NFL Draft Futures Betting: Who Will Be the First Wide Receiver Drafted?
The Super Bowl is over, the confetti has fallen, the Vince Lombardi Trophy has been held aloft by the winning side, and the 2022 NFL season is finally at an end. But time waits for no man, and no season, with all 32 teams' eyes now firmly fixed on free agency and more importantly the 2023 NFL Draft.
There will be plenty of speculation, articles written, podcasts recorded, and takes offered about this class in the coming weeks. But if you want an early piece of the action and are fond of a flutter, NFL Draft odds are already posted on FanDuel Sportsbook.
Using those odds, we shall look at the contenders at wide receivers, looking at five of the front runners in 2023. I'll even offer my thoughts as to where my money would go if I were a betting man. Let's dive in.
Quentin Johnston, TCU (+160)
Quentin Johnston is the book's favorite to be the first wide receiver drafted in April. Johnston enjoyed his best college season in 2021, catching 60 balls for 1,069 yards while tying a career-high with six touchdown grabs. Johnston has been a big-play threat throughout his time with the Texas Christian Horned Frogs, averaging 19 yards per reception for his career with an NCAA-leading 22.1 average in 2020.
TCUs run at the National Championship in 2022 did Johnston's stock no harm at all, and he will rightly be one of the earliest picks for his position.
Jordan Addison, USC (+250)
Jordan Addison spent two seasons with the Pittsburgh Panthers from 2020-2021, catching passes from Kenny Pickett in 2021 on his way to a 100-catch, 1,593-yard campaign that saw him lead the ACC in yards and touchdown grabs (17).
Those deeds saw him earn the Fred Biletnikoff Award and an All-American berth. Addison took his talents west in 2022 and played a season with the Southern California Trojans. He wasn't as productive for the Trojans, but he still caught 59 balls for 875 yards and 8 scores.
His ability to switch schools and contribute shows that he could adapt to a new offense quickly, and NFL teams might value the addition of a player that they can slot in from day one.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State (+270)
If there's one thing the Ohio State Buckeyes have been good at recently, it's been churning out wide receiver prospects.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba could be another star to emerge as he enters the NFL draft after three seasons with the Buckeyes. JSN, as he is known by his fans, was a sensation during the 2021 college season. He caught 95 passes for 1,606 yards, scoring 9 touchdowns. This set a new school record and included an awesome 15-catch, 347-yard outing in the Rose Bowl.
Sadly, JSN could not build on this success in 2022 with injury restricting him to just three games. He'll need evaluators to fondly recall his 2021 deeds if he is to be the first wide receiver taken in 2023.
Zay Flowers, Boston College (+2300)
Zay Flowers managed to achieve something approaching a Deebo Samuel role for Boston College in his four seasons with the school.
Along with his 200 receptions for 3,056 yards and 29 receiving touchdowns, Flowers also owns a 6.1 yards-per-attempt rushing average with 57 carries earning him 345 yards along with another 2 scores. While a key cog for the Eagles in all four seasons, he waited until his final year of 2022 to post his best numbers, catching 78 balls for 1,077 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Flowers attracted close attention from some teams at the Shrine Bowl, notably the Baltimore Ravens, but by the time they come to pick in round one, another wide receiver will likely have been taken before Flowers.
Kayshon Boutte, LSU (+3400)
Two years ago, you would have been forgiven for thinking that Kayshon Boutte was a shoo-in to be the first wide receiver taken whenever he decided to enter the NFL Draft.
Boutte caught 45 passes for 735 yards and five touchdowns as an 18-year-old freshman for Louisiana State, a 98th percentile Breakout Age according to PlayerProfiler. But in the two seasons since, Boutte has not come close to matching that production. He caught 48 balls in 2022 but could only muster 538 yards.
LSU, like Ohio State, has put a lot of talented wide receivers into the NFL over the last decade plus. Boutte may well end up being another one, but on draft day, I suspect he'll have to wait his turn to hear his name called.
Johnston is a worthy favorite and deserves the hype he has generated.
However, if I had to stake what reputation I had, I would bet that teams will be enamored with what they saw from Smith-Njigba in 2021 and will be prepared to forgive his injury wrecked 2022 campaign. Coming out of "Wide Receiver U" certainly doesn't hurt his case, so I will be making JSN "my guy" to be the first player in his position to be drafted in April.