National Football League

2021 NFL Draft bets: Head-to-head matchups on who gets picked first

April 28

By Jason McIntyre
FOX Sports Betting Analyst

What’s more fun than digesting four hours of the first round of the NFL Draft?

Not much – but gambling on the NFL's premier offseason event will surely enhance the experience.

With that, FOX Bet is offering a few head-to-head matchups for the draft, and I'm here to select my best bets on who will be drafted first in each pairing.

Jaylen Waddle (-162) vs. Devonta Smith

The pick here has to be Waddle. I don’t like laying that kind of juice, but Waddle is a game-changer on special teams who averaged 44 yards per touchdown reception (of which he had 17). Look hard, and you can find video of Waddle racing Henry Ruggs (4.27 40, first-round pick in 2020) to a photo finish. The public will gravitate to Smith because he dominated the National Championship Game (12 catches, 215 yards, three TDs) and won the Heisman Trophy. 

PICK: Waddle (-162 at FOX Bet)

Christian Darrisaw vs. Alijah Vera-Tucker (+100)

When the offensive lineman run begins – probably around the 10th or 11th pick – these two will be firmly in the discussion for the third lineman picked. Slight lean to Vera-Tucker, who played guard for two seasons at USC, then left tackle for one. Darrisaw, who started 35 games at left tackle, had the longest arm length (34.5) of the highest-projected tackles. 

PICK: Vera-Tucker (+100 at FOX Bet)

Najee Harris (-250) vs. Travis Etienne

Harris might be the most complete back to come out of Alabama – yes, above Derrick Henry and Josh Jacobs. Harris and Etienne are both dual-threat backs, but they are different. Harris will run you over, and Etienne will run around you. You have to lay a lot on Harris to win money, so this isn’t a bet I would make. 

PICK: Harris (-250 at FOX Bet) or PASS

Kyle Trask (-133) vs. Kellen Mond

This is perhaps my most confident bet of this group. Trask barely started in high school but still got an offer from Florida because of accuracy and potential. Cerebral kid, tough kid, and there’s a scenario in which he goes in the second round. Mond, who started for four years and has been picked apart by anyone who follows the draft, feels like a late-round developmental pick. 

PICK: Trask (-133 at FOX Bet)

Azeez Ojulari (-150) vs. Christian Barmore

When given the choice between an edge rusher and an inside tackle, always go with edge rusher. It’s a much more valuable position in the NFL. Barmore comes from a long line of impressive interior lineman in Tuscaloosa, but he started only six games in his career. However, given that this draft is devoid of interior lineman, there’s a chance he is taken before Ojulari.

PICK: Ojulari (-150 at FOX Bet)

Caleb Farley (-200) vs. Greg Newsome

This is definitely a stay-away for me, given Farley's recent back surgery. Surely some teams will give a hard pass strictly on medicals and the fact that he hasn’t played a game in 17 months. Newsome is a fast riser, a guy not considered a first-rounder until recent weeks, when he tested off the charts. I’d take Farley here, only because on talent alone, he’s my No. 1 CB in this draft.

PICK: Farley (-200 at FOX Bet)

Kwity Paye vs. Jaelan Phillips (+100)

I’ve been higher than most on Paye as the best edge rusher in the draft, but Phillips tested off-the-charts at his pro day, and he has made it very close. Paye’s production was spotty – 16.5 sacks in the past 16 games – but Phillips’ leap from his early years at UCLA to what he did at Miami in 2020 (15.5 sacks in 10 games) makes this interesting. I can’t lay that much juice with Paye (-138), and the smart bet is to lean to the underdog.

PICK: Phillips (+100 at FOX Bet)

Davis Mills vs. Kellen Mond (+120)

Interesting pricing on Mills (-162), who was an elite recruit in high school but has had injuries to his knee and shoulder and didn’t progress at Stanford. He has been a late riser in the process, which doesn’t mean a ton because when it comes to the sixth- and seventh-best QBs in the draft, talking heads are throwing darts. I’d give a slight edge here to Mond, as it’s difficult to have conviction in anyone who has had four knee surgeries since high school, as Mills has.

PICK: Mond (+120 at FOX Bet)

Rashod Bateman (-150) vs. Kadarius Toney

Bateman was consistently in my mock drafts throughout the process, but Toney passed him over the past two months when he tested so well at his pro day. How do you weigh the production for Bateman – 19 TDs at Minnesota – vs. the potential of Toney, who can dominate in the slot but has some off-field questions that might raise red flags? The safe bet is Bateman. 

PICK: Bateman (-150 at FOX Bet)

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Jason McIntyre is a FOX Sports betting analyst, and he also writes about the NFL and NBA Draft. He joined FS1 in 2016 and has appeared on every show on the network. In 2017, McIntyre began producing gambling content on the NFL, college football and NBA for FOX Sports. He had a gambling podcast for FOX, "Coming Up Winners," in 2018 and 2019. Before arriving at FOX, he created the website The Big Lead, which he sold in 2010.

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