NFL draft betting: How many WRs go in Round 1? Hard to predict after Chase, Waddle, Smith

·3 min read

A game-breaking wide receiver is a precious commodity in the NFL. And in this year’s draft, there are three top-tier prospects at the position that are considered sure things to go in Round 1.

Those three prospects played in the SEC. By most accounts, Ja’Marr Chase from LSU is at the top of the crop. Chase opted out of the 2020 season, but put up ridiculous numbers in 2019 — 84 catches, 1780 yards and 20 touchdowns — to help the Tigers win the national championship. He has -1200 odds at BetMGM to be the first wide receiver off the board.

The others were teammates at Alabama: DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. Smith accumulated 117 receptions for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns and ended up winning the Heisman Trophy in 2020. Waddle, on the other hand, was limited to just six games thanks to an ankle injury, but is unbelievably explosive with the ball in his hands.

Despite the production, Smith’s slight frame — he reportedly weighed just 166 pounds when measured recently in Indianapolis — could worry some teams. Waddle has slightly better odds to be WR1 (+800) compared to Smith (+900).

LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase makes a reception during an NFL Pro Day at LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Wednesday, March 31, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase makes a reception during an NFL Pro Day at LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Wednesday, March 31, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

How many WRs will go in Round 1?

Beyond Chase, Waddle and Smith, the field is much less clear.

Over the past 10 drafts, an average of 3.8 wide receivers have gone in the first round. This year, BetMGM has set its total at 4.5 — with significant juice on the over. How significant? The odds are -400 on the over and +280 on the under 4.5.

Last year, six wide receivers went off the board in the first round. Three were selected between picks 12 and 17 and three more went in the 20s. But in both 2018 and 2019, the number of first-round receivers was just two. In 2017, it was three. In 2016, it was four.

Clearly, there is some historical precedent that makes the under 4.5 an enticing bet — especially at +280. But this year’s crop of wideouts is considered to be pretty deep. It just depends on when a run on the position begins.

Yahoo Sports NFL draft expert Eric Edholm pointed to several options in Round 1 beyond Chase, Waddle and Smith. But there are caveats with several of them, while others could fall into Round 2.

“We know the top three are Round 1 locks. Even DeVonta Smith and his 166 pounds can't tumble out of Round 1,” Edholm said. “Elijah Moore could be WR4. That would not shock me. Does Rashod Bateman go Round 1? Tough call. Maybe to one of Baltimore's two picks, but I think he goes early Round 2 if I had to bet. Terrace Marshall's medical evaluation could lead to some concern. He's maybe a 50-50 shot too. Then there's Kadarius Toney, who could slip in there.”

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