rounded Hutchison. In that case, Thibodeaux’s odds don’t make for the worst hedge to offset a larger chalk bet on the Michigan product.


Offensive linemen Evan Neal (+850 DK) and Ikem Ekwonu (+1000 FD)—as much as they are compelling prospects—don’t stand out from the rest of their position as much as Hutchinson and Thibodeaux do. The Jags, if they are dead-set on one of these two, should still be able to move down and draft one of the top few while also recouping additional value. That makes them less likely, and therefore less valuable bets, at just the second-and third-shortest odds.

Other Positions to Consider

Safety Kyle Hamilton (+8000 FD) is the only other player I can see as a good value due to his incredibly long odds. He never put in an elite season statistically in college, but Hamilton allowed just a 47.6% catch rate to coverage assignments and a 25.9 NFL passer rating to opposing passers, with the traits to develop into a devastating run defender as well. Fair warning: A safety has never gone first overall, and one most recently went in the top two over 30 years ago.

Bottom Line

Betting the favorite is never the spiciest take, but sometimes the obvious choice is the right one. In this case, I’m happy to be square and lay the line with Aidan Hutchinson as the first pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Risk: 2 units on DraftKings to win 0.5 units.

This article is intended for entertainment purposes and adult users only. Call 1-800-GAMBLER if you have a gambling problem.

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