We may not be in for the same high-level entertainment we’re used to from past NFL Drafts, but those of us starving for live sports will take what we can get. With the world still in quarantine, from April 23-25, the NFL will televise and live stream the 2020 NFL Draft from a variety of unfamiliar locations. Some coaches and executives will be in their war rooms; all players, even the expected top picks will be in their homes, and the NFL will own the entire broadcast out of one location.
As we move forward with the only bit of normalcy in betting major sports right now, we continue to offer you the best value bets around the NFL Draft. This page will highlight the odds for the first linebacker to get drafted, profile a few of the top candidates, and provide past trends and strategies to place a wager or two on this year’s prospects.
NFL draft odds: First LB drafted
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.
Some clear-cut positions, such as this one have a clear favorite. Isaiah Simmons’ odds at DraftKings Sportsbook (-1000) indicate that a $100 bet on Simmons would only cash $1 if successful. More competitive positions, such as OL, have two players, Mekhi Becton and Tristian Wirfs, tied with the +175 odds at DraftKings. A successful $100 bet on either player would cash $175 and a $100 bet on underdog Jedrick Wills to be selected first could net $250.
NFL Draft: 2020 LB profiles
Isaiah Simmons: Simmons separated himself from this year’s class of linebackers by bringing new meaning to the term “hybrid,” showing elite ability at safety and nickel cornerback his junior year. The reigning Dick Butkus Award winner put up 104 tackles (16.5 TFL), 8.0 sacks, and three INTs with eight passes deflected. Wherever his NFL defensive coordinator chooses to start him in Week 1, don’t be surprised to see the 6’4” 238-pound phenom making plays in all quadrants of the field.
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller has the Giants selecting Simmons with the fourth pick in his most recent mock draft after originally predicting the team would select Iowa tackle Tristan Wirfs. Apparently Miller is confident New York addressed its need at both tackle spots when they re-signed veteran Nate Solder and picked up Cameron Fleming in free agency. Either way, Simmons shouldn’t fall past the Panthers (No. 8) who are looking to replace linebacking legend Luke Keuchly.
K’Laivon Chaisson: It’s not often NFL scouts are presented with a prospect of Chaisson’s size (6’4” 254 lbs) who can move laterally as quickly as he can. Nicknamed the “Sack Guru,” he’s widely considered the best pass-rushing LB prospect entering the draft and a shoo-in for a first-round pick.
Whichever team takes Chaisson will have to mold his raw abilities and teach him to read NFL offenses, particularly when it comes to stopping the run. It’s more likely he ends up on a team that won’t mind plugging him in situationally, rather than expecting him to play 3 straight downs. Similar to when the Giants selected Jason Pierre-Paul 15th overall after just one year of impressing scouts at USF, Chaisson is likely to come off the board in the middle of the first round by a team like the Cowboys at No. 17. Much like New York was for JPP in 2010, Dallas is a place he can mature next to an already star-studded front seven.
Patrick Queen: Patrick Queen wreaking havoc from inside linebacker and K’Lavon Chaisson handling the edges were two key reasons the Tigers hoisted a national championship trophy last season. Unlike Chaisson, Queen had a lot of success stopping the run his red-shirt sophomore season, making quick decisions and showing impressive explosion en route to recording 85 tackles.
Queen resembles his teammate all too well in another key area, however: inexperience. He spent just one full year as the starting inside linebacker for the stingy Tigers defense, his lack of experience showing itself in the form of missed gap assignments and blown route coverages.
Kenneth Murray: A breakout sophomore season in 2018 catapulted Murray into the national spotlight after he recorded the third most tackles in the FBS with 155. While he regressed back to 102 tackles last year, 17.5 of those were for loss to go alongside 4.0 sacks, keeping his first-round draft hopes very much alive.
A sideline-to-sideline talent at Oklahoma for three years, Murray should be able to step into the pros and stop the run right away. It’s his coverage in the pass game that needs the most work and could make Patrick Queen the better pick for teams who need their linebackers to cover TEs and RBs. Both Murray and Queen could be taken in the first round, but it’s likely that whichever one doesn’t get chosen first will get bumped back to an early second-round pick.
Zach Baun: Zach Baun was not only one of the best high school quarterbacks coming out of Wisconsin in 2015, he was clearly one of the toughest. He had to be in order to make the switch from QB to LB his red-shirt freshman year, not to mention missing the entire 2017 season with a foot injury. When Baun came back from that injury in 2018, he was ready to put together two seasons in a row that would make him a clear NFL Draft pick.
The sorely overused phrase “high motor” has certainly been placed on Baun time and again the past two seasons. The key to his NFL success, however, will be bringing his awareness and defensive positioning up to the speed of that motor. It’s not likely we’ll hear his name called before the second round.
NFL Draft LB history
Here is a list of the first linebackers taken in each NFL Draft going back to 2010.
|Year||Team||Player||College||Pick (No. overall)|
|2019||Tampa Bay||Devin White||LSU||No. 5|
|2018||Chicago||Roquan Smith||Georgia||No. 8|
|2017||Arizona||Hassan Reddick||Temple||No. 13|
|2016||Chicago||Leonard Floyd||Georgia||No. 9|
|2015||Jacksonville||Dante Fowler||Florida||No. 3|
|2014||Oakland||Khalil Mack||Buffalo||No. 5|
|2013||Cleveland||Barkevious Mingo||LSU||No. 6|
|2012||Carolina||Luke Kuechly||Boston College||No. 9|
|2011||Denver||Von Miller||Texas A&M||No. 2|
|2010||Dallas||Rolando McClain||Alabama||No. 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.