NFL Draft Betting: Who Will Be the First Running Back Selected?

Unless your name is Dave Gettleman, running back is probably not the position you're most focused on when it comes to the draft -- especially this season.

Among others, wide receiver and quarterback have dominated the pre-draft headlines, but that's not to say that the running back class is scant of talent. In fact, it's quite a talented group.

For those who enjoy betting on things other than the weather, FanDuel Sportsbook actually has an abundance of NFL Draft bets for you. Consider it the quarantine Super Bowl.

One of the bets available on FanDuel is the query of who will be the first back drafted. So...let's dive into that.

The Rankings

NFLMockDraftDatabase -- which creates a consensus big board from the many that are posted on the interwebs -- has zero backs in the top 34, followed by three in the next 20 spots.

Essentially across every board -- though not necessarily in the same order -- the top four backs are Georgia's D'Andre Swift (-175 to be the first back taken), Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor (+155), Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins (+700), and LSU's Clyde Edwards-Helaire (+3200).

Here's a look at how the backs are ranked by some of the top experts in the business -- ESPN's Todd McShay and Mel Kiper, NFL's Daniel Jeremiah, Pro Football Network's Tony Pauline, and, finally, NFL Mock Draft Database's consensus roundup. (Note: Over rank is in parenthesis)

Player McShay Kiper Jeremiah Pauline Consensus
D'Andre Swift 1 (13) 1 (17) 1 (16) 1 (18) 1 (35)
Jonathan Taylor 3 (28) 3 3 (35) 2 (23) 2 (40)
J.K. Dobbins 2 (25) 2 4 (40) 3 (32) 3 (54)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire 4 (32) 4 2 (30) 4 (60) 4 (69)

As you can see, Swift is ranked first across the board. Both of ESPN's analysts have Dobbins second, while Jeremiah gives that spot to Edwards-Helaire and Pauline to Taylor.

The Prospects

D'Andre Swift

Swift (-175) carries a 63.7 percent implied probability of being the first back taken -- that seems low. Nearly all of the evaluators have him as the top back, his tape is damn impressive, and there's very few weaknesses to his game. Oh, and he can do this.

That agility is titillating.

Sure, Georgia doesn't have much of a history of churning out productive backs. After all, since 2015, they've only produced Todd Gurley, Sony Michel, and Nick Chubb. (In case you couldn't tell, that was sarcasm.)

Swift is more well-rounded than both Michel and Chubb, both of whom have had their fair share of success since getting drafted in 2018.

Jonathan Taylor

The last few Wisconsin backs to enter the draft have had quite a bit of mileage on them. Montee Ball came in with nearly 1,000 touches, including consecutive seasons with 330-plus. James White had more than 700 totes. Corey Clement and Melvin Gordon each had more than 600, with Gordon racking up a whopping 362 total touches in his junior season. But all that pales to the usage Taylor saw over the last three seasons. The 21-year-old received 300 or more touches each season, including 346 in his final year.

Productivity was the name of the game for the Badger star. Here's a look at how his production compared to the rest of this group of backs over the last two seasons.

Player Touches Yards Y/T Touchdowns
Jonathan Taylor 661 4,509 6.8 42
J.K. Dobbins 580 3,566 6.1 35
D'Andre Swift 415 2,780 6.7 21
Clyde Edwards-Helaire 427 2,621 6.1 24

As you can (hopefully) tell, Taylor was more productive across the board than any of the other top backs.

As much as this pains me to say as a Badger fan, I have a hard time seeing a scenario where Taylor leapfrogs Swift in the draft. His +155 odds aren't enticing enough for me to make that wager.

J.K. Dobbins and Clyde Edwards-Helaire

Dobbins (7/1) and CEH (30/1) are both intriguing picks here, especially in terms of value.

Dobbins is far from a home run hitter, but there's very little that he doesn't do well. Like Taylor, he was also highly productive -- especially in big games. In 2019, across six games against ranked opponents, Dobbins averaged a mind-blowing 202.7 total yards and 1.8 scores.

Dobbins is a solid value pick, but I prefer Edwards-Helaire's 30/1 odds. The 21-year-old doesn't have ideal size, but he is, in my humble opinion, the most complete back in the draft. He's an A-plus receiver, can run both inside and outside the tackles, and is a capable pass-protector. Just check out this Tweet from The Athletic's Ben Fennell.

The Pick

Like I mentioned above, Swift's odds seem too low. Even at -175, he's my preferred bet.

If you're looking for a realistic longshot, I'd go with the National Champion in Edwards-Helaire.