The 2019 NFL draft begins next Thursday running for three nights, taking place in Nashville, Tennessee. For the purposes of this report the key date when bets will win/lose is Thursday 25th.

Some but not all UK bookmakers quote a range of markets as they do every year though the breadth and opportunity seems to reduce every year and being realistic at the firms that offer the widest range of markets (Skybet, Paddy Power, Coral) then liquidity is going to be an issue. This year as I scour the various firms I can see ten markets offered in more than one place. It just so happens that this year eight of these have odds-on favourites and it is difficult to disagree with the pricing on any of them.

For the sake of completeness these eight are as follows:

First overall Pick: Kyler Murray 1/6. Looks correct, likely to be drafted by the Arizona Cardinals
1st quarterback: Kyler Murray 1/6 Ditto
1st Linebacker: Devin White 4/11. One of only two first round Inside linebacker prospects (Devin Bush the other) and could be drafted as high as 5 to Tampa Bay.
1st running back: Josh Jacobs 1/4 Probably the only running back likely to be drafted in the first round and a comparable talent to the top running backs drafted last year, Sony Michel and Nick Chubb
1st round quarterbacks: I think there will be 4: Murray, Haskins, Lock, Jones. Over 3.5 is 1-2.
1st Tight End: T J Hockenson 1/3. One of two Iowa State Tight Ends at the top of this position last year, and this is the better one. Likely to be drafted in the top 15 picks. If you don’t mind a short one 1/3 is actually too long.
1st Defensive lineman: Nick Bosa 2/5 probably drafted by the 49ers at number 2
1st Offensive lineman: Jawaan Taylor 4/6, the run on offensive linemen probably starts with the Jaguars at number 7, and there are 5 or 6 first round prospects. Jonah Williams could beat Taylor off the board so this is probably the least solid of this group of 8 markets.

So what does that leave us? Well it gives us Cornerback and Wide receiver to go at and that is not a surprise this year as there is no analyst consensus at either position so betting markets are more open and potentially offer inefficiencies. It’s not a vintage year for either in terms of the talent coming out of the college ranks.

Cornerback and Wide receiver are two of the “power five” positions (alongside quarterback, left tackle and Edge rusher) which teams typically look to draft early so the players they pick in the first round get five year contracts on a rookie wage scale (and thus are cheaper in terms of roster construction within a hard salary cap), whereas players drafted outside the first round receive four year contracts and hit free agency earlier.

Taking Cornerback first.

Note that some 1st DB markets include safeties though it would be a surprise if any player from that position was drafted ahead of the names I am about to mention.
The odds on favourite is the interestingly named Greedy Williams from LSU. A clean prospect with one major concern, he doesn’t like tackling. NFL teams are allowed to “visit” with 30 prospects at their facilities in the run up to the draft for physical tests, interviews etc and this year Williams has had no visits only the second player anyone can recall in that position. It could mean that he is such a clean prospect that teams don’t need 1 on 1’s with him. It could mean there is a lack of interest but it flagged up to me as something to be aware of for a player odds on to be drafted first at the position.
I think Byron Murphy from Washington is just a good a player and is “scheme neutral” in that he can play in man or zone coverage and is a ball hawk with a lot of interceptions in his track record. I think Murphy is likely to be drafted in the 11-20 pick range, and Williams could well be too.
I Would be very surprised if one of these two players wasn’t the first defensive back drafted (ahead of DeAndre Baker at 7/2, 10/1 bar) and Murphy is available at 9/4 with Ladbrokes/Coral. Far better value than backing Williams.

Wide Receiver

If you read eight or more 2019 NFL draft reports (I have) you get as many as five different opinions as to who the top wide receiver will be in next week’s draft. You can pick holes in every prospect and there is no sure-fire thing at this position.
Before I go through the players and their market, the point to note here is we have to identify which teams might be in the market for a wide receiver high in the draft and match up to which player might suit what they are looking for.
So going in draft order:
The Jaguars and the Bills in the top 10 picks are candidates
At 17 the Giants post Odell Beckham’s trade is a possibility. They have two first round draft picks and have holes everywhere and presumably Quarterback will be one of those picks
At 19 the Titans need help for Marcus Mariota
At 20 the Steelers traded away Antonio Brown but also haven’t adequately replaced Ryan Shazier at linebacker
At 22 the Baltimore Ravens (seem to always) lack wide receivers. Against that they lost both edge rushers in free agency so that might be the priority
So the candidates:
D J Metcalf
Metcalf is quick but I think much too short in betting markets (see below) I see two downsides. Firstly the three cone test? The what? The three cone test is a test of agility, of a player’s scope to twist and turn quickly (and from the perspective of a wide receiver the thing apart from raw speed that is going to help him get open). The top tested receivers in this draft did three cones in around 6.75-6.8 seconds. Metcalf recoded 7.38 seconds. The second issue was that he played in college alongside fellow receiver draftee AJ Brown, who was the number one weapon on his team which left Metcalf with single coverage to record his numbers.
I can see him being drafted in the 15-25 range but not the top 10 (some mocks have him going to the Bills for example) Some scouts are reputed to have him ranked outside the first round
AJ Brown, Metcalf’s College colleague is “NFL ready” and scored 85% of his college TDs from the slot (working the middle of the field rather than the perimeters). Looks a borderline first round player rather than a sure thing
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. Is small and nippy, a threat to make a big play every time he touches the ball. A game changer and the main weapon for Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray in their Heisman trophy winning seasons.
Think someone like Tyreek Hill (minus the baggage) who has been so successful for the Chiefs. In fact with Tyreek in legal trouble again “Hollywood” would be an ideal Chiefs pick at 29, but would also be a good candidate for the Steelers to pay alongside Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster. He’s Antonio Brown’s cousin, which may though be a factor for the Steelers!
He suits the way the position is changing in the NFL thanks to players like Tyreek Hill. As Brown said in an interview recently
“ You no longer have to be big and strong, you can just be fast, quick”
And the UK Market, which I think is very inefficient and has a lot of value:
Metcalf is odds on everywhere and is simply too short
11/2 Hakeem Butler, probably a second round pick to my mind and as short as 3/1 at one firm. A slightly slower big body who is going to win contested catches against smaller cornerbacks and a “work in progress” with inconsistent hands.
Marquise Brown is available at 11/2, 6/1 and 8/1 across three firms and is the clear value in this market
AJ Brown is available at similar prices and its around 10/1 bar the top four.

Selections
Byron Murphy first Defensive Back drafted 9/4 Ladbrokes/Coral
Marquise Brown first Wide receiver drafted 8/1 Paddy Power (6/1 Sky, 11/2 Coral)