Finally, we have made it to NFL Draft day. After countless weeks of combing through mock drafts and deciding whether the violent swings in the betting markets were smoke or signal, everyone gets the answers to the test starting at 8 p.m. ET Thursday night in Kansas City, Missouri.
More than ever, this year’s draft night has the vibe of a television series finale. Mentally, most of us are exhausted from information overload, as if we binged season after season, willfully trading away the ability to fully process all the underlying storylines and knowing we are only truly interested in how everything unfolds at the end. We have argued with friends, family and colleagues over how to interpret the latest piece of shocking news and even plunged into the deepest, darkest Reddit rabbit holes in hopes of finding some spoilers.
The prevailing theme, more than any other year, is that nobody really knows what’s going to happen when the cards start getting turned in. The insiders are speculating, the analysts have thrown their hands up, and even the most trusted names in the industry are intrigued by the multiple directions the top of draft could go. Bryce Young is a significant favorite to go No. 1 overall, but after that, everyone appears to be throwing darts.
So where’s the value in Thursday night's NFL Draft? The truth is, there is probably a good amount in every market since we’ll see a lot of unlikely outcomes. So here’s is a general rule of thumb I like to follow: Whenever there is a high level of uncertainty, it’s always good to have a few long-shot tickets at wide odds in your pocket. The higher the level of unpredictability, the better chance we see some of these plus-money bets convert into cash. Here’s three that I couldn’t pass up.
6th pick of the draft: Will Anderson Jr. +600
Credit to The Ringer’s Benjamin Solak for painting this scenario, but it really has legs if the top of the draft unfolds as I expect. The former Alabama edge rusher racked up 34.5 sacks in three years with the Crimson Tide. He was so dominant that you couldn’t get through one week of this past college football season without him being mentioned as the draft’s top defensive prize. He is also even money (+100) to be the first defensive player off the board. So why would he fall to No. 6? That’s because there is a solid chance quarterbacks go off the board with the first two picks, even if Houston fails to trade out at No 2. At No. 3, the Cardinals could take the favorite to be the first defensive player off the board, Texas Tech's Tyree Wilson, leaving the Colts with C.J. Stroud or Anthony Richardson. Both Jalen Carter and Richardson have been mocked to Seattle at No. 5, leaving the Detroit Lions with Anderson on the board. The Lions need cornerback help after trading Jeffrey Okudah, but a strong pass rush is a secondary’s best friend. It’s possible the Lions utilize the best-player-on-the-board philosophy and cash this bet at +600 for us.
Position of Kansas City Chiefs' first drafted player: running back +1900
Patrick Mahomes masks a lot of holes, so it's difficult to say the Chiefs have any dire needs. In an ideal world, the Chiefs would draft him a dynamic, playmaking wide receiver, just as most people expect them to do. But, if NFL teams always did as we expect, we would all be rich on an island instead of punching bets into our sportsbook accounts.
Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs would be the perfect complement to Isiah Pacheco in Kansas City’s backfield. Andy Reid’s offense can make a lot of players look good, but Gibbs would be downright lethal in Reid’s screen game. Gibbs had over 900 yards receiving in the past two seasons and has a nice combination of quickness and power for a running back of his size. Reid understands the importance of the running game and could see this as an opportunity to turn the page on Clyde Edwards-Helaire. At 19-to-1, I think we are getting solid enough odds to take a shot.
Position of Tennessee Titans' first drafted player: running back +3000
If you liked the last one, you will love this one. The Titans are in the quarterback market in Ryan Tannehill’s likely last year with the club. Will they trade to up to No. 3 or even No. 7 to select their quarterback of the future? It’s a strong possibility, but what’s the alternative if they decide the price is too steep? Everything is on the table, as the Titans have holes all over the roster. There have already been rumors that they are open to trading Derrick Henry, but pairing him with Texas RB Bijan Robinson allows the Titans to keep their offensive identity. Also, it will sure make life easier for whichever young quarterback you give the keys to next year. This is all dependent on Bijan getting past Atlanta and Philadelphia, and the Titans not being comfortable with the quarterback options at No. 11. Running backs might not matter in most places, but they do in Tennessee. And Robinson might have too much potential for coach Mike Vrabel to resist.