• Texans the betting favorite to trade up with Bears: DraftKings has a greater than 50% implied probability for the Texans making the first selection.
• Panthers the best bet to make the No. 1 pick: The Panthers currently offer the best price on DraftKings and have the urgency to move aggressively given the state of their roster and the draft pick compensation at their disposal.
• Bet Christian Gonzalez to be CB1: After a strong combine, the betting favorite in Gonzalez is also the best choice to be the first cornerback off the board.
Estimated Reading Time: 6 mins
Free agency news continues to shape how teams will attack the 2023 NFL Draft, and bettors can profit from keeping an eye on this information over the next two weeks. Let’s start by playing out the scenarios for the No. 1 overall selection, then dive into other markets that potentially offer value based on 2023 NFL Scouting Combine results.
TEAM TO MAKE THE FIRST PICK
The Chicago Bears, the current holder of the first overall selection, have an 11.7% implied probability of actually making the pick, with Alabama edge defender Will Anderson Jr. the most likely non-quarterback to be selected with an implied probability of 7.7%. It’s safe to assume the Bears are moving on from the selection, but the key current question is which team swaps with them.
Sitting next in line to draft, the Texans have a massive quarterback need —unlike the Bears — and offer some semblance of a floor for Chicago to move out of the first selection. It’s clear that if Houston falls in love with one particular signal-caller, they need to move to No. 1 to select him.
DraftKings betting market has a greater than 50% implied probability for the Texans making the first selection. The trade compensation then becomes the key point, with the Jimmy Johnson chart separating these two picks by 400 points, equivalent to the 50th selection in the draft.
Chicago gave up two third-round picks and a fourth in 2017 to move from Pick No. 3 to Pick No. 2 and could demand a sky-high price in some ways to save face with that prior benchmark. But a middle-ground offering could be the Texans shipping Cleveland's 73rd overall selection to Chicago along with the first overall pick. This trade has an 85% acceptance rate in PFF’s Mock Draft Simulator and is probably close to the floor if a bidding war doesn’t materialize.
A big reason the betting market seems to like leaning in this direction is the flexibility it offers the Bears to continue accumulating picks if they want to drop back further later. To stave off this outcome, it seems like any team below would have to make an aggressive offer to easily top anything the Texans are willing to give up.
The Colts seemed to be the favorite to move up when the draft order became official, with owner Jim Irsay all-in on finding the right rookie quarterback. But things seem to have cooled down since then. Indianapolis appears to be in the odd middle ground, wondering if they have to give up two first-round picks to move up. A reasonable deal for both teams that trumps the Texans' offer above is tricky given where the Colts sit in the draft.
Chicago most likely rejects moving back to fourth overall while acquiring Pick No. 35 and a 2024 second-rounder from the Colts. PFF’s Mock Draft Simulator gives that deal a 50% acceptance rate, and it falls short of what the Bears would obtain from the Texans. Throwing in this year's or next year's third-rounder moves it to an 82% acceptance rate for this year and 71% for next year.
The Bears' preference in future years will be signaled by what they do in free agency this year. If Chicago seems hesitant to spend its stockpile of cash, it points to a long-term team-building approach and, therefore, probably increases the likelihood they go with this offer or the next.
By some accounts, Carolina is too far down the draft order for the Bears to feel confident in trading back with them and still securing their desired prospects. But being the only team to potentially offer multiple first-rounders could be intriguing to Chicago, which is looking to find out what it has in quarterback Justin Fields while seemingly not going all-in on the proposition.
The starting point for Carolina has to be multiple firsts, but they may not get a deal done without offering multiple seconds, as well. Going that route has a 77% acceptance rate based on PFF’s algorithm and very much looks like the blockbuster deal the Bears are after.
It’s entirely possible all three of these teams have differing views on the top quarterback prospect, and how much those views differ will greatly impact how much each is willing to give up to move to the top. There are a ton of game theory elements happening among teams, as well, which means until it happens we can’t be sure what information is at all accurate.
Right now, the Panthers offer the best price on DraftKings and have the urgency to move aggressively given the state of their roster and the draft pick compensation at their disposal. Buying into them looks like the best opportunity in this market.
In addition to Chicago keeping the pick, a few other instances seem possible from a betting perspective.
The Las Vegas Raiders seem more likely to make a play on Lamar Jackson than move atop the draft, and they are likely in the Aaron Rodgers market behind the New York Jets.
The Atlanta Falcons have the resources to make a trade happen, but they likely aren't ready to give up on Desmond Ridder so early in his career. They seem to be a prime candidate to let the draft unfold before making any decisions.
The only intriguing wild card is the Seattle Seahawks. After the team re-signed quarterback Geno Smith to a respectable deal, the one thing that could derail the incredible foundation they’ve laid in the post-Russell Wilson era would be to go all-in on the wrong guy.
BEST BET: Carolina Panthers +300 (DraftKings)
FIRST CORNERBACK SELECTED
Christian Gonzalez sits as the favorite in this market, but he may not be priced aggressively enough based on the display he put on at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. His 4.38-second 40-yard dash turned heads, and his entire athletic testing will likely make him the first cornerback selected. He compares closely to Jaycee Horn, who was the first cornerback off the board in 2021 after a meteoric rise up draft boards. Based on RAS Score, a metric created by Kent Lee Platte to measure athleticism, Horn and Gonzalez would be the two most athletic cornerbacks selected in the first round from the past three seasons.
Outside of the athletic profile, Gonzalez performed well from a PFF grading perspective and is one of the few cornerback prospects to project well in both man and zone coverage schemes.
Grinding The Mocks currently has Gonzalez with an expected draft position between the No. 8 and No. 9 picks and Devon Witherspoon, CB2 on Grinding The Mocks, between No. 13 and No. 14.
PFF’s Mock Draft Simulator has the Lions as Gonzalez's most likely landing spot. He appears to be a lock post-combine to be drafted in the top 10, while the same can’t be said for the remainder of the cornerback class in 2023.
BEST BET: Christian Gonzalez -200 (FanDuel)