Freedman: How I’m Betting the Top-10 Picks in the 2019 NFL Draft

Freedman: How I’m Betting the Top-10 Picks in the 2019 NFL Draft article feature image
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USA Today Sports. Pictured: Kyler Murray, Nick Bosa

  • The 2019 NFL Draft begins on April 25 and will be held in Nashville, TN.
  • Matthew Freedman breaks down the 10 picks at the top of the draft and how he's betting them.

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 is rapidly approaching, and for the first time ever it will be held in Nashville, TN.

Here’s the seven-round schedule.

  • Thursday, April 25: Round 1
  • Friday, April 26: Rounds 2-3
  • Saturday, April 27: Rounds 4-7

In this piece, I outline at how I’m approaching the top-10 picks in the draft and the bets I’m making as a result.

The Action Network NFL Podcast: Mock Draft & Player Props

Listen to the most recent episode of The Action Network NFL Podcast to hear Ian Hartitz and me discuss the top-10 picks as well as the bets highlighted in this piece.

Pick No. 1: Arizona Cardinals

I’m very much expecting Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray to go No. 1 overall. We have been bullish on him for months.

I’m not about to back off of him now.

ESPN Draft Analyst Mel Kiper reportedly gives Murray a 99.9% chance to go No. 1 overall.

Is Kiper perhaps a little too confident in his projection? Maybe — but Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury has been recruiting Murray since he was a sophomore in high school. They reportedly have a very tight connection, and Murray’s style of play makes him a perfect fit for Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense.

It’s never fun to lay lots of juice, but that’s where the value is with Murray.

My Bets for Kyler Murray

  • No. 1 overall pick: Yes -500. I’d bet this to -800. UPDATE: I’ve found this at -350. I am doubling down and betting this as heavily as I can at that number.
  • Top-two pick: Yes -1000. I wouldn’t bet beyond this.
  • First quarterback drafted: Yes -1000. I’d bet this to -1500.
  • Drafting Team: Cardinals -350. I’d bet this to -600.
  • Start in Week 1: Yes +140. I’d bet this to -150.

Pick No. 2: San Francisco 49ers

In every recent reputable mock I’ve surveyed, Ohio State edge defender Nick Bosa is slotted to the 49ers. Many analysts consider him the No. 1 overall player in the class, and he makes a lot of sense with the 49ers.

My Bets for Nick Bosa

  • Draft position 2.5: Under -357. I’d bet this to -600.
  • No. 2 overall pick: Yes -260. I’d bet this to -500.
  • Drafting Team: 49ers -230. I’d bet this to -350.
  • First defensive lineman drafted: Yes -280. I’d bet this to -450.

Pick No. 3: New York Jets

This is where the intrigue really starts. For the past few months, many mocks have had either Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams or Kentucky edge defender Josh Allen going to the Jets.

But the Jets reportedly aren’t sold on Allen, so their draft plans seem wide open.

It’s an open secret that the Jets want to trade down, which makes sense. They traded up last year in order to draft quarterback Sam Darnold at No. 3, so they are without a Round 2 pick now. But if they trade back they will likely be able to pick one up.

So, reportedly, they are determined to trade down.

If they can’t trade the pick, who will they draft? Williams is very much in play. There are some around the league who believe the Jets would actually rather take Williams at No. 3 than trade down.

But a few plugged-in people — including Daniel Jeremiah (conference call), Evan Silva (mock draft) and Rich Cimini (ESPN report) — expect the Jets to draft Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver, who flashed elite athleticism at his pro day and entered the 2018 season as one of the most hyped prospects in the class.

There’s a lot going on here.

My Non-Player Bets

  • Jets trade pick No. 3: Yes -112. I’d bet this to -125.
  • Top-10 pick traded on draft day: Yes -700. I’d bet this to -850.

My Bets for Quinnen Williams

  • Draft position 3.5: Over -115.
  • No. 3 overall pick: Yes +220.

Assuming Williams isn’t drafted with a top-two pick — and I doubt he will be — you can use these two bets to arbitrage his draft position and lock in a profit.

My Bets for Josh Allen

  • Draft position 3.5: Over -223. I’d bet this to -300.
  • No. 3 overall pick: No -205. I’d bet this to -300.

Pick No. 4: Oakland Raiders

It’s almost impossible to know what’s going on with the Raiders. They sent their scouts away on Friday because they don’t know who to trust. Their plans at the top of the draft are apparently so unexpectedly radical that the Raiders require the utmost secrecy.

Be that as it may, the Raiders (like the Jets) are reportedly in love with Oliver,  whose draft stock is very much rising.

It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Oliver go higher than almost anyone expected him to go just a week ago. And Allen might slide farther.

My Bets for Ed Oliver

  • Draft position 6.5: Under -115. I’d bet this to -150.
  • Draft position 8.5: Under -200. I’d bet this to -250.

My Bet for Josh Allen

  • Draft position 4.5: Over +140. I’d bet this to +100.

Pick No. 5: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Almost every mock I’ve seen has Louisiana State linebacker Devin White slated to the Bucs: They have a need at the position, and more importantly, they reportedly love him.

If Allen falls to the Bucs, they could opt to draft him instead of White — he plays the more impactful position — but the Bucs seem to value White as if he’s the No. 1 player on their board.

Why White over Michigan linebacker Devin Bush? Although Bush is a strong prospect and comparable to White in size, speed and skill, in not one mock have I seen Bush ahead of White. Literally, not one.

My Bet for Devin White

  • First linebacker drafted: Yes -480. I’d bet this to -800.

Pick No. 6: New York Giants

Oh boy. For a couple of months I’ve had Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins mocked to the Giants at No. 6. They’re expected by some to draft a quarterback with that pick.

But that quarterback might not be a Buckeye. Haskins has a potentially high-maintenance family situation, and Giants general manager Dave Gettleman seems like the type of person who wants to think of himself as a no-nonsense executive who doesn’t put up with distractions.

On top of that, Duke quarterback Daniel Jones has seen his draft stock climb ever since the combine. As unbelievable as this sounds, in earnest he’s been compared to Peyton Manning. Seriously. Stop laughing.

Former Cleveland Browns GM Mike Lombardi expects Jones to be the No. 2 quarterback on most draft boards, and the Giants have become increasingly connected to Jones over the past week.

I can’t believe I’m saying this — because Jones looks not at all like a first-rounder with his 2018 mark of 6.9 adjusted yards per attempt — but he is very much in the running to be drafted No. 6 overall.

But the Giants also reportedly are fine with passing on quarterback at No. 6, drafting a pass rusher instead and then using their No. 17 pick to select a passer.

I doubt that’s what they’ll do, because quarterback is so important that it almost always makes sense to draft “your guy” when you can to ensure that another team doesn’t take him. But if Allen is on the board at No. 6, he would offer a lot of value as one of the top edge rushers in the class.

And with all the picks they have, the Giants probably could jump back into the top 10 from No. 17 and still get Jones. That seems like something Gettleman would at least entertain.

It’s always possible that Gettleman could trade up to No. 3 from No. 6, just to be sure that he gets his quarterback, but if the Giants stay at this pick, I think it will come down to Jones or Allen.

My Non-Player Bet

  • Giants pick quarterback with first pick: Yes +175. I’d bet this to -150.

My Bet for Daniel Jones

  • Second quarterback drafted: Yes +350. I’d bet this to +175. (I can’t believe I just typed that.)

My Bet for Josh Allen

  • Drafting Team: Giants +600. I’d bet this to +500.

Pick No. 7: Jacksonville Jaguars

A lot of mocks go with Florida tackle Jawaan Taylor at No. 7. He’s not my No. 1 tackle, but he’s a good fit for the Jags. He’s a three-year SEC starter and widely regarded as the best run blocker in the class. The Jags have a run-heavy offense, so Taylor’s strengths will be utilized.

Additionally, he played mostly on the right side in college, and the Jags have an opening at the position, having released right tackle Jermey Parnell this offseason.

Washington State offensive tackle Andre Dillard, Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams and Oklahoma offensive tackle Cody Ford are all options — the Jags will want to protect new quarterback Nick Foles — and they also might consider Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson, but Taylor seems like the most likely candidate.

My Bet for Jawaan Taylor

  • Draft position 7.5: Under +115. I wouldn’t bet this any lower, but I do think Taylor is slightly better than 50/50 to go No. 7.
  • Draft position 7.5: Over +100. My preference is to combine this bet with the other one to arbitrage Taylor’s draft position.

Pick No. 8: Detroit Lions

The two players most commonly mocked to the Lions since the combine have been Mississippi State edge defender Montez Sweat and Michigan defensive lineman Rashan Gary. Both are rare athletes, and the Lions need pass-rushing help after letting defensive end Ezekiel Ansah leave in free agency.

But I now strongly doubt that either of them will go No. 8.

For one, Allen could very well still be on the board. If something like the following situation unfolds …

  • Jets at No. 3: Williams
  • Raiders at No. 4: Oliver
  • Bucs at No. 5: White
  • Giants at No. 6: Jones
  • Jags at No. 7: Taylor

… then the Lions will almost certainly take Allen. And that situation doesn’t seem particularly unlikely.

On top of that, Sweat and Gary both have medical conditions that will likely cause them to fall down draft boards. Sweat has an enlarged heart.

I believe that he has the same condition that defensive tackle Maurice Hurst had when he entered the league last year. Based on his abilities and athleticism, Hurst could have been a Round 1 pick. Instead, he was selected in Round 5 by the Raiders.

I doubt strongly that Sweat will be selected in the top 10.

As for Gary, he has an injured shoulder.

For a guy who didn’t live up to the hype of being the No. 1 high school recruit and is regarded by some as a tweener prospect with no NFL position, the shoulder injury will probably be enough to knock Gary out of the top 10.

Like the Jags, the Lions might consider Hockenson. They tried to trade for former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski last offseason, and Hock is a very Gronk-esque prospect.

But I doubt the Lions will be able to pass on Allen if he’s available.

My Bet for Montez Sweat

  • Draft position 7.5: Over -400. I recently thought I wouldn’t bet this past -400, but upon more reflection I’d bet it down to -600. Maybe even further. Sweat’s heart condition is not a minor issue.

My Bet for Rashan Gary

  • Draft position 9.5: Over -267. I had to think about this one a little bit, but I’m now fine with betting this down to -400.

Pick No. 9: Buffalo Bills

The Bills are in something of a no man’s land. They could use help on the defensive line, but Sweat and Gary aren’t strong options. And No. 9 might be too early to take any of the other defensive linemen available.

The Bills could also use help on the offensive line, but there’s no strong consensus tackle or guard for them to select.

They honestly might trade down.

But if they stay at No. 9, I could see them selecting Hockenson. They have a need at the position: Veteran Tyler Kroft would be one of the weakest starting tight ends in the league. And Hock would be a great receiver for second-year quarterback Josh Allen and strong run blocker for the Bills committee backfield.

I’m generally resistant to thinking of tight ends as elite drafting options. Over the past 30 years, only three tight ends have been selected in the top 10: Kellen Winslow (2004, No. 6), Vernon Davis (2006, No. 6) and Eric Ebron (2014, No. 10).

Hock is a well-rounded two-way tight end and an above-average athlete — but he’s not nearly as dynamic as Winslow, Davis and Ebron were as prospects.

But I still think he has a real shot of being selected No. 9 overall.

My Bets for T.J. Hockenson

  • Draft position 9.5: Under +100. I think this line is close to fair but wouldn’t bet it any lower.
  • Draft position 9.5: Over +130. My preference is to combine this bet with the previous one to arbitrage Hock’s draft position.
  • First tight end drafted: Yes -345. I’d bet this to -500.
  • First tight end drafted: Noah Fant +600. I prefer Hock, but you can arbitrage by betting on his Iowa teammate, because there’s a 99% chance that one of them will be the first tight end selected.
  • First tight end drafted: Anyone but Hockenson +750. An even better arbitrage option.

Pick No. 10: Denver Broncos

Since February, I’ve had Missouri quarterback Drew Lock slated to the Broncos, not because I think he’s worthy of a top-10 selection but because GM John Elway reportedly was “smitten” with Lock at the Senior Bowl.

The Broncos dedicated one of their 30 prospect visits to Lock, so they are certainly considering him. But the Broncos traded for the veteran Joe Flacco this offseason, and there’s a feeling around the league that they won’t take a quarterback early.

Ultimately, Elway is drafting for his job: Even if he likes Lock, he might not want to take a guy with a top-10 pick if he’s not going to contribute right away.

So I think the Broncos could trade this pick.

If they keep it, I expect that they’ll draft either an offensive lineman or maybe Bush, who can man the middle of new HC Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defense as an inside linebacker.

In other words, if no one trades up to take a quarterback, I could see both Haskins and Lock falling out of the top 10. But I still expect both to be selected in Round 1.

My Bets for Dwayne Haskins

  • Draft position 10.5: Over +125. I’d bet this to +100.
  • Draft position 10.5: Under +100. My preference is to combine this bet with the previous one to arbitrage Haskins’ draft position.
  • Second quarterback drafted: No -110. I’d bet this to -200.

My Bets for Drew Lock

  • Draft position 13.5: Over +110. I’d bet this to +100. If Lock and Haskins both slip past No. 10, I think the Bengals would prefer Haskins at No. 11, and Lock could get past Nos. 12-13 because the Packers have Aaron Rodgers and the Dolphins are tanking.
  • Draft position 10.5: Under +140, over -130. Pure arbitrage play.
  • Second quarterback drafted: No -300. I’d bet this to -450.

My Non-Player Bets

  • Round 1 quarterbacks: Over -250. I’d bet this to -350. I don’t think Jones and Lock should be Round 1 guys, but I expect that they will be.
  • Round 1 quarterbacks: Under +380. You can combine this with the previous bet to arbitrage, and that’s my preference.

For daily player props, follow me in The Action Network app.

Matthew Freedman is the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs. He has a dog and sometimes a British accent. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he’s known only as The Labyrinthian.

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