NFL Draft Betting: Will a Running Back Get Selected in the First Round?

A few days ago, I looked at who will be the first running back selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. Now I'll look at a different prop bet at the same position -- will a running back be selected in round one?

FanDuel Sportsbook has the over on 0.5 backs selected on day one listed at -340, giving it implied odds of 77.3 percent. The under -- which would mean that no running back is drafted in the opening round, unless Bill Belichick invents a way to draft half a back -- is priced at +240, or 29.4 percent implied odds.

So...let's take a look at how you should bet it.

Historical Precedent

Only twice since 1963 -- spanning 56 drafts -- has the first round come and gone without a running back hearing his name called. Those instances occurred in consecutive seasons in 2013 and 2014. The average number of running backs drafted in round one in the five drafts since is 1.8.

While some of the league's front offices have started to shy away from spending a significant amount of resources on running backs, there are still those who place a premium on the position. That's, for the most part, been enough to keep backs in the first round conversation.

Current Draft Projections

NFLMockDraftDatabase -- which creates a consensus mock draft from the more than 300 that are posted on the web -- has one back going in the first round. That honor goes to Georgia's D'Andre Swift.

I looked at 30 mock drafts from some of the top names and a number of the most accurate mock drafters in the industry (via theHuddleReport) -- here's what I found.

Experts RB in R1 Average Draft Slot Versus Implied Odds
All Experts 60.00% 27.4 -17.30%
Most Accurate Mock Drafters 25% 29 -52.30%

Of the eight experts I was able to find that are inside the top-12 in accuracy in the Huddle Report's five-year mock draft average, only two had a runner going in the first round. 16 of the other 22 mocks had at least one selected on day one. Nevertheless, no matter which sample you use, the over doesn't look like a great play based on projections.

The Players

Here's a look at how this year's top prospects -- Georgia's Swift, Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor, and LSU's Clyde Edwards-Helaire -- compare to the first-round running backs from the last five drafts in terms of measurables (40-time, weight-adjusted speed score, weight-adjusted burst score, and Body Mass Index). All data is from and is shown in terms of percentile ranks.

Player40-timeSpeed scoreBurst ScoreBMIAverage
Saquon Barkley97th99th96th79th92.8
Jonathan Taylor98th99th71st89th89.3
Leonard Fournette74th96thn/a90th86.7
D'Andre Swift83rd80th62nd87th78.0
Todd Gurley77th92ndn/a44th71.0
Rashaad Penny88th92nd31st60th67.8
Ezekiel Elliott86th94th27th56th65.8
Clyde Edwards-Helaire47th36th89th89th65.3
Christian McCaffrey83rd66th79th11th59.8
Sony Michel67th67thn/a44th59.3
Melvin Gordon72nd73rd71st15th57.8
Josh Jacobs22nd28th34th78th40.5

As you can see, both Swift and Taylor compare rather favorably to a number of the nine round-one backs since 2015 -- CEH holds his own too. In fact, if you make everything equal and take their average percentile rank -- which you absolutely should not do -- Taylor and Swift come in second and fourth, respectively. Not too shabby.

Team Needs

Starting from the bottom, here are the teams that could realistically take a back on day one: Kansas City at 32, Baltimore at 28, and Miami at 18 or 26.

Less likely, but still possible: New England at 23, Jacksonville at 20, and Tampa Bay at 14.

All in all, the realistic scenarios are not plentiful.

The Pick

Though I do think there are multiple first-round talents at the position, I'm going to go with the under. Given the expert projections and the direction in which the position is trending, it's tough not to like the +240 odds of zero backs going in the first round.

I have no doubt that there will be a run at the position at some point near the turn, but there's at least a tangible chance that it doesn't happen until day two.