Despite the majority of the sports world being under an involuntary moratorium, the 2020 NFL Draft appears set to go off as scheduled April 23-25. It will, however, have a look unlike any other previous edition. The event will no longer be held in Nevada due to necessary precautions prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic; instead, it will unfold in a television studio and consistently rotate to live looks of teams making their draft selections.
One of the few aspects surrounding the highly anticipated annual college player lottery that will remain unchanged from past seasons involves sports betting. NFL Draft prop wagers are available at all regulated sportsbooks and could see the zenith of their popularity this year, considering they’re one of the only current available methods of getting action in on a major U.S.-based sport.
NFL draft odds: First safety drafted
The safety market for the 2020 draft is a competitive one, as even though Alabama’s Xavier McKinney is an across-the-board favorite at sportsbooks to be the first player taken at his position, LSU’s Grant Delpit isn’t far behind and is gaining some momentum. Both players earned their fair share of honors on the strength of stellar 2019 seasons, and it’s highly conceivable for at least one team to value the latter higher than the former.
Then, Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield, Jr., who boasts both name and college pedigree, is a not-too-distant third, with an impressive senior season during which he allayed some concerns about his ability to stay healthy propping up his prospects.
Antoine Winfield Jr.
How to bet on first safety drafted
One of the most common NFL Draft prop wagers are those that involve betting on which player will be the first drafted at each position. To find these wagers in an online sportsbook, click the NFL tab to navigate toward the 2020 Draft section. Once there, click on “First Pick by Position” to view the odds.
Each player’s odds are defined by a number next to their name that is three, four or even five digits in length. That figure will also have either a plus or minus sign next to it. Players with a minus sign next to their number are considered to be at “minus-money.” That denotes the fact oddsmakers feel those players have a higher probability of being the first player drafted at the position than those with a plus sign.
The higher a number with a minus sign attached is, the higher the probability that player has of being the first player selected at the position. Conversely, the higher a number with a plus sign attached is, the longer of a shot that player is of being the first selected at the position.
To utilize an example from this year’s draft, say odds-on favorite McKinney is carrying a -215 figure to be the first safety taken. That means a bettor will have to wager $215 to win $100 that McKinney is the first safety taken. Then, say Delpit carries a price of +275 as the second-likeliest player to be the first safety off the board. In his case, bettors will win $275 for every $100 they wager on Delpit as the first safety selected.
NFL Draft: 2020 safety profiles
Xavier McKinney, Alabama: McKinney provided prototypical stat lines for a versatile safety over his final two college seasons, a pair of campaigns over which he averaged 84.5 tackles, 2.5 interceptions, 7.5 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and one pick-six. The Crimson Tide alum secured first-team All-SEC honors following his 2019 junior campaign and then opted to turn pro. Scouting reports note McKinney was equally adept at playing in the slot, in the box or in “center field” as a true free safety, making him a highly coveted defensive asset.
Grant Delpit, LSU: Delpit is actually the more decorated of the two between him and McKinney. The LSU product is a two-time consensus All-American and won the Jim Thorpe Award for his performance in his junior 2019 season. Delpit displayed a knack for consistently getting his hands on the ball through his three years with the Tigers, defending 24 passes overall and converting eight of those into interceptions. He also demonstrated an ability to get to the quarterback when asked, posting seven combined sacks over his sophomore and junior campaigns.
Antoine Winfield, Jr., Minnesota: Winfield will remind long-time NFL fans of his father in both stature and tackling ability. The star Golden Gopher saved his best for last when it came to his college career, as he recorded 83 tackles, seven interceptions, three sacks, two forced fumbles, one defensed pass and one defensive TD in his senior season in 2019.
After a very impressive freshman season during which he started nine games, Winfield saw his sophomore and junior campaigns each end after foot and hamstring injuries, respectively. However, his aforementioned numbers demonstrated what he was capable of when playing a full season, and his production was good enough to secure AP All-American and first-team All-Big Ten honors.
Ashtyn Davis, California: Davis has gained some momentum in the futures market over the last few weeks. The Cal alum was a track star in addition to a four-year starter in football. Davis played cornerback his first two college seasons before transitioning to safety, with the latter position proving to be a better fit. He corralled six total interceptions over his last two seasons and defensed nine passes overall during that span.
Davis gets high marks from scouts for his athleticism, versatility and closing speed, but they also list tackling technique and instincts as areas where he could use improvement. It’s worth noting that one of the aforementioned mocks, Rotoworld’s, actually had Davis projected as the first safety off the board to the NFC-champion 49ers with the 31st overall selection.
NFL Draft safety history
Here’s a list of the first safety taken in each NFL Draft going back to 2010.
|Year||Team||Player||College||Pick (No. overall)|
|2019||LA Rams||Taylor Rapp||Washington||61|
|2017||NY Jets||Jamal Adams||LSU||6|
|2016||Oakland||Karl Joseph||Ohio State||14|
|2015||NY Giants||Landon Collins||Alabama||33|
|2014||NY Jets||Calvin Pryor||Louisville||18|
|2013||New Orleans||Kenny Vaccaro||Texas||15|
|2012||New England||Tavon Wilson||Illinois||48|
|2010||Kansas City||Eric Berry||Tennesseee||5|
NFL draft strategy and trends
A total of 17 safeties were taken in the first round of the NFL Draft between 2010 and 2019. Safety has been one of those positions that has been far from guaranteed to have at least one first-round selection each year, however. In four of the years during that decade – 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2019 – the first safety was taken in the second round. During that 10-year sample, the two highest-selected players at the position were highly worthy of their slotting – Eric Berry, selected by the Chiefs at No. 5 in 2010, and Jamal Adams, nabbed by the Jets at No. 6 in 2017.
The first round of the 2020 draft projects to be only a modestly busy one for the position. As mentioned earlier, McKinney is the likeliest safety to be taken off the board first. Yet even that isn’t unanimous among leading mock drafts from NFL.com, Pro Football Focus, ESPN, SI.com, CBS, Rotoworld and The Athletic. Four – PFF, ESPN, SI and The Athletic – do have the Crimson Tide standout going in the first round.
Yet, Rotoworld projects Davis as the first safety taken, while NFL.com’s Chad Reuter’s latest mock has Delpit as the first off the board all the way at No. 43 to the Bears. What’s more, Reuter doesn’t have McKinney’s name being called until the third round, when he envisions the Jaguars taking him with the 73rd overall pick.
Then, in terms of teams that are likely to prioritize the position early, NFL.com’s Dan Parr lists the Browns, Saints, Seahawks and Bears as teams that have safety as one of their top three needs. Interestingly, only one of those teams, the Saints, is projected to nab a safety in the first round in the seven mocks analyzed (24th overall pick, The Athletic). Notably, New Orleans welcomed Malcolm Jenkins back into the fold after that mock was put together, so the thinking could certainly be different now.
Another team that had been projected to take a safety as early in the first round by multiple mocks is the Cowboys. Early in free agency, this speculation seemed sound, considering Dallas figured to be on the lookout for secondary help in general after letting Byron Jones and Jeff Heath both walk. However, new head coach Mike McCarthy eventually forged a reunion with one of his former Packers charges in Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. As with the Saints, the need may no longer be as pressing so as to warrant a first-round pick.
One team to keep an eye on will be the Dolphins. Miami not only has two additional first-round picks besides their No. 5 overall selection, but they’ll undoubtedly be looking to shore up the position. The team finally parted ways with Reshad Jones and currently lists Eric Rowe and Adrian Colbert at the top of the depth chart at free and strong safety, respectively. Rowe is a coach Brian Flores favorite from their time together in New England and seemed to come into his own in 2019. However, Colbert is a one-time seventh-round pick of the 49ers and more of a stopgap measure who’s never been a full-time starter. Delpit’s 6-foot-2, 213-pound frame certainly checks the strong safety box and he could therefore well be a target of Miami with either the 18th or 26th pick.