Teams atop of the draft order have a number of needs. The owners of the No. 1 pick – the Jacksonville Jaguars – need help at WR, EDGE, and interior OL after making some moves in the offseason. The Detroit Lions desperately need help at the safety, EDGE, and WR positions. The Houston Texans overall roster is in flux with new head coach Lovie Smith needing ample support added to the secondary, defensive line, and backfield. As such, online sportsbooks look to be of the belief that all three teams take care of their biggest need. Georgia EDGE Travon Walker is now the -250 favorite to be the first player taken off the board, while Aidan Hutchinson is the odds on -200 favorite to go No. 2. There has however been some drastic movement with the odds to be the third player taken off the board. Cincinnati’s Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner is now the +200 favorite to go No. 3 supplanting NC State’s Ickey Ekwonu as the former favorite. I’m not entirely sold on that outlook; not at all! The Texans could just as easily select Derek Stingley at No. 13 if not trade up a round or two to acquire his services. With that, why pass up on the opportunity to snag a major difference maker along the line on either side of the ball? Some nice line value on players with odds attached to them to get selected with the third overall pick has been created with the Gardner hype reaching a fever pitch in recent weeks. Let’s dig into them and see if we can’t land a gem!
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Third Overall Draft Pick:
Ahmad Gardner +200
Travon Walker +380
Derek Stingley Jr. +450
Ickey Ekwonu +500
Evan Neal +500
Kayvon Thibodeaux +550
Malik Willis +1800
Kyle Hamilton +3000
Right off the bat, we can scratch Willis from this list. Say what you will about Davis Mills; the kid still threw for over 2,650 yards and 16 TD while working with one of the more limited offensive rosters in the entire league. While the 10 thrown interceptions are a concern, he really turned up the juice over his final five starts and deserves another strong look as the team’s QB1 from the new coaching staff. You can ignore the other longshot here as well. Kyle Hamilton is expected to be the only safety taken off the board in the first round, but his draft position currently clocks in at 11.5 with heavier juice supplanted on the over. Should both he and/or Stingley Jr. be on the board leading up to the Texans No. 13 pick, Houston will more than likely do whatever it takes to get one of those two players onto their roster. As such, there’s no need to reach for his services with the No. 3 pick.
It’s quite the eye opener in my opinion that both Gardner and Stingley Jr. offer up shorter betting odds than the offensive and defensive linemen likely to still be available once the Texans go on the clock. It’s become common knowledge that Walker and Hutchinson will be the first two players off the board. Regardless of order, that’s more than likely how it plays out. I mean seriously, how is Detroit going to pass on Hutchinson - who grew up in Michigan and played for the maize and blue – should Jacksonville go the route of the UGA product with the first overall pick? Bottom line, they won’t! So if we’re drawing a line in the stand and stating that Houston looks to the trenches instead of its secondary at No. 3, there’s some nice value to be had betting on this prop.
For me, it comes down to the OL duo of Ekwonu and Neal along with EDGE Thibodeaux. If you’ve been reading my NFL Draft betting stuff over the last few weeks, you know I’ve been beating the drum for Oregon’s pass rush specialist whom I still firmly believe is being underappreciated heading into Thursday night. While there are some holes in his game – hand usage, pass-rush technique, and stringing of moves together – is there a coach in this league not better suited than Smith to get the best out of this generational talent? Whenever I took an Oregon game in live, it was No. 5 that my eyes gravitated to the most whenever the Ducks defense was on the field. The kid racked up 19 sacks and 126 tackles – 35.5 for loss – and was a constant nuisance for opposing quarterbacks in all 30 games played while in Eugene. I don’t get the hate for this kid. He’s beyond being a difference-maker and at one point was the supposed can’t miss No. 1 draft pick in the eyes of draft experts the last few seasons. Nothing has changed in my estimation. So along with hitting the under of his draft position prop – hopefully you did so weeks ago when first suggested - I’d also throw a few shekels on him going with the third overall pick. I love me some “Sauce” but Lovie won’t be able to hide his excitement about installing such a difference maker up front into his defensive arsenal!
NFL Draft Wager: Kayvon Thibodeaux +550
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