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Best bets for the 2024 NFL Draft: Capitalizing on 1st-round uncertainty

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Nobody knows anything.

Outside of Caleb Williams going No. 1 to Chicago (-20000 to be the first pick), the common theme for this week's NFL draft is uncertainty.

Three weeks ago, the second overall pick was a near-coin flip. Jayden Daniels then became a strong favorite, only to see the market return to a coin flip, and now Daniels is back up to -500.

However, there are no verified reports that a decision has been made in Washington. No one knows anything for sure.

With that in mind, playing on uncertainty and looking for plus-money prices seems the prudent way to play the draft, along with our gambit that the offensive/defensive player split will be 21-11 in the first round. The idea is that you may not even have to win half your bets to turn a profit.

Draft order

1 Bears
2 Commanders
3 Patriots
4 Cardinals
5 Chargers
6 Giants
7 Titans
8 Falcons
9 Bears
10 Jets
11 Vikings
12 Broncos
13 Raiders
14 Saints
15 Colts

Best bets

First defensive player drafted: Laiatu Latu (+175)

We missed the best odds on Latu going off the board first among defenders, but there's still some value left. He's the favorite to go eighth to the Falcons. With no clear suitor for Dallas Turner, and rumors that Atlanta likes Latu more, we'll bet that the UCLA product is the first defender chosen.

To be a top 10 pick: JC Latham (+400)

Ten players are more likely to go in the top 10 than Latham, meaning just one needs to fall out for this bet to clash. With three teams needing to bolster their offensive line in the top 10, 4-to-1 odds make this worth a shot.

First cornerback drafted: Terrion Arnold (+100)

Two weeks ago, we discussed how Quinyon Mitchell might be a vulnerable favorite to be the first cornerback taken at -200. Sure enough, this market has tightened. It's now a two-horse race with Mitchell and Arnold both lined at 15.5 in their draft positional markets. Where there's smoke, there may be fire, so betting on Arnold's momentum to continue into Thursday night is the play.

Draft position: J.J. McCarthy - Over 5.5 (+105)

It wouldn't be unheard of for a team to trade up to take a quarterback in the top five, but doing so for the presumed fourth-best quarterback is. Mac Jones, Jordan Love, Justin Fields, and Will Levis all fell in their respective drafts as the fourth quarterback selected. The main presumption is that someone trades into the No. 5 slot to take McCarthy. The problem with that is two-fold.

The Vikings are the only team with an obvious need and the draft capital to make a deal, but there's no need to jump in front of the Giants, Titans, Falcons, Bears, and Jets at a high cost. Plus, McCarthy's production and measurables don't match those getting picked this high.

Draft position: Joe Alt - Over 7.5 (+260)

It seems like everyone assumes Alt is going to Tennessee at No. 7. What this bet presupposes is, "What if he doesn't?" There are so many offensive linemen on the board. Tennessee, desperate for a young playmaker, could always just take one of the high-end wide receiver prospects.

Draft position: Brock Bowers - Over 11.5 (+100)

Many have Bowers penciled in for the Jets at No. 10. However, New York needs to keep its 40-year-old quarterback upright this season, and the Jets are playing a dangerous game by relying on the health and effectiveness of a pair of 33-year-old tackles. Bowers could then slip through Minnesota, leaving Denver as the make-or-break team at No. 12. A tight end feels like a luxury the Broncos can't afford, making over 12.5 a bet worth searching out.

With a huge pool of players in a particular position, there might be a guy teams like more than the market's consensus candidate. That makes it much easier for a player like Bowers to slip than for bettors to pinpoint a player to go earlier than expected.

Matt Russell is the lead betting analyst for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on social media @mrussauthentic.

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