2020 NFL Draft Odds & Prop Picks: First Running Back to Be Drafted
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images. Pictured: Running back Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin
2020 NFL Draft Odds: First RB Drafted
- D’Andre Swift: -175
- Jonathan Taylor: +155
- J.K. Dobbins: +700
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire: +3200
- A.J. Dillon: +6000
- Zack Moss: +7500
A robust prop market is forming for the 2020 NFL Draft, and that’s great for us.
Last year, I went 54-29 (+17.7 units) on draft props. There’s no guarantee I’ll have similar success this year, but I do like a lot of the props out there, including the prop for first running back to be drafted.
Jonathan Taylor to Be First RB Drafted (+155 at FanDuel)
Entering the combine, Swift was a massive -300 favorite to be the first back selected, and after him all of the other backs were pretty much bunched together, a tired, poor huddled mass yearning to breathe free.
But after his outstanding combine performance, Taylor now looks like a real challenger to Swift.
It would be blasphemous to compare any back to Adrian Peterson, but as an athlete, Taylor performed at the combine in a manner extremely evocative of Peterson in 2007.
- Adrian Peterson: 217 pounds, 4.40-second 40-yard dash
- Jonathan Taylor: 226 pounds, 4.39-second 40-yard dash
Peterson is significantly taller than Taylor (6 feet 2 inches vs. 5 feet 10 inches), but they both fall into the “big back” category, and it’s rare for guys of their size to hit the 4.40 mark.
If Taylor had entered the league 10 years ago — maybe even five years ago — or if he were an off-ball linebacker right now, he might be a top-10 pick.
And I’m serious about the off-ball linebacker thing. As an athlete, is Taylor all that different from linebackers Devin Bush and Devin White, both of whom were top-10 picks last year?
- Jonathan Taylor: 5 feet 10 inches, 226 pounds, 4.39-second 40-yard dash
- Devin Bush: 5 feet 11 inches, 234 pounds, 4.43-second 40-yard dash
- Devin White: 6 feet, 237 pounds, 4.42-second 40-yard dash
As an athlete, Taylor is clearly one of the top backs in the class.
And we know about his legendary college production.
- 2017 (FR): 2,072 yards, 13 touchdowns from scrimmage
- 2018 (SO): 2,254 yards, 16 touchdowns from scrimmage
- 2019 (JR): 2,255 yards, 26 touchdowns from scrimmage
The one major factor Swift has in his favor is his pass-catching ability. A five-star recruit, Swift entered Georgia as a polished player, and that polish hasn’t worn off at all during his college career.
A three-down player, Swift is a smooth receiver with a full route tree, clean technique and soft hands.
But Taylor is no pass-catching slouch. He did little in his first two seasons (16-155-0 receiving in total), but as a junior, he stepped up his game with a 26-252-5 receiving performance that surpassed Swift’s 24-216-1 workload, and he reportedly looked good in his pass-catching drills at the Wisconsin pro day.
Both Taylor and Swift will be 21-year-old rookies, and it’s probably not reasonable to say that one has a significant total edge over the other as a prospect.
In projecting the NFL draft, I take a “wisdom of the crowds” approach by surveying as many reputable mock drafts as possible.
I find that these drafts, created by mockers with established records of success, collectively give me a good sense of the realistic range of outcomes.
Neither Taylor nor Swift appears in the majority of the Round 1 mocks I’ve reviewed, but they’re in a comparable percentage of mocks (30-40%), and their expected draft positions couldn’t be any closer.
- D’Andre Swift: Mean – 28.7; Median – 28
- Jonathan Taylor: Mean – 28.3; Median – 29
To be the No. 1 back selected in the class, Swift vs. Taylor is basically a coin flip, which means there’s significant value on Taylor at plus-money.
PICK: Jonathan Taylor +155: One unit. Limit: +135
J.K. Dobbins to Be First RB Drafted (+700 at FanDuel)
Dobbins’ odds dropped after the combine because he didn’t work out there, and now because of the coronavirus I doubt that Ohio State will hold a pro day.
He entered college as a four-star recruit, and in his three years with the Buckeyes, he put up numbers.
- 2017 (FR): 1,538 yards, eight touchdowns from scrimmage
- 2018 (SO): 1,316 yards, 12 touchdowns from scrimmage
- 2019 (JR): 2,250 yards, 23 touchdowns from scrimmage
And he was a consistent pass-catching presence with a 71-645-5 receiving line across his three seasons.
Even though he didn’t work out at the combine, his athleticism is not a question. As a recruit in 2016, Dobbins had the No. 1 overall athletic score at The Opening, where he competed alongside all the other top recruits in the country.
— The Opening (@TheOpening) July 8, 2016
Ranking in the 99th percentile with his size-adjusted speed (4.45-second 40-yard dash), explosiveness (43.1-inch vertical jump) and agility (4.09-second 20-yard shuttle), Dobbins is one of the most elite all-around athletes in the 2020 class.
Given his productive consistency, receiving ability and elite physicality, Dobbins probably has more than an outside chance to be the first back selected.
Although there’s a common perception that a massive difference exists between Swift and Taylor on one side and Dobbins on the other side, in reality they’re all roughly in the same tier as prospects.
PICK: J.K. Dobbins +700: 0.5 units. Limit: +600
More 2020 NFL Draft Betting Picks
- Total QBs Drafted in Round 1
- How to Bet the Top 3 Picks
- QB Tua Tagovailoa’s Draft Position
- First Wide Receiver to Be Drafted
Freedman is the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs, part of The Action Network.