2024 NFL Draft Odds & Picks: Who Will Be the First Defensive Player Drafted?

2024 NFL Draft Odds & Picks: Who Will Be the First Defensive Player Drafted? article feature image

Ryan Kang/Getty Images. Pictured: Dallas Turner.

The 2024 NFL Draft is expected to be dominated by offensive talent, with a strong consensus that the first seven picks could be on that side of the ball for the second time in the Super Bowl era.

However, a defensive player will hear his name called at some point on Thursday night, setting up a fascinating market for the first defensive player drafted.

2024 NFL Draft Odds & Picks: Who Will Be the First Defensive Player Drafted?

Betting Odds for First Defensive Player

The current odds from BetMGM have Dallas Turner as the favorite, with Laiatu Latu, Byron Murphy, Jared Verse and Quinyon Mitchell rounding out the top five. The following are the current odds as of April 22:

Dallas Turner+150
Laiatu Latu+160
Byron Murphy II+200
Jared Verse+900
Quinyon Mitchell+1300

These odds vary significantly across different sportsbooks and will continue to shift leading to draft day. Give yourself multiple outs, especially when betting on the NFL Draft.

Byron Murphy II's Meteoric Rise

The first thing that stands out in this market is the rapid drop in Byron Murphy II’s odds of being the first defensive player off the board.

In Adam Schefter’s recent breakdown of intel that he hears from different teams, the ESPN insider wrote that Murphy “has a realistic chance of seizing that honor” of being the first defensive player drafted. This comes after Daniel Jeremiah noted that Murphy could be a surprise top-10 selection.

"If you asked me today, who is a surprise top 10 pick? Like who is the eighth pick in the draft that we didn't see coming? It is Byron Murphy," Jeremiah said. "That is a name that is being called a lot around the league. I wouldn't sleep on him going much higher than we all think."

Schefter specifically noted that the Falcons and Bears could be in play for Murphy.

Atlanta is most commonly linked to edge rushers Dallas Turner and Laiatu Latu. I’d still be surprised to see Atlanta target an interior defensive lineman, given they owe Grady Jarrett and David Onyemata combined cap hits of over $30 million for the next two seasons.

I’d also be surprised to see the Bears target Murphy at No. 9. At just river 6-foot (6’0 1/2”, second percentile) and with 32 3/8” arms (22nd percentile), Murphy fails to meet the thresholds for measurables that general manager Ryan Poles seems to prefer.

Plus, the team drafted Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens last year, offering much more size at the position. Chicago seems excited about their potential heading into Year 2.

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Laiatu Latu Also Climbing

We’ve also seen a steady drumbeat for Laiatu Latu among this group of defensive players.

Latu’s 26.2% pass-rush win rate ranked second in the country last season and led this draft class. He also paced the FBS in PFF’s pass-rush grading system. He’s the most polished pass-rusher in this class, with elite hand usage and an array of counters to beat opposing tackles.

However, due to previous medical concerns, Latu’s stock has been difficult to assess.

In 2020, he medically retired after a neck injury that required fusion surgery. He later returned to play for UCLA and worked his way into being a first-round prospect. Reports have suggested some teams are comfortable with Latu’s medical status, while others will have him off their board entirely.

The Falcons are one team that could have more confidence in Latu’s medical status. Latu is currently the favorite to be the No. 8 pick, priced at +200 on BetMGM.

Atlanta’s defense coordinator Jimmy Lake coached Latu at Washington before he transferred to UCLA. Latu’s injury occurred while at Washington, and it would make sense for Lake to have some additional insight into Latu’s status.

Dallas Turner Remains the Favorite

While the market has shifted recently, Alabama’s Dallas Turner remains the favorite to be the first defensive player drafted.

He climbed as high as a 2-1 favorite, and the best number you can find on him is now +110 at DraftKings. Is it worth buying back in on Turner at plus money?

Turner is undersized at 6-foot-3 (21st percentile) and 247 pounds (ninth percentile), but he ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash (98th percentile) and cracked 40 1/2” in the vertical jump (97th percentile). His athleticism jumps out of the screen when looking at the film.

However, Turner is much more of a project at the position. His inconsistent hand usage and lack of counters in his pass-rush bag give him more work to do at the next level, but he also just turned 21 years old in February, and it’s easy to buy in on his long-term trajectory.

Will Atlanta want to take that on, though? The Falcons just gave a huge contract to Kirk Cousins and are clearly in win-now mode.

Latu gives them a much better baseline of production, and if I’m betting on one player in this class to reach double-digit sacks as a rookie, it’s Latu without much hesitation.

Best of the Rest

Jared Verse can be found as high as +900 at BetMGM, but it’s difficult for me to see the Falcons taking him at No. 8.

One potential scenario for Verse would be a team trading up to No. 8 with Atlanta in an effort to jump the Bears, who would likely take Rome Odunze if he’s still on the board at No. 9. The Jets fit the mold of a team that could get aggressive to land a top-rate wide receiver.

If the Falcons move out of No. 8 and the Bears miss out on Odunze, I can see them drafting Verse, who would be a strong fit for Matt Eberflus’ base 4-3 defense.

Turner lacks the size profile Eberflus wants in his edge rushers, while the Bears might be one of the teams that rule out Latu due to his medical history.

Quinyon Mitchell and Terrion Arnold could shock some people as the first defensive player off the board, and the Falcons do have a clear need at cornerback. Still, Mitchell is priced at -225 to go over 13.5 on his draft position, while Arnold is favored to go over 15.5. It would come as a significant surprise if either player is the first defensive talent off the board.

Final Verdict

I bought Turner a few weeks ago at essentially even money and hedged my position with Latu when he was available at a longer number.

I’d still consider a small bet on Latu at +225, which was available at DraftKings on Tuesday night. If the Falcons can clear his medicals, it’s easy to see them falling in love with his production profile.

If you haven’t already invested in this market, my favorite value on the board right now is Verse +900 at BetMGM. It would likely require a trade down by the Falcons with a team moving up for Odunze. The Washington wide receiver is favored to go under 8.5 on his draft position, indicating there’s a strong chance of that happening.

Odunze is available at +650 to be the No. 8 pick, which is close to the same bet, in my opinion.

If Odunze is off the board at No. 9, the Bears could make Verse the first defensive player selected, giving Eberflus a talented edge rusher to work with opposite Montez Sweat.

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