2022 NFL Draft first-round betting preview: Expect early surprises

Mitch Moss and Pauly Howard are joined by Jaguars beat reporter John Shipley who sheds light on inside the Jaguars' head office and who he expects the team to select come April 28.

For what the 2022 NFL Draft lacks in overall buzz, it has more than made up for in terms mystery, intrigue, and variables.

The top of recent NFL drafts has either featured a blue-chip defender or high-end QB prospects from major programs. There’s none of that this year.

All that should result in plenty of draft night drama, which could also mean some big returns for 2022 NFL Draft bettors once the first round gets underway Thursday night in Las Vegas.

Will a team or two get too aggressive attempting to satiate their need to land a new QB? Perhaps another Laremy Tunsil situation where a top prospect unexpectedly falls on draft night for reasons unrelated to their on-field ability?

With that in mind, let’s look at the most notable 2022 NFL Draft betting lines, focussing on the top of the draft, the QBs and WRs, plus some intriguing prop bets available.

It had looked for quite some time like Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson was a lock to go first overall, however as draft night approached the odds for Georgia’s Travon Walker drastically shortened. Walker caught up to and passed Hutchinson earlier this week as the odds-on favourite to be taken with the No. 1 selection.

It’s not entirely clear why this happened but if it’s a “where there’s smoke there’s fire” situation it’s looking more and more like Jacksonville will take Walker’s upside over Hutchinson’s high floor.

“All the intel I’ve gathered points to Georgia edge rusher Travon Walker — not Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson — as the No. 1 overall pick for the Jaguars,” ESPN’s Todd McShay reported earlier this week, echoing the changing sentiment among many NFL insiders.

Betting odds to be No. 1 pick in 2022 NFL Draft…
Travon Walker -230 | Aidan Hutchinson +280 | Ikem Ekwonu +500 | Evan Neal +2500 | Kayvon Thibodeaux +4000

The overwhelming indication based on these odds is the Jaguars will go with Walker despite the fact Hutchinson is the consensus top defensive player available this year.

At the beginning of the month, anything besides Hutchinson going first would’ve been a surprise.

Now, if Jacksonville pivots and decides protecting 2021 first-overall pick Trevor Lawrence long-term is more important than adding a young edge rusher then we could see an off-the-board selection of NC State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu whose odds to go No. 1 have dramatically shortened during draft week.

If Walker does go first, Detroit likely won’t hesitate in keeping Hutchinson in the state of Michigan by taking the Wolverines alumnus second overall.

Betting odds to be No. 2 pick in 2022 NFL Draft…
Aidan Hutchinson -260 | Kayvon Thibodeaux +350 | Travon Walker +600 | Ahmad Gardner +1800 | Malik Willis +2500

Hutchinson doesn’t have the perceived potential Myles Garrett or Jadeveon Clowney did – the last two defensive players taken first-overall in the draft – but he’s a player expected to make an immediate impact at the NFL level. That’s why Dan Campbell and the Lions would be thrilled if Jacksonville went with Walker and Hutchinson was available at No. 2.

On the other hand, if Jacksonville ends up taking Hutchinson despite the shift in odds, that’s when chaos would erupt. Would Detroit lean Thibodeaux over Walker at No. 2 as the odds above suggest, or might they look to trade down if Hutchinson wasn’t there?

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If you were able to pair Walker going No. 1 overall (-230) with Hutchinson going No. 2 overall (-260) it would result in a parlay close to even odds.

The draft is expected to further open up once the top two picks are made.

It wouldn’t surprise anyone to see Houston pick between cornerbacks Derek Stingley Jr. and Ahmad Gardner (or potentially Walker if he falls) at No. 3 and the New York Jets at No. 4 are also expected to look to the defensive side of the ball.

Odds for first offensive player off the board?…
Ikem Ekwonu -138 | Evan Neal +175 | Malik Willis +600 | Kenny Pickett +800 | Charles Cross +1000

The top three offensive tackles plus the top two QB prospects are set as the five favourites for first offensive player drafted. It’ll likely end up as Ekwonu, Alabama’s Neal or Mississippi’s Cross cashing this prop as the first offensive player selected – unless the Giants go defence in the fifth spot and the Panthers follow it up by unexpectedly taking a QB sixth.

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The last time there weren’t any QBs taken in the top 15 picks of a draft was back in 2013 when EJ Manuel was first off the board to Buffalo at No. 16.

We could have a similar scenario this year that sees the top QBs fall to the second half of the opening round.

Odds for first QB drafted…
Malik Willis -200 | Kenny Pickett +162 | Desmond Ridder +1000 | Matt Corral +2000

The first-round total for QBs drafted this year is set at 2.5 with the over sitting at -260 chalk. The under was set at +210 in the event two QBs or fewer are drafted Thursday night.

The over is predictably listed as the favourite with Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder and possibly Ole Miss’s Matt Corral believed to be a late first-round options. Would a team move down or trade back into the first round to secure that coveted fifth-year option on a potential future starter?

One reason to suggest the quarterbacks will fall this year is the individual draft position props for the consensus top four QB prospects. Notice how the overs are all favoured.

Malik Willis OVER 13.5 (-125) UNDER 13.5 (-105)
Kenny Pickett OVER 16.5 (-120) UNDER 16.5 (-110)
Desmond Ridder OVER 30.5 (-130) UNDER 30.5 (+100)
Matt Corral OVER 33.5 (-145) UNDER 33.5 (+115)

The Panthers, Steelers, Falcons, Saints, Lions and Seahawks are the most QB-needy teams. Carolina, Detroit, Atlanta and Seattle each have top-10 picks but plenty of other areas to address.

We see teams reach on quarterbacks in most drafts and Carolina at No. 6 would, in theory, be the most likely candidate to reach for one this year after missing out on acquiring Deshaun Watson.

Their preferred target is Pickett, not Willis, according to the odds.

The Saints have picks 16 and 19 but aren’t in as dire a need to draft a QB, although some mock drafts had them taking one in the first round. New Orleans trading out of one of those two spots is entirely within the realm of possibility.

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Pittsburgh could have their pick of the litter at No. 20 barring unforeseen trades and/or overreaction on the QB market.

Team odds to draft Malik Willis…
PIT +225 | CAR +350 | ATL +600 | NO +600 | DET +700

Team odds to draft Kenny Pickett…
CAR +160 | NO +275 | PIT +350 | ATL +600 | SEA +900

Team odds to draft Desmond Ridder…
NO +300 | PIT +400 | DET +450 | ATL +550 | CAR +750 | SEA +900

Detroit is currently slated to pick at No. 32. They’d be a contender to select a QB in this spot. This is also where you could see a team trade back into the first round to take a chance on Ridder or Corral.

The Seahawks hold picks 40 and 41 in the second round and need to figure out who their QB is going to be going forward after trading Russell Wilson. Atlanta also has two second-round picks (43, 58) and their GM said he’d like to add a QB this week.

There were five wide receivers taken in the first round in 2021 and three were in the top-10. Heck, there could realistically be four or five WRs selected before the first QB goes this year.

The line this year has been set at 6.5 WRs taken in the opening round with -130 odds on the over and +100 odds on the under.

Ohio State teammates Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, USC’s Drake London and Alabama’s Jameson Williams and are all but locks to go on the first night. Arkansas’ Treylon Burks is also expected to go in round one, while Penn State’s Jahan Dotson, North Dakota State’s Christian Watson, Western Michigan’s Sky Moore and Georgia’s George Pickens have generated some first-round buzz.

Green Bay, Dallas, Buffalo, and Kansas City are among the teams with late first-round selection that could look to add an offensive weapon in the form of one of those WRs mentioned.

Odds for first WR drafted…
Garrett Wilson -110 | Jameson Williams +175 | Drake London +250 | Chris Olave +1400 | Treylon Burks +2000 | Jahan Dotson +5000 | Christian Watson +5000

Wilson has the shortest odds even though NFL insider Ian Rapoport said Alabama star Williams “would likely be the top WR off the board” had he not sustained an ACL injury in the national championship game. Williams is roughly three months removed from knee surgery but reportedly recovering well.

The Falcons should be considered a strong contender to take a WR with the No. 8 pick. Atlanta needs to find a long-term solution behind centre, assuming Marcus Mariota ends up a stopgap, and have rumoured interest in Malik Willis. However, this is the wrong year for the Falcons to draft a QB – certainly with the eighth pick. There’s expected to be far more buzz surrounding Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and the 2023 class than there has been around Willis and Pickett.

A deep WR class is ripe for the picking and Atlanta could have first choice if defence and o-line is targeted across the first seven picks.

One interesting prop bet involving who gets taken with the No. 8 pick has Wilson (+300), Williams (+350) and London (+400) as the top three options.

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