2023 NFL Draft: How Team With No. 1 Pick’s Against-the-Spread Record Improved Year to Year

2023 NFL Draft: How Team With No. 1 Pick’s Against-the-Spread Record Improved Year to Year article feature image

Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images. Pictured: Travon Walker of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

With the Carolina Panthers on the clock for the 2023 NFL Draft, the franchise should see immediate returns on their draft investment in both regular-season standings and as a bet against the spread (ATS), according to historical betting data.

When looking at historical NFL ATS data since 1985, 69.4% of teams that had the No. 1 overall pick in the draft saw an ATS winning percentage increase from the previous season. That’s 25-of-36 teams with an improved ATS record.

In fact, teams with the first overall pick since 1985 saw an average ATS winning percentage increase of 12.4% from the previous season.

The most recent example is the Jacksonville Jaguars, who took Georgia pass-rusher Travon Walker with the first pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Jaguars improved immensely in the standings, going from 3-14 straight up to 9-8 SU while bumping their ATS record year-over-year from 5-11-1 to 8-9.

Here are all the ATS records for each team that picked first overall in the draft and how they fared the following season:

(NOTE: The 1999 Cleveland Browns and 2002 Houston Texans weren’t included in this exercise, as they had no ATS record from the previous season due to being an expansion team.)

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2004 Chargers See Biggest ATS Jump

Seeing Drew Brees in a San Diego Chargers uniform can be a jarring sight, but his second-to-last year as a Charger was an ATS bettor’s dream. After going 4-12 SU and 6-10 ATS in 2003, the Chargers got the 1st-overall pick in 2004 to draft QB Eli Manning, only to deal him to the Giants for QB Philip Rivers.

Unlike the NFL now where top-five QB picks typically play right away, Rivers threw only eight passes in two games in 2004. The main reason is the Chargers didn’t really need him.

Running back LaDainian Tomlinson led the NFL with 17 rushing touchdowns, while Brees threw for 27 scores and only seven interceptions, his lowest mark as a starter for the Chargers. San Diego finished 12-4 SU and an insane 13-1-2 ATS for a 55.4% win percentage increase from 2003.

While San Diego was a regular-season betting darling in 2004, it fell short in its playoff opener, losing to the New York Jets in overtime, 20-17.

2016 Rams See Biggest ATS Drop

If you’re somehow a fan of NFL mediocrity or teams falling way below expectations, look no further than the 2016 Los Angeles Rams. After trading up to get the first overall pick from the Tennessee Titans, the Rams selected Jared Goff.

It was an immediate disaster.

Goff started only seven games in 2016 and was a typical raw rookie in the NFL with a ton of mistakes. He finished the year with a 54.6% completion percentage, five passing touchdowns and seven interceptions.

The Rams went 0-7 SU and 1-6 ATS in those games to wrap up the season at 4-11-1 ATS. This was after going 7-9 SU and ATS in 2015. This drop represents the biggest win percentage decrease for a team getting the top pick in the draft at -20%.

This also concluded the era of Jeff Fisher, who was promptly fired in Week 15 when the Rams were dumped by the Falcons, 42-14.

The Rams went on to hire Sean McVay in the 2017 offseason, and they’ve made the playoffs in five of his seven seasons while winning a Super Bowl in 2021.

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