Credit: USA TODAY Sports
- The 2019 NFL Draft begins on April 25 and will be held in Nashville, TN.
- Matthew Freedman breaks down the defensive back class and analyzes which player is likely to be drafted first.
Each day, I publish 1-2 pieces on props I like. See my master list of 2019 prop bets for more information.
The 2019 NFL draft class has some good depth at defensive back, but at the top of the board, the race to be the first player selected in the secondary will likely come down to two cornerbacks: Greedy Williams of Louisiana State and Byron Murphy of Washington. Both are expected to be immediate starters with the potential to develop into All-Pro players.
The draft is rapidly approaching, and for the first time ever it will be held in Nashville, TN.
Here’s the schedule for the seven rounds.
- Thursday, April 25: Round 1
- Friday, April 26: Rounds 2-3
- Saturday, April 27: Rounds 4-7
In this piece, I look at which defensive back is likeliest to be the first selected in the 2019 NFL draft.
2019 NFL Draft: First Defensive Back to Be Selected
- Greedy Williams: -112
- Byron Murphy: +300
- Deandre Baker: +550
- Justin Layne: +1200
- Johnathan Abram: +1400
- Chauncey Gardner-Johnson: +1400
- Nasir Adderley: +2000
- Taylor Rapp: +2000
- Amani Oruwariye: +2000
- Trayvon Mullen: +2500
- Rock Ya-Sin: +2500
- Deionte Thompson: +5000
- Juan Thornhill: +6600
- Joejuan Williams: +6600
- Julian Love: +6600
Only a few of the 15 players listed offer positive expected value.
I’ve surveyed the most recent mock drafts of 20 respected analysts. In all but two of them either Greedy or Murphy is the first defensive back off the board.
Cornerback Deandre Baker was the first defensive back selected in one mock, but in 10 of the other mocks he wasn’t even a Round 1 pick. He probably offers slight value at +550, but I’d rather invest elsewhere.
And in one mock, safety Johnathan Abram is the first defensive back off the board. Abram is arguably the top safety in the class, but there are also many analysts who prefer Nasir Adderley or Taylor Rapp at the position. If a safety is drafted before a corner, there’s no guarantee that player will be Abram.
Additionally, corner has historically been valued more than safety in the NFL draft. Over the past decade, only twice has a safety been the first defensive back off the board.
- 2010: Eric Berry, No. 5 overall pick
- 2017: Jamal Adams, No. 6 overall pick
For a safety to be taken before a corner, he has to be an elite player, not just at his position but across all positions, and there isn’t a safety like that in this class.
In all likelihood, the first defensive back selected will be a corner, probably Greedy or Murphy.
2019 NFL Draft: Greedy Williams vs. Byron Murphy to Be Selected First
As prospects, Williams and Murphy are pretty different.
- Height: Williams – 6’2″ | Murphy – 5’11”
- Weight: Williams – 185 pounds | Murphy – 190 pounds
- 40-Yard Dash: Williams – 4.37 seconds | Murphy – 4.55 seconds
- Coverage: Williams – Press man | Murphy – Press man & zone
- Run Defense: Williams – Disinterested | Murphy – Aggressive
Williams is lanky and athletic, but he’s a somewhat one-dimensional cover man who doesn’t play with great physicality. Murphy, meanwhile, is dangerously slow for a corner, but he’s a well-built all-around technician who has the high-end instincts that life-long football men seem to love.
Because of his superior athleticism, Williams is generally assumed to be the No. 1 corner in the class, but what do the surveyed mocks have to say?
On average, Greedy’s draft position is 23.25. Murphy’s? 23.25.
But even though their mock-based draft position is identical, Greedy and Murphy’s numbers are still pretty different.
- Range: Williams – 5 to Round 2 | Murphy – 19 to Round 2
- Median: Williams – 24 | Murphy – 21
- Mode: Williams – 20, 27 | Murphy – 20
- Times Selected First: Williams – 8 | Murphy – 10
- Times Selected in Round 2: Williams – 3 | Murphy – 1
Williams has a far wider range of outcomes. In his four most favorable mocks, Greedy is drafted at Nos. 5, 8, 14 and 15, whereas Murphy’s highest draft position is No. 19.
But 15 of the mockers have Murphy coming off the board no later than pick No. 25 — and nine mockers have Greedy going no earlier than No. 26.
It wouldn’t at all be surprising if Greedy were selected first, but Murphy — at a minimum — is just as strong of a candidate to be the top defensive back drafted.
At +300, Murphy has just a 25% implied probability to go off the board first, but that number is egregiously low. At worst, Murphy looks like a coin flip. At best, he should be favored.
Of all the 2019 NFL draft props I’ve seen, this one probably offers the most value.
I’d bet on Murphy all the way down to +120.
The Pick: Murphy (+300)
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