NFL betting: As draft nears, intrigue at pick No. 1 grows according to betting odds

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The NFL draft is a little over a week away, and there's plenty of intrigue as we approach the big day. There is no sure-fire quarterback prospect carrying the weight at the top of the draft. Most mock drafts have edge-rushers and offensive linemen going in the first few picks. There's a bunch of good wide receivers expected to go in the first round and plenty of teams who could use them. We have no clue how many quarterbacks will go in the first round, and when and where they go.

However, for most of the past month, the conventional wisdom was that Aidan Hutchinson out of Michigan would go to Jacksonville with the first overall pick. However, as the draft nears, the betting odds are saying that might not be as certain as we've been led to believe.

Hutchinson's odds are falling

At the combine, Evan Neal was the slight betting favorite to be the first overall pick. However, in the few weeks after that, the Jaguars franchise-tagged Cam Robinson and signed Brandon Scherff in free-agency to bolster their offensive line. As a result of their investment up front, reading the tea leaves would lead you to believe that Jacksonville might look to the other side of the ball with the first overall pick.

Aidan Hutchinson emerged as a prohibitive favorite to be the first player taken in the draft. A month ago at this time, Hutchinson was -350 to be the first player taken. That suggests a nearly 78% chance of Hutchinson going first overall.

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 05: Aidan Hutchinson #DL31 of the Michigan Wolverines runs the 40 yard dash during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 05, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Aidan Hutchinson is still the betting favorite to be the first player taken in the NFL draft, but his odds are falling. (Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

It made sense. Jacksonville wasn't taking a quarterback, as they used the first overall pick on Trevor Lawrence in 2021. They signed Christian Kirk to join Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault in the wide receiver room. They used a first-round pick on Travis Etienne last year to join James Robinson in the running back rotation. They spent money on the offensive line earlier in the off-season. Turning their attention to the defensive side made sense and Hutchinson was considered by most the best defensive prospect.

However, as the draft nears, Hutchinson's odds to go first overall are falling. Currently at BetMGM, Hutchinson is down to -175 to be the first player taken. His odds have been basically sliced in half over the last month.

Travon Walker moving up

Hutchinson hasn't done anything wrong during the draft process. He's still a significant betting favorite to be the first player taken, and he's still considered one of the very best prospects in this draft.

Hutchinson's betting odds falling isn't a reflection of him, but maybe more of a reflection of Travon Walker, the biggest riser in this year's draft process.

Walker is an extremely intriguing prospect. He didn't have the production at the college level with Georgia that Hutchinson did with Michigan. In fact, his 10% pass-rush win rate is drastically lower than Hutchinson's 25%. In fact, it's one of the lowest of the top edge prospects in this year's draft.

While Walker might not have the production and stats, he is an absolute freak athletically. His athletic profile and testing would allow him to pass for a moderately athletic cornerback or even an above average wide receiver in terms of physical traits. At 6-foot-5, 272 pounds as a defensive end, Walker's 9.99 relative athletic score ranks in the top-3 since 1987.

Over the past week, we've seen Cris Collinsworth tweet that he wouldn't be surprised if Walker went first overall. Additionally, Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network reported that several teams have Walker as the top player on their draft board. On Tuesday, Peter Schrager of the NFL Network mocked Walker to Jacksonville first overall, only adding smoke to the fire.

A month ago at this time, Walker was 10-to-1 to be the first player drafted at BetMGM. Currently, he's down to +140 to be the first player taken. His implied probability of being the first player taken has gone from 9% to nearly 43%. That's quite a rise in a short period of time.

The betting fallout

Now bettors must decide whether this latest Walker hype is real or if it's all potentially a smokescreen. Smokescreens are common at this time of year. Think back to last year where Mac Jones was a massive betting favorite to be taken third overall by the 49ers. San Francisco tricked everyone and went with Trey Lance instead.

At -175, Hutchinson is now cheap enough where laying a bet on him to be the first pick is not nearly as prohibitive as it was just a few weeks ago. If you don't buy the Walker rumors, now is the time to bet Hutchinson at a discount.

If you do think the Jaguars are actually very interested in Walker and that he will in fact go first overall, you might want to turn your attention to the second overall pick. Hutchinson is +150 to be the second player drafted. If Jacksonville leaves Hutchinson on the board for the Lions, it's hard to imagine Detroit passing on the local kid at a position of need.

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