2021 NFL Draft Odds: LB

Odds, trends and analysis

The NFL Draft takes place April 29–May 1, 2021 and will return to some form of familiarity. Last year’s draft happened two months into the COVID-19 pandemic and was relegated to Zoom– removing all in-person aspects like fans, hugs, and the like. Thankfully, the 2021 draft will return fans and in-person drafting when it takes place in Cleveland, Ohio. The Greater Cleveland Sports Console is taking protocols from Super Bowl LV in Tampa and the NBA Playoff Bubble in Orlando to hold a safe draft that’s as close to normal as they can get.

With the central focus shifted off the virus, it’s time to take a look at this year’s draft pool. We’re here to give you positional rundowns, including who the favorites are to be drafted where and what players are generating league buzz.

NFL Draft odds: First LB drafted

First LB Drafted

Game
04/29/2021
(Eastern Time)
(EST)
Micah Parsons
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-350
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-450
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-400
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
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+550
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+650
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+700
Jamin Davis
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+800
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+1100
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+800
Azeez Ojulari
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+1100
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+900
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+1000
Joseph Ossai
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+1600
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+2000
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+2000
Zaven Collins
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+2000
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+2000
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+1300
Nick Bolton
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+3300
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+2800
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+4000

How to bet on first LB drafted

When searching your preferred sportsbook for a full slate of NFL Draft odds, find the tab labeled “First Pick By Position” or something similar. Here you should be able to select “First LB Drafted” to find the site’s offerings. From there, you can find the odds for some of the top linebackers to be drafted.

NFL Draft: 2021 LB profiles

Micah Parsons, Penn State: He may not have played in 2020 due to opting out, but Micah Parsons remains one of the most freaky physical specimens in the 2021 linebacker class. The pass-rusher-turned-Mike has incredible explosiveness and instinct and was– at one point– considered a top-10 draft pick. Because he opted out, he’s fallen down many draft boards into a mid- to late-first round pick. A similar draft story could be that of Nick Chubb, who fell from a top-five pick to the second round (Browns, 2018) after suffering a knee injury. The talent is clearly still there and whoever drafts Parsons will be getting a steal.

Scouting reports note Parsons could benefit from playing outside backer in a three-backer system like the Raiders, Lions, and Bills. However, his longterm role in the NFL will surely be at the Mike linebacker position thanks to his ridiculous instinct. His impact on a defense was incredibly obvious when comparing the 2019 Nittany Lions (16.8 points allowed per game, seventh) to the 2020 Nittany Lions (27.7 points allowed per game, 58th). Teams like the Dolphins and Raiders in the late teens seem like the most likely landing spot for Parsons, though he has been mocked as high as 11th to the New York Giants.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame: While many scouts see Micah Parsons or Zaven Collins as having the highest ceiling and therefore being the top linebackers in this year’s class, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (JOK) is the most Day-1 pro-ready linebacker. He might be the most versatile defensive player in the draft regardless of position and embodies what a modern linebacker should look like. He’s freaky athletic, ridiculously fast, and also disciplined.

Tape from games against his top opponents– Clemson and Alabama– show just how good he really is. Teams would often scheme against JOK, but that usually didn’t slow him down. He’s more than capable of following slot receivers deep down field, rushing the passer, and jamming the run. JOK is most likely going to fall in the mid to late first round, often being mocked to teams like Las Vegas, the New York Jets, and Washington. He’s a player who’s ready to fill a role Day 1 and might be a good darkhorse pick to be the first linebacker off the board.

Zaven Collins, Tulsa: Collins has had quite the journey in his collegiate career. He played both sides of the football in high school and was offered just one Division-I scholarship (Tulsa), but ultimately won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which is awarded annually to the nation’s most outstanding defensive player. He’s a versatile player that’s perfect for teams that use “positionless” players like New England. Collins is dynamic against both the pass and the run and is a capable pass rusher.

He’s valued at the end of the first round, being associated with teams like Cleveland, Buffalo, and Green Bay. At 6′ 4″, 260 pounds, Collins is big enough and athletic enough to take on some of the NFL’s best pass-catching tight ends, making him ideal in the AFC West and NFC West (although those landing spots seem unlikely given his valuation). Collins is not likely to be the first linebacker taken in the draft, though whoever lands him is getting a real player.

Nick Bolton, Missouri: Bolton differs from the rest of the linebackers on this list in that, what he lacks in versatility, he makes up for with authority. He’s a bruiser against the runs, laying down stunning hits on college football’s hardest runners like Najee Harris. He’s one of the shortest linebackers in the draft class, but recorded over 220 tackles in his career at Mizzou. Bolton also recorded at least eight tackles for loss in each of his last two seasons.

Nick Bolton is projected to be a late first round or early second round pick, often landing with teams like Green Bay, New Orleans, and Buffalo. While he’s a longshot to be the first linebacker picked, he could make a real impact from Day 1 in a blitz-heavy system.

NFL Draft LB history

Here is a list of the first linebackers taken in each NFL Draft going back to 2010.

YearTeamPlayerCollegePick (No. overall)
2020ArizonaIsaiah SimmonsClemsonNo. 8
2019Tampa BayDevin WhiteLSUNo. 5
2018ChicagoRoquan SmithGeorgiaNo. 8
2017ArizonaHassan ReddickTempleNo. 13
2016ChicagoLeonard FloydGeorgiaNo. 9
2015JacksonvilleDante FowlerFloridaNo. 3
2014OaklandKhalil MackBuffaloNo. 5
2013ClevelandBarkevious MingoLSUNo. 6
2012CarolinaLuke KuechlyBoston CollegeNo. 9
2011DenverVon MillerTexas A&MNo. 2
2010DallasRolando McClainAlabamaNo. 8

NFL Draft betting strategy and trends

A lot of teams at the top of the draft badly need to improve their pass rush, increasing the odds that guys like Chaisson and Baun get drafted earlier than they might normally. The Lions, Dolphins, Chargers, and Falcons own four of the top six picks and all have a major need for an edge pass rusher. Then again, there’s another wave of teams picking in the middle of the first round with holes in their LB core – the Cowboys, Falcons, Dolphins, Raiders and Eagles all have selections between 16 and 21.

Pass-rushing aside, Isaiah Simmons has pro teams licking their chops for the next Darius Leonard, a guy Simmons has already been compared to and who immediately established himself as a top 10 defensive player during his rookie season in Indianapolis. After pass-rushing DE Chase Young goes in the top three, confidently expect the next team looking to fill a need in its defensive front seven to take the versatile Simmons before guys like Chaisson, Queen or Murray.

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