NFL Draft 2021: Mike Carlson's betting strategies and tips

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The players in this year's draft dream of one day winning the Super Bowl

NFL expert Mike Carlson reports on the latest developments in the draft, offers betting strategy advice and recommends three wagers...

"I consider Penei Sewell the best player in the draft, and I can't see him slipping past the Bengals, though there will be pressure for them to reunite Joe Burrow with his college target, Chase."

There has been a lot of sound and fury since last week, when we took our advance look at the NFL draft, and most of it has signified very little.

The one big trade of the week saw Baltimore pick up the Chiefs' first round pick, along with a third and fourth rounder, in exchange for tackle Orlando Brown and the Ravens' second-round pick.

This leaves Baltimore with picks 27 and 31 in round one, which means they could be players. But knowing the patience they usually show by "waiting for the draft to come to them", they are not likely to try to make a huge jump upward (where those extra Chiefs' picks might come in handy).

They're more likely to offer pick 31 to someone who wants to slide back into round one to grab someone still on the board: much the same as the Ravens did in 2018 when they traded back into pick 32 and took Lamar Jackson off the day two board.

What do the Falcons really want?

The fulcrum of the draft is still Atlanta with the fourth pick--although during the week the Niners' tried to make it seem like their minds were not made up about a particular QB. It is not absolutely necessary they had one guy in mind when they traded two future firsts for their move up from 12, because they might be satisfied with either of two, but it remains likely.

Kyle Shanahan went metaphysical when asked if Jimmy Garoppolo would still be on the roster after the draft. "I can't tell you if any person will be alive on Sunday," replied Shanahan. This suggests the Niners may be looking for the finished product (ie Mac Jones) over prospect (ie Trey Lance) as their guy.

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Which means at four Atlanta will face a four-way decision. A quarterback, likely either Justin Fields (who started his career at Georgia) or Lance. Penei Sewell, whom I believe is the safest pick in the top 10, is another option, as is Ja'Marr Chase, the top wide receiver who's a potential plug and play replacement for Julio Jones or tight end Kyle Pitts, who's the mis-match type of tight end teams crave, but rarely draft this high.

When you examine your own betting picks, try to decide what the Falcons really want with their new GM and coach. A new Matt Ryan, targets for Matt Ryan, or protection for Matt Ryan.

In sense, draft betting is a house of cards, and when one card goes, the rest can scatter. I think hedging bets is a good strategy in some cases to insulate against that. If you're betting draft position, look to see where the bet places the pick: Rayshawn Slater over under 8.5, for example, would hinge on Sewell's being gone, but Carolina still prioritising a tackle.

Last year the first round of the draft yielded six offensive tackles (and one center, which is why this year's over/under on O line is 6.5), six corners, six wide receivers and four quarterbacks. QBs are always over-valued, but I realistically can't see a sixth crashing round one.

This is another deep class for wideouts, and some teams cannot resist the shiny hood ornaments in round one. Like last year, this isn't a deep D-line/edge rush group, but last year there were two edge players and two tackles. Three linebackers and one hybrid LB/safety, along with one running back filled out the draft. That's 14 D players and 18 O players, if you weren't counting.

Bateman will be snapped up before 28

Best Bet: Rashod Bateman draft place Under 28.5 at 5/6

Bateman is a big wide receiver with great timed speed, but his greatest ability is winning contested balls. He's going to be a red zone target, and teams looking for an X receiver (split end, basically) will look hard at him.

He's probably a consideration for New England at 15, but I can't see him lasting until 28. We all know the first three receivers: Chase and the Alabama pair, Jaylen Waddle, and DeVonte Smith. Bateman to me is number four and I think Rondale Moore (injuries and opt-out last year makes him a gamble) and Elijah Moore are good bets for round one for teams seeking Tyreek Hill types. Terrace Marshall would be apart from his injury history, and Kadarius Smith might be as a slot.

Belichick Patriots 1280.jpg

Although many teams will realise there is talent available in round two, the Over 4.5 at 3/10 seems a safe bet, but the short odds reflect that. I also think Najee Harris Under 28.5 at 5/6 provides similar value. I'm not sure he gets past Pittsburgh at 24.

Teams know it won't pay to cut corners

Value Bet: Corner backs Over 5.5 picked at 12.5

Here's how it breaks down. The gene pool guys will be drafted first. Patrick Surtain II is the best corner in the draft, but Jaycee Horn (son of Joe) may have more upside. Asante Samuel Jr. is more likely a slot corner, but good enough to come off the board before 20.

Caleb Farley was a top 20 pick before he had back surgery to correct spasms, but he's a long corner for teams that play press and if he starts to slide someone will risk it. Greg Newsome is likely to be taken before Farley, that's five first-rounders.

I think the need for corners will kick in, with Eric Stokes rising fast in the past two weeks, and maybe even his Georgia teammate Tyson Campbell or Ifeatu Melifonwu, who like his brother may move to safety. So the over seems safe to me.

Bengals to pounce for talented Sewell

Outside Bet: Penei Sewell draft place Under 5.5 at 6/5

Like I said, I consider Sewell the best player in the draft, and I can't see him slipping past the Bengals, though there will be pressure for them to reunite Joe Burrow with his college target, Chase. But the way I see it, Burrow's already been hurt in his rookie season. Do you want him throwing to his college favourite target while running for his life, or do you want to plug in the best tackle you'll have had since Andrew Whitworth, if not Anthony Munoz, to protect him and let him throw to someone else?

I kind of like a flutter on a four wideout pick in order: Chase/Waddle/Smith/Bateman is 11/3, while if you flip Waddle and Smith it's 6/1, and that might be worth a hedge. I also think defensive players over 13.5 at 5.6 is worth the risk.

Short odds bets including running backs Over 0.5 paying only 1/3 and safeties Over 0.5 paying 4/9 look reasonable, as one of each will definitely go.

A real outside bet is tight ends over 1.5 at 4/1. Do you think Pat Friermuth of Penn State could sneak into the end of round one? He's not a Kyle Pitts with a freakish skill set, but he's a well-rounded tight end who could start immediately for many teams, like the Ravens.

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