NFL Draft Betting: Who Will Be the Second Overall Pick in 2022?
Some people have looked at this draft class, one with no obvious top prospect, and see its lack of clarity as frustrating. When I look at this draft class – one that has thick tiers of likely contributors throughout it – I see opportunity.
There is major opportunity for NFL teams to build up their depth through a draft like this. There is opportunity for entertainment and excitement for NFL fans, who won’t spend the next month waiting for a few obvious names to be called before the real draft intrigue begins. Finally, and most importantly for us in this article, there is opportunity waiting for bettors to exploit the industry-wide ambiguity by examining the available NFL Draft prop bets.
Nowhere is that ambiguity more useful than in the prop bets for which player will end up in the top few picks. Recently we looked at the prop for the first overall draft pick;oday, we’re going to examine how the dominoes falling in that pick and free agency affect the second overall draft pick. That selection is currently held by the Detroit Lions, who are coming off a three-win season in 2021 and (unsurprisingly) have plenty of needs.
With Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson the favorite to land with the Jacksonville Jaguars at 1.01, who does that leave as the second overall draft pick?
The Detroit Lions’ pass-rush got to opposing quarterbacks at the fourth-lowest pressure rate last year, adding in a dead last placing in the league in sack conversion rate (finishing on a pressure and turning it into a sack or quarterback hit). In terms of production, things went about as poorly as they could for Detroit’s pass-rushing in 2021.
It might seem like the Lions already have building blocks for a strong EDGE rush position going forward, with both Charles Harris and Julian Okwara ranked in the top-50 among 107 qualifying EDGE rushers from last season per Pro Football Focus (PFF) and their player grades. Julian’s older brother, Romeo Okwara, also would’ve graded out as a top-30 EDGE rusher had injuries not limited his playing time last season. When we follow the money, however, a different story emerges.
The way the Lions structured Harris and the elder Okwara’s deals could see both cut prior to the 2023 season. Those moves would save Detroit a combined $17 million against the 2023 cap with just under $5.5 million in dead money. These were clearly intended as contracts that will allow the yet-rebuilding Lions to have flexibility as they go forward.
The value of a truly elite EDGE on their roster and the Lions’ current lack of long-term commitments at the position make taking one as a “best player available” (BPA) selection overfilling an immediate hole a very real possibility.
There is a strong chance Detroit is eyeing up edge rushers Kayvon Thibodeaux (+1000 on FanDuel Sportsbook) out of Oregon or Georgia’s Travon Walker (+250) at their second overall pick. These two are the most highly touted edge rushers behind Hutchinson, with Walker ranking first in Kent Platte’s Relative Athletic Score (RAS) since the 2009 NFL Draft class. Thibodeaux is no slouch either: his measurables put him top-30 at the position in that span of time.
After a good-not-great final season in college and possible prospect fatigue, Thibodeaux has fallen from the top spot in mock drafts to just a top-five prospect, per Grinding the Mocks. There is some concern about team fit being important for Thibodeaux, as he has played almost solely as a wide-aligned pass-rusher. That said, he’s a torqued-up athlete and possibly the best pure rush EDGE in the class, having assembled a 14.3% pressure rate and 19.0% sack conversion rate at Oregon.
Walker’s fortunes are taking the exact opposite trajectory, having gone from a late third-round projection in June of last year to basically even with Thibodeaux as a nearly top-five pick. Georgia’s pro day this week solidified Walker’s status as an elite athlete; he measured in taller, heavier, and longer than Thibodeaux while still besting the west coaster in the 40-yard dash and posting elite numbers elsewhere.
The problem with Walker’s profile is that he has not put together a high-level production profile in college. Walker played more than 200 snaps just once in a season (this past year), crafting a career 8.8% pressure rate that never allowed his 18.3% sack conversion rate to blossom into a mass of total sacks. By PFF grading, Walker’s best and last season was worse than Thibodeaux’s worst and earliest season in college.
Some team could dream on Walker, but he’s more projection than reality right now.
Another hot position being mocked to Detroit at two is quarterback, and there is no argument to be made that they do not need one.
Not only does bridge quarterback and financial albatross Jared Goff have a contract that becomes cuttable after this coming season ($25.6 million in cap space, $5 million in dead money), he isn’t performing particularly well at this point either.
32 quarterbacks have attempted at least 500 combined passes over the last two seasons. Among them, Goff’s adjusted net passing yards per attempt – which weights sacks, touchdowns, and interceptions more impactfully than standard passes – ranks 10th-worst. It seems incredibly unlikely, therefore, that the rebuilding Lions are interested in rostering a player for $30 million next season who was only a hair better than the “bottom drops out” phase of Ben Roethlisberger's career.
Detroit needs a franchise passer. Do they address that need here, or could they wait to select a quarterback considering the lack of a clear top-tier talent in this class?
The hot name in NFL Draft circles right now is Liberty's Malik Willis (+500), whose pro day workout dazzled onlookers this past week. Many in the scouting community do acknowledge Willis’ lack of polish and inconsistent production in a lesser college conference, with a career 7.8% touchdown rate, 2.9% interception rate, 71.7% adjusted completion rate (factoring out drops) with an 11.2-yard average depth of target (aDOT). That said, Willis is easily the most athletically gifted member of this class and has the kind of arm and eye tools that every team covets. Plus, he had a truly sweet moment off the field at the NFL Combine, and that will surely endear him to the “#intangibles” crowd both inside and out of the league.
Was having lunch yesterday and saw one of the Combine guys helping out someone on some hard times…@malikwillis being great even when nobody is watching. How can you not be a fan of this guy? pic.twitter.com/BmFzUM66NU
— Ryan Lacey (@rlacey23) March 3, 2022
Pitt pocket passer Kenny Pickett (+5000) is the only other major consideration for the QB1 spot in the draft due to his consistent game-to-game production in 2021, strong passing tools, and overall league readiness. Still, he is a bit of a one-year wonder in terms of elite upside; Pickett had an 8.4% touchdown rate and 1.4% interception rate this year, which is a far cry from his previous career rates of 3.3% and 2.1%, respectively. In addition, Pickett had just a 74.6% adjusted completion rate with a 9.2-yard aDOT.
Wide Receiver (and Others)
The final position that has been identified as a glaring need for the Lions is wide receiver. At NFL kickoff last season, Tyrell Williams was the sole member of the receiver room with more than 20 career NFL catches, with the other five spots filled by two return specialists, two mid-round rookies, and one former pro lacrosse player.
This year, things look quite a bit better on paper. 2021 waiver addition Josh Reynolds joined up again after a breakout year and the young and explosive D.J. Chark was signed in free agency. Chark and Reynolds both graded out about average by PFF’s grading, while rising second-year pro Amon-Ra St. Brown emerged as a possession wizard in the mold of Cooper Kupp. The caveat to this wealth of potential, however, is very similar to that of the EDGE position: Reynolds and Chark are both on essentially one-year deals (though Reynolds could remain through 2023). As is Kalif Raymond – one of the return men who broke out with a career offensive season.
Perhaps Chark isn’t up to snuff after his season-ending injury, and maybe Reynolds’ breakout was just a mirage. In addition, what if Raymond turns back into a punt-fielding pumpkin again? If any of these come to pass, there’s a major hole in the wide receiver corps for the Detroit Lions now; give it a year and there will still be a need at receiver no matter what.
Wide receiver, while being frequently connected to the Lions in mocks, doesn’t seem to be a smart value pick for us when betting this prop. There is no one wide receiver who really stands out from the rest of the class in terms of production or tools nor from any sort of off-field or intangible fit with the Lions culture (the “biting kneecaps” mentality, if you will). If it doesn’t make sense for Detroit to draft the first top-two wide receiver since Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson went second overall 15 years ago, it doesn’t make sense for us to expect one here either.
Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton (+450) is a name being pushed frequently by draftniks, but safety hasn’t been drafted in the top two selections in the last 30 years. The Lions also have many more issues that a single defensive back might not be able to fix, and Hamilton’s odds are too short to be worth a historic gamble.
How To Bet It
Oregon EDGE rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux has the most complete profile at this point, has consistently remained at the top of mocks for years now, and stands out the most from his peers at his own position – one that comes at a premium in the NFL Draft.
On top of that, his +1000 odds on FanDuel Sportsbook make a bet on Thibs the most valuable option on the board given what we know right now. That line gives just a 9.1% implied probability, but we can presume Thibodeaux is one of just three or four elite options for Detroit at this spot. If we weight all of them evenly as a 25% chance to be picked, that’s still a major windfall in surplus value by getting in on him at this point.
Risk Recommendation: 0.5 units on Kayvon Thibodeaux to win 5 units.