2024 NFL Draft Predictions: How To Bet the Cornerbacks Market

2024 NFL Draft Predictions: How To Bet the Cornerbacks Market article feature image

Stacy Revere/Getty Images. Pictured: Quinyon Mitchell.

It’s a generally accepted principle that sportsbooks operate with more information than the betting public. It’s one of the leading reasons why sports betting legalization has been a financial boon for states across the country. But when it comes to the NFL Draft, this clear-cut advantage enjoyed by the books evaporates for a three-day stretch. According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, sportsbooks have lost money on the past seven NFL Drafts. They continue to post markets because it’s good for overall exposure. In short, the NFL Draft, from a gambling perspective, can be beaten.

How you go about beating the house in these situations usually comes down to risk tolerance. I prefer to target mispriced markets in the -200 to +200 range. Here’s the market I’m currently targeting in my comfort zone.

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2024 NFL Draft Predictions: How To Bet the Cornerbacks Market

Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo, CB (First CB Selected -145)

The cornerback market caught my attention because I have long viewed it as a two-man competition. Quinyon Mitchell and Alabama’s Terrion Arnold (+115) are the only players with a legitimate shot to come off the board as this year’s CB1. Iowa’s Cooper DeJean (+1600) is viewed a bit as a tweener, with some teams projecting him to play safety in the NFL. That explains why his odds have ballooned from +1000 to be the first corner to +1600, despite a dynamic showing at his pro day.

So why is Mitchell mispriced, given that he’s listed as the favorite? My projections call for him to be going off at -300 for a few key reasons. He’s slightly taller and heavier than Arnold at (6’0”, 195 lbs), but tested much better than the Alabama product. Mitchell's 4.33 40-yard dash, a premium measurement for corners, was nearly two-tenths of a second faster than Arnold (4.51), and he bested his vertical by an inch (38” to 37”). His overall RAS (Relative Athletic Score) was 9.75 out of 10, which places him in the top 2.5% of corner prospects dating all the way back to 1987.

The second element of his résumé that is playing in his favor is his production. Mitchell set the school record at Toledo for career pass breakups with 46, a monster number at any level of football. Last fall, alone, he broke up 1.46 passes per game, ranking second nationally. Without any additional context, that level of disruption is both impressive and highly coveted at the next level. But what makes his disruptive play in the secondary even more noteworthy is that he only committed one penalty in the past two seasons. The quickest way to flame out as a corner at the next level is to be highly penalized, so his ability to avoid penalties is a major plus. Avoiding calls, while consistently breaking up passes, speaks to his technique, ball skills and athleticism.

The one knock on the two-time All-American was that he played a lot of off-coverage at Toledo. Luckily, he was able to demonstrate that he could thrive in press, man-to-man coverage at the Senior Bowl. Mitchell consistently wowed scouts while facing Power Five wide receivers, which gave greater credibility to his PFF grades (91.5+ in ‘22 and ‘23). To me, this was the last piece of the puzzle for Mitchell to lock up the CB1 designation.

If the logos were reversed and Mitchell had played at Alabama and Arnold at Toledo, there’s a chance this market wouldn’t even be available. Had he been another star coming off of Nick Saban’s production line, he would be priced at north of -500. But when it comes to the NFL, name brands mean very little, particularly outside of the quarterback position. Devon Witherspoon and Sauce Gardner both came off the board in the top five in the past two drafts at this position, one from a Big Ten doormat and the other from the Group of Five. Mitchell has the on-field accomplishments, measurables and pre-draft momentum from the Senior Bowl to be considered a heavy favorite to come off the board as the top corner.

I would play this all the way to -225.

Eagles To Select A Cornerback With Their First Pick (+135)

Getting inside Howie Roseman’s head is a difficult task and I know full well that the Eagles could be on the move — up or down — on Thursday night. But the way this draft is likely to shake out, at least in the first round, it seems like we’ll have a fortuitous blending of “need” and “best player available” when the Eagles are on the clock.

The need is clear as day. The Eagles couldn’t stop the pass down the stretch last season and it cost them. Philadelphia got shredded through the air, allowing opposing passers to achieve a 97.6 QBR (29th), while finishing 28th in both EPA per dropback and PFF’s team coverage grade. As a result, they cleaned house on that side of the football and brought in a new defensive coordinator (Vic Fangio). He’ll likely be advocating for an upgrade at corner because his entrenched starters are both in their 30s (Darius Slay Jr., James Bradberry), which is borderline ancient by NFL standards.

Now it’s one thing to have a need, but it’s another thing to have options to fill said need. Luckily for the Eagles and this play, there should be three quality options to choose from at the cornerback position, should they stand pat at 22nd overall. Clemson’s Nate Wiggins, Alabama’s Kool-Aid McKinstry and Iowa’s Cooper DeJean will likely be on the board at this point in the first round, according to the NFL Mock Draft Database, which aggregates over 1,100 mock drafts. DeJean is the only player who could be gone, given his pro day bump. The Iowa corner and return specialist blazed a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash, posted a 38.5″ in the vertical jump and an eye-popping 10'4″ in the broad jump. Had those been official combine figures, his RAS would have been a 9.89 and tops in his position grouping. But even if DeJean is gone, Wiggins and McKinstry would present great value at this point in the first round.

Wiggins' 4.28-second 40-yard dash at the combine matched his insane on-field speed. Wiggins hit a max speed of 22.6 mph, according to Reel Analytics, during a game against North Carolina this past season when he tracked down UNC’s running back Omarion Hampton from behind. For perspective, that’s faster than any player in the NFL during the entire ‘23-’24 season, according to NextGen stats.

As for McKinstry, his testing numbers at Alabama's pro day were hampered by a Jones fracture in his foot. He still ran in the 4.4s when he attempted the 40-yard dash, but it could cause him to slip a bit. His tape still screams first-round pick and he possesses plus size for the position (6’0”, 200 lbs).

Barring an unforeseen run on corners ahead of the 22nd overall pick, I think this is a gift to get this prop at plus-money. I would play it all the way down to even money as the draft approaches.

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