NFL Draft Betting: Who Will the Jets Select in the First Round?
The edict for the New York Jets in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft is clear: upgrade at either wide receiver or the offensive line.
Based on the odds at FanDuel Sportsbook, each of the seven most likely players to join Gang Green in late April play one of those two positions. No non-receivers or tackles have odds shorter than 20/1. And this makes sense.
With Sam Darnold entering year three in the NFL, it's time to see what he can do. He's eligible for an extension as soon as next offseason, and they also have to decide whether to pick up his fifth-year option. Time is running out on Darnold with a cheap contract, so if you want to both position him for success and evaluate his skills for the future, you need to give him the infrastructure necessary to succeed.
Between Le'Veon Bell, Chris Herndon, and Ryan Griffin, the Jets have pieces they can use at running back and tight end, and they'd be unlikely to address those areas with the 11th overall pick, anyway. At tackle and wide receiver, things are different.
This gives us clarity from a betting perspective. If we want to bet on whom the Jets will select in the first round, we have a narrow scope. We just have to decide which player who fits the edict will wind up being the name they land on.
Based on the way things stand now, it seems like our best option is settling on one of the big men.
A Clear Need
The Jets' needs at receiver are obvious. They let Robby Anderson walk, and Breshad Perriman's deal is a low-dollar, one-year contract. They will need to invest there at some point. But the need at tackle is even more glaring and concerning.
Most of the work the Jets have done in free agency along the offensive line has addressed the interior. Connor McGovern is a legitimate upgrade at center, and Greg Van Roten gives the team a starting-caliber option at one of the guard spots. Re-signing Alex Lewis could allow them to release Brian Winters, but either way, they've made strides in beefing up the three interior positions.
Tackle is a different story. They did sign George Fant to a three-year deal, but there is minimal guaranteed money beyond this year, meaning it's essentially a one-year audition. Fant was a swing tackle with the Seattle Seahawks and does not give them a legitimate answer on either the left or right side.
Right now, the team's starting tackles would be Fant and Chuma Edoga. Edoga made eight starts last year (five on the right side and three on the left) but performed poorly, grading out as the 79th-ranked tackle out of 81 qualified players at Pro Football Focus. That ain't gonna cut it.
At wide receiver, the Jets at least have palatable options in Perriman, Jamison Crowder, and (if he gets cleared) Quincy Enunwa. They don't have that at tackle. Between the two positions, tackle is the bigger need. It also may be the one that's more important to address early in the draft.
How the Draft Shakes Out
Barring any trades, the Jets will enter the draft with the 11th and 48th overall picks. That means they could address one need in the first and another in the second. As a result, we should factor in which position is more likely to have viable options available later on, potentially allowing the Jets to hold off on that spot.
Luckily for us, ESPN's Todd McShay released his tiered rankings earlier this week, helping us see exactly this.
In McShay's rankings, the focal tier for us is the fifth one, which includes the players he has ranked 44th through 62nd. This is likely where the Jets will find themselves in the second round. If one position is more abundantly available there than the other, it means their need to address it right away could be lower.
Early on, McShay has things relatively even between the receivers and tackles. But right around tier five, the bottom falls out on the tackles.
|McShay's Tiered Rankings||Tier 1||Tier 2||Tier 3||Tier 4||Tier 5||Tier 6|
The lowest-ranked tackle within the first five tiers for McShay is Austin Jackson, slotted as his 35th overall player. McShay had Jackson going as the 33rd overall pick in a mock draft released Tuesday, meaning if the Jets want him, they'll likely have to trade up to do so.
That's not as big of a concern at wide receiver. McShay had all of Laviska Shenault, Jalen Reagor, Chase Claypool, and Devin Duvernay going between 46th and 60th in the mock, meaning they should have options with that second pick.
In other words, if the Jets want to work things optimally from a tiering perspective, it's wisest to get the tackle early and circle back for a wide receiver later on. Combined with the apparent higher need to address tackle, it seems more likely the Jets go the beefy route early on.
Tabbing an Individual
From a betting perspective, we've got things whittled down to the tackles, which brings our list to Andrew Thomas (+420), Jedrick Wills (+550), Mekhi Becton (+700), and Tristan Wirfs (+700). Whom should we favor there?
Technically, you could just bet on all four of them. If you were to bet an equal amount on all four players, and one of them were to be selected, you'd spin a profit regardless of who actually wound up being the pick. That's not an optimal route because it assumes the odds they draft a receiver or another position are zero, so that's not advised. It's just an option if you feel strongly they will go tackle.
From an individual perspective, whom they draft obviously depends a bunch on who's likely to be available when their spot comes up. With the New York Giants, Los Angeles Chargers, Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Cleveland Browns all picking ahead of them, they're not going to have their pick of the litter. Clearly, not all of those teams will go with a tackle, but the first tackle off the board is unlikely to be a Jet.
In McShay's Tuesday mock, Becton and Thomas were the two left available when the Jets picked (though he had them taking Jerry Jeudy). In Mel Kiper Jr's mock last week, he had them taking Wills with Thomas as the other player left on the board.
We can assume this is part of why Thomas is the most likely pick for the Jets at FanDuel Sportsbook: he tends to be available most of the time. According to NFLMockDraftDatabase.com, 17% of all mocks have Thomas going to the Jets, a hair lower than the implied probability of 19.2% that you get from +420 odds.
If you think the draft winds up being heavy on tackles, Thomas is the way you should side at +420. He's the guy most likely to be available, he would slot in at left tackle, and he's the final player before a drop-off at the position. He fits what we're looking for.
If you think the draft skews a bit quarterback-heavy (McShay had four quarterbacks in the top nine selections), then you have leeway to take a swing on a longer shot.
When Jets general manager Joe Douglas was with the Philadelphia Eagles last year, they traded up to draft Andre Dillard in the first round. Dillard put up impressive numbers in key metrics at the combine and shares similarities to Wirfs.
As discussed when outlining which lineman would be the first drafted, there is a correlation between players' weight-adjusted combine metrics at tackle and where they go in the NFL draft. Specifically, among tackles since 2010, the metrics with the closest tie to draft stock have been the 40-yard dash, shuttle, and three-cone drill (again, adjusted by weight with 100 being average). Here's where the top four guys here measured up in each of those categories.
|Tackle||Adjusted 40||Adjusted Shuttle||Adjusted Three-Cone|
Dillard was at 105.50, 108.99, and 105.30 in those three categories, so he outperformed all four of them in the more agility-based workouts. The one guy in this class who rivaled Dillard in the shuttle and three-cone was Ezra Cleveland, who shapes up as more of a late-first, early-second-round pick and could be intriguing should the Jets go wide receiver at 11. But if Douglas does side with another Dillard-type player in this group, Wirfs is the closest comp.
With Wirfs at 7/1, this makes him interesting. He's available less often than some of the others, but you'd have to imagine he would fit the Jets' fancy if he were to be available. There's also the slight possibility they trade ahead of Cleveland and/or Jacksonville so that they have a better shot at the tackle of their choosing.
This is not to say you shouldn't consider Wills or Becton. You can make a case for either, and Wills is often available in mocks when the Jets come on the clock. But with Thomas fitting the "most likely to be available" archetype and Wirfs the "best-case scenario" angle, those two do seem to stand out as our ideal options.