Opening Odds for #1 Pick in the 2021 NFL Draft

By in NFL on
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NFL Draft 2021 Trevor Lawrence

With the 2020 NFL Draft in the rear view mirror, it’s only natural that NFL betting sites turn their attention toward the future. And, what better way to look into the future than by listing odds for the 2021 NFL Draft?

More specifically, we’re going to huddle up and take a look at which College Football players have the best chance at being drafted #1 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.

2021 NFL Draft Betting Odds

The following odds are courtesy of Bovada:

  • Trevor Lawrence, Clemson (-325)
  • Justin Fields, Ohio State (+300)
  • Penei Sewell, Oregon (+450)
  • D’Eriq King, Miami (+1600)
  • Micah Parsons, Penn State (+2500)
  • Jamie Newman, Georgia (+3300)
  • Travis Etienne, Clemson (+5000)
  • Gregory Rousseau, Miami (+3300)
  • Alex Leatherwood, Alabama (+3300)
  • Patrick Surtain, Alabama (+5000)
  • DeVonta Smith, Alabama (+5000)
  • Ja’Marr Chase, LSU (+5000)
  • Jaylen Waddle, Alabama (+5000)

These are just the top betting options offered at NFL betting sites. There are over 30 players available to wager on, but their odds increase to +10000 for the majority of them. More than likely, the top pick will be from one of the players listed above.

It’s All About the QBs

In the history of the NFL Draft, 33 quarterbacks have been selected 1st overall. Since 2000, 15 QBs have been selected 1st overall including in the last three drafts. So, it’s no surprise that quarterbacks are the odds on favorites to win this prop bet as well.

Trevor Lawrence, Clemson (-325)

Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence has been one of the top quarterbacks each of the last two seasons as he’s led Clemson to two straight National Championship games including winning the title as a freshman.

As a sophomore, Lawrence and the Tigers came up short against LSU, but he had a solid year with 36 TDs to just 8 INTs. He also put up 514 rushing yards and 8 rushing touchdowns.

Heading into his junior year, Lawrence is still widely considered the top star in College Football and the betting favorite to win this NFL prop bet as the 1st overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

It’s hard to argue against Lawrence as he has the size, arm strength and athletic skills to be a franchise QB in the NFL. Obviously, the draft will depend on which teams are picking first. With that said, Lawrence is a  safe play for this wager.

Justin Fields, Ohio State (+300)

If Lawrence has an injury or a down year then Justin Fields could end up blowing right by him in the NFL Draft. As a starter for Ohio State last year, Fields threw for 3,273 yards, 41 TDs and 3 INTs. He also rushed for 484 yards and 10 TDs.

Once again, Ohio State should be the best team in the Big Ten due to the level of talent on both sides of the ball. Fields should have plenty of playmakers to throw the ball to and I expect him to have another monster season.

In fact, we could see Lawrence and Fields square off for the National Title in 2020-21. Clemson defeated Ohio State in the CFP this past season.

Fields offers more value than Lawrence does, but Lawrence has done more in his two years of action and has a National Title to prove it.

D’Eriq King, Miami (+1600)

King is the 3rd highest QB according to the betting odds and will try to lead the Miami Hurricanes back to national prominence. King was the former starting QB for the Houston Cougars before heading to Miami.

He had an 11-8 record as a starter for Houston and put up big numbers in 2018 when he threw for 36 TDS and just 6 INTs, but missed the final two games due to an injury. That also led to King taking a redshirt year in 2019.

Now that he’s with Miami, some pundits feel he could have a big season. I wouldn’t get too excited about King just yet. And, his betting odds are overvalued at this point.

If he were in the +4000 range then I would say he could be worthy of a flier, but not at these odds. It would take both Fields and Lawrence getting hurt for King to really shine as the nation’s top QB and then be drafted #1 overall in 2021.

Even if that scenario were to play out, there are still other QBs that will have better seasons this year than King like Brock Purdy (Iowa State), Sam Ehlinger (Texas), and Kellen Mond (Texas A&M).

Jamie Newman, Georgia (+3300)

If there’s a player than can seemingly come out of nowhere just like Joe Burrow did in 2019-20, it’s Jamie Newman.

As the former Wake Forest starting QB, Newman transferred to Georgia for his final year of eligibility. He’s projected to land the starting QB spot for the Bulldogs and lead them to a successful season.

Newman is considered a dual threat QB as he threw for 2,868 yards, 26 TDs, and 11 INTs while rushing for 574 yards and 6 TDs last year for Wake Forest. He has the size that NFL scouts look for at 6’4” and 230 pounds.

Georgia could make the CFP this year if Newman has a stellar season, which many college pundits believe he will. At +4000 odds, Newman offers better value than King.

Wide Receivers Aren’t Worth the Risk

If there’s one offensive position to ignore as the top pick in the NFL Draft, and for this future bet, it’s the wide receiver position. Only three receivers have ever been drafted #1 overall and they were Dave Parks (1964), Irving Fryar (1984) and Keyshawn Johnson (1996).

The 2020 NFL Draft class for wide receivers was arguably the deepest in recent memory. And yet, the highest selected receiver was 12th overall. So, I don’t see this year’s crop of wideouts having any greater success.

However, if you are still looking to take a flier on the receiver position, despite the odds being against this, then the following wideouts are worthy of consideration:

  • DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle could look to duplicate the same success that Jeudy and Ruggs had in 2019-20 for Alabama. Additionally, both receivers have the same +5000 betting odds. Each player is talented in their own right, but I believe they will end up cancelling each other out for this bet.
  • LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase (+5000) will be another receiver to watch in 2020-21. He’s a talented playmaker that will benefit from being the top passing weapon for LSU. However, one has to wonder about how good this team will be as they lost 14 key players to the NFL Draft.
  • Justyn Ross of Clemson (+10000) is my pick to be the most productive receiver in 2020-21 due to his role as the #1 wideout for Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers offense. Ross is 6’4” has good speed and is a big wideout that can make plays all over the field.

I expect Ross to crush the 1,000 yard mark and surpass 10 TDs since his running mate Tee Higgins is now in the NFL.

Skip All Running Backs

Unlike the wide receivers, running backs have been selected 1st overall 23 times. However, the last time that has happened was in 1995 when Ki-Jana Carter went 1st overall to the Bengals. Needless to say, that was a forgettable selection.

What makes the RB position even more unlikely to be selected 1st overall is the fact that the NFL has turned into a league where RBs have become less valued. Even a generational talent like Saquon Barkley only managed to be drafted 3rd overall.

Like with the WRs above, if you are still set on defying the odds and bucking the current trends then there really are only two potential running backs that could end up with seasons worthy of a high draft selection:

Travis Etienne, Clemson (+5000)

Let me start this off by saying I’m a big fan of Travis Etienne. I like his all-around game and the fact that he decided to come back for his senior year to try and win another National Title.

Etienne has cracked the 1,600 yard mark for rushing yards the last two seasons. He also put up 43 rushing TDs over that same span as well. His success in 2018 and 2019 made him the first Clemson player to win the ACC Player of the Year award in consecutive seasons.

In 2019, Etienne proved he could also be a receiving weapon out of the backfield as he finished with 37 receptions for 432 yards and 4 TDs. At 5’10”, 210 pounds, Etienne has the size, strength and speed to be the top running back taken in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Unfortunately, I don’t see a RB being taken as the first overall pick next year or anytime in the near future.

Najee Harris, Alabama (+8000)

Like with Etienne, Harris returned for one last chance at winning a National Title. And, also like Etienne, Harris plays for a team that has a legitimate chance of being the champions in 2020-21.

Harris had a strong 2019 season for Alabama as he finished with over 1,500 total yards and 20 total TDs. He did this in an offense that was very pass happy and had playmakers all over the field.

In his last two games of the season, Harris rushed for 146 yards and 1 TD against Auburn and then put up 136 yards and 2 TDs against Michigan in the Citrus Bowl.

Etienne might be the more athletic RB of the two, but Harris is the bigger back at 6’2” and 230 pounds. He offers better value than Etienne, but neither will be drafted in the Top 5, let alone #1 overall.

Offensive Tackles Could Blindside the Draft

Other than QB, the OT has the best chance of an offensive player being selected first overall in 2021. Seven offensive linemen have been selected 1st in an NFL Draft with 2013 being the last year that it occurred. That draft saw Eric Fisher get selected 1st by the Chiefs.

Of the betting favorites for this prop bet, we actually have an offensive linemen breathing down the necks of Lawrence and Fields. Additionally, there are a few longshots that could end up becoming the best OT in the country by time it’s all said and done.

OT Penei Sewell, Oregon (+450)

Sewell is a mammoth offensive tackle at 6’6” and 330 pounds. He was the Outland Trophy winner, a first team All American, and dominated all 13 games he started at left tackle for the Ducks.

Needless to say, he helped Justin Herbert stay clean, upright and safe all season long. In fact, he didn’t give up a sack in 926 snaps, only allowed 7 QB pressures and gave up just 2 hits on the QB.

In all of the “way too early” mock drafts for 2021, Sewell is drafted in the Top 3 for each one. In fact, he’s even pegged by a few sources as the #1 overall pick next year.

As long as he can stay healthy, Sewell will be the best offensive lineman this season and could easily lock himself in as the top pick in the draft.

OT Alex Leatherwood, Alabama (+3300)

If you are looking for an OT that offers betting value than Alex Leatherwood could be a great option.

Leatherwood is the starting left tackle for Alabama and was a first team All-SEC selection. He was ranked in the Top 25 for the 2020 NFL Draft, but decided to return to college for his senior season. Leatherwood wants another shot at a National Title and to show he’s the best OT in the sport.

Leatherwood was the starting right guard for Alabama in 2018 before moving to OT in 2019. His versatility could help his draft stock in 2021. He started 28 games for the Crimson Tide and will be arguably the best OL in the SEC this season.

OT Walker Little, Stanford (+10000)

The best of the longshots is Walker Little who missed almost all of the 2019 season due to a knee injury. He came into 2019 as a preseason first team All-American and projected as a 1st round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, his injury cost him a shot at going pro.

In 2018, Little was arguably the best OT in the Pac-12 as he earned first team conference honors. At 6’7” and 310 pounds, Little has all the tools to be one of the best linemen in the country. He will give Sewell and Leatherwood a run for the Outland Trophy in 2020 provided that he’s fully healthy.

At +10,000 odds, Little is worthy of a very small flier since an OT could end up being taken #1 overall in 2020.

Could We See a Defender Go First Overall?

In two of the last seven NFL Drafts, a defensive end was drafted #1 overall: Jadeveon Clowney (2014) and Myles Garrett (2017). In total, a defender was drafted first overall 19 times. However, a DB hasn’t been taken 1st since 1956 and a LB hasn’t been taken 1st overall since 1988.

So, for this year’s crop of talented defenders, the odds are against one of them being drafted first overall. Nevertheless, the following players are considered the best at their respective positions and not to be completely dismissed like the wide receiver position:

LB Micah Parsons, Penn State (+2500)

Get your popcorn ready Penn State fans and opposing Big Ten teams because Micah Parsons is going to be a star this year. As a sophomore, Parsons was a first team All-American in 2019. He finished the season with 109 total tackles, 14 TFL, 5 sacks, 5 passes defended, and 4 forced fumbles.

Parsons had one of his best games of the year in the 2019 Cotton Bowl when he finished with 14 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and the Defensive MVP Award. It was a good example as to why he earned the Big Ten Linebacker of the Year Award.

Not only does Parsons have a real shot at winning the Butkus Award for best linebacker in the nation, but he can also end up as the highest placed defender in the Heisman Trophy race.

At 6’3” and 245 pounds, Parsons has all of the physical tools to lead this Penn State defense to prominence and a potential showdown with Ohio State for the Big Ten Conference Title.

He will also end up being drafted in the Top 10 next year, but most likely fall short of the top spot. The last LB to be drafted #1 overall was Aundray Bruce in 1988.

The smarter play here would be to hop on other prop bets for Parsons like top LB drafted, top defender drafted, or best LB in the country.

DE Gregory Rousseau, Miami (+3300)

As mentioned above, defensive ends have been drafted 1st overall in two of the last seven NFL Drafts with Myles Garrett earning that distinct honor in 2017. Overall, there have been 15 defensive linemen taken with the first pick of the NFL Draft all-time. That’s why Gregory Rousseau is on this list.

Rousseau is considered the best returning pass rusher in College. He was second last year in the nation with 15.5 sacks and has a great blend of strength and burst off the line. He only trailed Chase Young in most categories and Young went #2 overall in this year’s NFL Draft.

At 6’6” and 250 pounds, Rousseau is going to draw a lot of attention from NFL Scouts and opposing offenses this year. As much as I like Parsons, I believe Rousseau has a better chance at the first overall pick than Parsons does.

The pass rusher position is highly coveted by teams. And, if Rousseau is first or second in sacks this year he could easily become one of the most sought after draft prospects. At +4000 odds, he’s definitely worthy of a flier.

CB Patrick Surtain, Alabama (+5000)

Patrick Surtain II is the son of former NFL starting DB Patrick Surtain and is widely considered to be the preseason favorite for the best corner in college football. At 6’2” and 203 pounds, Surtain has the size, speed and skills to be a shutdown corner in the NCAAF and the NFL.

In his two years as a starter for Alabama, Surtain tallied 79 tackles, 4 forced fumbles, 3 INTs, and 15 passes defended.

Unfortunately, the corner position isn’t one that’s traditionally drafted 1st overall. In fact, Gary Glick was the only DB to ever be drafted #1 overall and that was back in 1956.

Furthermore, Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah had all of the accolades as the best corner in the 2020 NFL Draft and he could only go as high as #3.

At +5000 odds, Surtain is still overvalued since this position is never drafted first overall.

Who Will Go First in the 2021 NFL Draft?

After looking through each position group and taking into consideration the history of the NFL Draft at least in this modern era, we can safely eliminate all positions but QB, OT and DE.

With that said, the following players are likely to be in play for this prop bet:

  • QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson (-350)
  • QB Justin Fields, Ohio State (+300)
  • OT Penei Sewell, Oregon (+450)
  • DE Gregory Rousseau, Miami (+3300)

Now, let’s take a look at the NFL teams that are most likely going to be drafting #1 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft:

  • Cincinnati Bengals
  • Carolina Panthers
  • Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Washington Redskins

Of these four teams, the Panthers and Jaguars could end up drafting a franchise QB as they both are going with “average” starters in 2020. Carolina has Teddy Bridgewater starting and Jacksonville is going with Gardner Minshew. That means Lawrence and Fields will be in play for the #1 overall pick.

If Cincy or Washington end up with the top pick in the draft, they could end up going with an OT since they both have franchise QBs. Cincy could also go with a DE if they needed more help on defense.

With that in mind, QB desperate teams are almost always willing to move up in the draft to get a potential franchise quarterback.

I’m not sold on Dwayne Haskins for Washington, so I can see them looking at a QB as well, especially if they’re drafting first because it would be most likely due to Haskins failing in 2020 and the Ron Rivera led staff not trusting in the previous regime’s pick.

For this NFL prop bet, go with one of the QBs as the top pick. The safe play is on Trevor Lawrence to run the table in 2020 and end up as the #1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. If you want a value pick then go with Penei Sewell at +500 odds as he should be the best OT in the NCAAF this season.

Drafted #1 Overall in 2021 –Trevor Lawrence, Clemson (-250)
Rick Rockwell

As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site. ...

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