NFL

NFL Draft Betting: Who Will Be the First Overall Pick in 2022?

The NFL Draft season will be here before you know it. Who will be the first player chosen in April?

I know we just had a crazy week of NFL action in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. There are still another two rounds of the postseason as the 2021 season draws towards an exciting climax. But in short order, our collective thoughts will turn towards NEXT season, and when that happens, we'll be wondering about the 2022 NFL Draft.

Unlike last year, there is no "lock" to be taken first overall. This draft class does not seem to possess a Trevor Lawrence prospect. But that does not mean there's no intrigue as to who will be the first player to hear his name called in late April.

FanDuel Sportsbook has odds on who will be the first overall pick. Let's take a look at a few of the betting options.

Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: +165

The current favorite to earn the first overall pick, held by the Jacksonville Jaguars, is edge defender Aidan Hutchinson. Hutchinson finished second in Heisman voting this past season after 14.0 sacks and another 16.5 tackles for loss (TFL) at Michigan.

Hutchinson would certainly add some juice to a Jaguars defense that posted a combined 32 sacks a year ago. The last time a defensive end was the first overall pick was back in 2017 when the Cleveland Browns selected Myles Garrett. He worked out pretty well.

Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: +240

Hutchinson isn't the only option for the Jaguars -- assuming they don't trade the pick away -- if they want to beef up their pass rush with that first overall pick. There is also a considerable amount of love for Oregon pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux. He posted 7.0 sacks with 12.0 TFL for the Ducks in 2021 after claiming 9.0 sacks and 14.0 TFL as a freshman in 2019. Thibodeaux played just seven games in 2020 but still managed to claim 3.0 sacks and 9.5 TFL.

You have to go all the way back to 1955 for the last time an Oregon player was taken with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft when the Colts of Baltimore selected quarterback George Shaw.

Ikem Ekwonu, Offensive Tackle, NC State
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: +480

Pass rush is not the only weakness the Jaguars are suffering from -- as you'd expect from a team with the worst record in football. The offensive line could also stand some reinforcements, especially if Lawrence is to progress into the franchise savior the team hopes he can be.

The Jaguars could then spend the first overall selection on offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu out of North Carolina State.

Ekwonu has longer odds than fellow tackle Evan Neal of the Alabama Crimson Tide, but he was mocked first overall to the Jaguars by draft expert Dane Brugler in his most recent mock for The Athletic.

Ekwonu is not a can't-miss prospect but certainly looks like a player that could be molded into something. An offensive tackle hasn't been taken with the first overall pick since 2013 when the Kansas City Chiefs selected Eric Fisher.

Derek Stingley, Cornerback, LSU
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: +4000

Last year the Jaguars did the thing that was expected of them and took Lawrence. But what if they do something completely unexpected this year and address the backend of their pass defense with the first overall pick? Sounds crazy, right?

If they were to make this monumental decision, then it would almost certainly be to select Louisiana State corner Derek Stingley.

Stingley has endured two, by his own high standards, fairly underwhelming seasons. But he was incredible back in 2019, his last full season, with 15 pass breakups and 6 interceptions. He comes from an NFL bloodline, as his grandfather Darryl Stingley played five seasons at wide receiver for the New England Patriots in the 1970s before suffering a horrendous life-altering injury.

In truth, Stingley is not likely to be the first player taken in 2022, which is why his odds are +4000. In fact, a cornerback has NEVER been selected first.

Matt Corral, Quarterback, Ole Miss
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: +5500

I know the Jaguars don't need a quarterback, and I know that this is not a draft full of blue-chip prospects at the position. But "quarterbacks always get pushed up draft boards" as the cliche goes, and there is a non-zero chance that another team falls in love with a signal-caller and makes the Jaguars a Godfather offer for the first overall pick. A slim one, I know.

But if this mystery team wanted to get up to No.1 to take a quarterback, it could be for Matt Corral of the Mississippi Rebels. Corral was excellent for the Rebels over the last two seasons, throwing for 6,680 yards and 49 touchdowns. He also added 1,120 yards on the ground, scoring 15 times. He was seventh in Heisman voting in 2021 to boot.

My Pick

I'm a lover of chaos, and I would dearly love to see the social media fume if the Jaguars spent the first overall pick on a cornerback. I would also love the intrigue surrounding the identity of a player should the Jaguars trade away the pick, wondering if Team X has really pushed all their chips in to take a quarterback, whether it be Corral or Kenny Pickett.

But I am also a realist and do not see these events coming to pass.

I believe the Jaguars -- if they're pushed to do the sensible thing -- should do everything in their power to surround Trevor Lawrence with both talent and protection. That is why I would be tempted to throw my coin onto Ekwonu at +480. But relying on the Jaguars to do the sensible thing is why this activity is known as "gambling."