2017 NFL Draft Odds: First Round Likely To Be Heavy On Defense

The NFL schedule was released last week, and the draft begins this Thursday from Philadelphia – it’s the last big NFL offseason event before players start reporting to training camps in July. The league moves the draft around now; it had been held in Chicago the previous two years after decades in New York. Did you know that the first-ever NFL Draft also was held in Philly? That was 1936 and the Eagles took a halfback from the University of Chicago named Jay Berwanger. He was the first-ever Heisman Trophy winner the year before.

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, isn’t eligible for this year’s draft, but there are plenty of story lines for it. Sportsbooks have released several NFL props for the draft. The first round is Thursday, with Rounds 2-3 on Friday and 4-7 on Saturday.

Barring a surprise, the Cleveland Browns are expected to take Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett with the No. 1 overall pick. He would become only the fourth defensive player this century to go at the top spot. Two of the previous three worked out in Houston’s Jadeveon Clowney (2014) and Mario Williams (2006), but the one who didn’t was Courtney Brown to Cleveland in 2000.

There’s an over/under total of 18.5 defensive players chosen in Round 1, with the under a slight favorite. It’s thought to be a very strong draft for defensive linemen and in the secondary but not at linebacker from a first-round perspective other than Alabama’s Reuben Foster and Temple’s Hasson Riddick.

Will the New York Jets go defense with their first-round pick again? They have for eight straight drafts, tying the longest such streak in the common draft era. There were 16 defensive players chosen in the 2016 first round (only 31 picks as Patriots forfeited theirs due to Deflategate).

As for Alabama, no program has more talent year-to-year than Coach Nick Saban’s. There’s an over/under of 4.5 Tide players going in Round 1 on Thursday. The under is a -200 favorite. Four SEC teams have had four players picked in a first round previously: Auburn in 2005, LSU in 2007 and Alabama in both 2011 & 12. The overall record for the most first-rounders in one draft is six by Miami in 2004.

The Tide are considered to have five players with first-round potential: defensive tackle Jonathan Allen, tight end O.J. Howard, Foster, cornerback Marlon Humphrey and offensive tackle Cam Robinson. Allen, Howard and Foster are all but locks. Then again, in 2016 Alabama also had five players considered as first-round possibilities and only one was picked in the first round: center Ryan Kelly.

Quarterbacks are always the biggest story of any draft. This year, there’s not considered to be a sure-fire franchise player like an Andrew Luck or Jameis Winston. Most scouts rank North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky as the No. 1 guy followed by Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. Those two are very different. Trubisky has prototypical height and arm strength, but he only started 13 games in his collegiate career and the Tar Heels were just 8-5 in those last year. Trubisky didn’t look good in a couple of those losses.

Watson might not have the physical skills of Trubisky but is a proven leader and winner. He started and won big for two seasons at Clemson and torched an Alabama defense loaded with future NFL players in the past two national championship games, upsetting the Crimson Tide in the most recent one. Watson gets a big check mark on intangibles but is interception-prone and already has had a serious knee injury.

The over/under for QBs taken in Round 1 is 2.5, with the over a -300 NFL betting favorite. Trubisky and Watson likely are sure things. The “swing QB” for this prop should be Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes. The son of former MLB pitcher Pat Mahomes has a rifle arm and has been compared to a young Brett Favre but also played in an Air Raid offense that doesn’t translate to the NFL. QBs in that offense almost never take snaps under center or are required to read defenses.

Many scouts believe Mahomes won’t get past the Houston Texans at No. 25 overall as they need a quarterback after trading free-agent bust Brock Osweiler to Cleveland and losing out on Tony Romo to a CBS broadcasting gig. It’s possible that Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer could also go in the first round.

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