NFL Draft Betting: Who Will Be the First Safety Drafted?
The NFL might be progressing more and more to an offensive-driven league, but its defenses are still critical to stalling those offenses -- even if it’s getting tougher every year to fully stop the NFL's offensive attacks. Therefore, the players who populate those defensive spots deserve our attention as we prepare for the NFL Draft, one of the most crucial events on the football calendar.
Even if you wouldn’t normally watch the other side of the ball, FanDuel Sportsbook has opened a number of defensive betting markets that you should keep your eye on. We’ve already looked at the defensive linemen and cornerback classes to see which player will be the first selected at those positions.
Now, we’ll figure out which safety will hear their name first once the 2021 NFL Draft kicks off. Who should you bet on to be the first safety drafted?
Trevon Moehrig-Woodard, TCU
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: -450
The overwhelming favorite on the board, TCU's Trevon Moehrig-Woodard mixes all of the traits a team would want in a combo safety. He hits hard, has the size and speed to tango with downfield receivers of all varieties, and -- as a former cornerback -- has the ball skills and instincts required to be a force in coverage.
Moehrig-Woodard tested as a pretty average athlete at his pro day, posting a 65th percentile 40-yard dash and 57th percentile short shuttle among historical safeties, along with just a 19th percentile vertical jump. Over his final two college seasons, Moehrig-Woodard posted 5.0 tackles and 1.2 pass disruptions (interceptions plus passes defended) per game over 22 games played.
Our own scouting doesn’t mean everything, though. As recent Covering the Spread guest Matt Freedman identified, using mock drafts from historically accurate mockers can be a good way to get a feel for the “wisdom of the masses.” To give us a baseline for expectations, I sourced the nine most accurate mockers over the last three years by FantasyPros’ mock draft accuracy tracker and compiled their 2021 predictions.
In every single expert draft, Moehrig-Woodard was the first safety mocked off the board -- somewhere in the range of 25th overall to 32nd overall, with an average slot value of 26.8. He was also the only safety projected to go in the first round, which lines up with his heavy favorite odds.
Jevon Holland, Oregon
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: +470
The second-best odds go to Jevon Holland out of Oregon, who is more of a thumper and nickel safety but still has some short coverage tools. Holland opted out of the 2020 season but posted strong numbers as a hybrid defensive back in the two years prior. In 27 games, he racked up 4.1 tackles and 0.7 pass disruptions per game.
An above-average athlete, the 6-foot-1, 207-pound Holland earned a 68th percentile speed score and 60th percentile burst score, while also posting a 62nd percentile short shuttle mark. The one concern with Holland is his ability to hang in coverage with speed players and downfield receivers; if he can keep the play in front of him, he’s a strong defender. This could limit him in the NFL, however.
Holland appears in only a third of the expert mocks, with his highest projection going 57th overall. His average slot value puts him 77th among prospects by the expert mockers (third among safeties).
Andre Cisco, Syracuse
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: +3500
Despite having the second-longest odds, Syracuse's Andre Cisco is the only other player worth mentioning in what is a pretty top-light safety class. Cisco has the largest frame of these three, standing in at 6-foot-1 and 216 pounds, with a skill set that lends itself to either playing split-safety or as a downhill tackler. Cisco did no testing at his pro day, however, so we have little verified information on his athleticism. Frame-wise, among other big-hitting safeties, he comps well to Jaquiski Tartt, Deone Bucannon, and Kenny Vaccaro.
As for college production, Cisco posted 5.7 tackles and 1.2 pass disruptions per game in his time at ‘Cuse, including a freshman campaign in 2018 where he broke up 11 passes and intercepted another 7. His production indicates his role versatility, as well, and he could find a fit as a true safety anywhere in the league.
Cisco also appears in just a third of the expert mocks, with pick 53 as his ceiling and his average slot value ranking 70th among prospects (second among safeties).
On Grinding the Mocks, no other prospect at the position comes close to Moehrig-Woodard's Expected Draft Position (EDP) of 31 -- which would be a late first-round pick. The next closest come in at EDP’s of 72 and 73, more than a round later. As Moehrig-Woodard is the clear best prospect at the position in this class, it wouldn't surprise me to see him go in the first round (some have mocked him to the Jacksonville Jaguars at 25th overall), while the other safeties last for a while.
This gap in talent should give us extreme confidence in the mock positioning and Moehrig-Woodard's line at FanDuel Sportsbook. Although -450 is a lot to lay, that line has an implied probability of 81.8%. That means that if you’re as confident that Moehrig-Woodard will be the top safety off the board as I and the expert mocks seem to be, there is still some value to eke out there.
Moehrig-Woodard is far and away the one value on this board, and until his line gets closer to -1000 (implied probability of 90% or more), I’d be comfortable betting him.