We're entering the final week of the NFL regular season, and I assure you it's not too early to look forward to the NFL draft. After Sunday, over half of the league will be eliminated and their eyes will surely quickly focus toward the offseason and the draft in particular.
The beauty of the NFL is that it's a year-round league. With the regular season ending, we look forward to the playoffs. Once those are over, we have the combine and free agency. Shortly after that, we get the draft and rookie camps. Then we get a few weeks of downtime before camp begins.
It's still early in the draft process. Over the coming months, it'll be the talk of the football world. What are the early odds telling us about this draft?
Which NFL team will pick first overall?
As we enter the final week of the regular season, the Jacksonville Jaguars hold the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft. This would be the second consecutive season the Jaguars hold the first pick. They selected Trevor Lawrence last season.
As long as the Jaguars lose in Week 18, they will maintain the first overall pick. The Jaguars are 15.5-point home underdogs against the Indianapolis Colts.
Should the Jaguars somehow win the game, the only other team in contention for the first overall pick is the Detroit Lions. If Detroit loses and Jacksonville wins, the Lions will pick first in this year's draft. The Lions are just 3.5-point underdogs against the Green Bay Packers as the market certainly expects to see a lot of Jordan Love.
Positional value of the draft
There's no doubt that when building a football roster, some positions are much more valuable than others. Positions like quarterback, edge rusher and offensive tackle make much more of an impact and influence success at a higher rate than positions like running back, middle linebacker or safety.
It's no surprise that over the past 20 years, every first overall pick has been either a quarterback, edge rusher or offensive tackle. Fifteen of those picks have been quarterbacks. We've seen three edge rushers go first overall and two offensive linemen be the first player off the board.
A quarterback has gone first overall in four straight seasons. Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence are the last four No. 1 picks. The last non-quarterback to go first overall was Myles Garrett in 2017.
However, a quarterback is not likely to be the first player taken in the draft this year. According to the betting odds, the top three players expected to be taken first overall in terms of odds are all non-quarterbacks.
With Jacksonville likely to land the first overall pick, they have no need for a quarterback assuming they haven't soured on Trevor Lawrence to a Josh Rosen-Arizona level. There's always the possibility that Jacksonville trades down and a team trades up to the No. 1 spot to get their quarterback. However, there's an issue there as well.
From all accounts, this is not a strong quarterback draft. There is no Trevor Lawrence or Joe Burrow. However, we've seen plenty of quarterbacks rise up the draft board late in the process in recent years. Baker Mayfield wasn't expected to be the first quarterback off the board in 2018. Mitch Trubisky came out of nowhere his draft year. Even last season, at this time, very few thought that Zach Wilson and Trey Lance would be drafted ahead of Justin Fields.
What do the odds say?
According to the odds, it's a two-horse race as to who will be the first player off the board in the 2022 draft. Those two players are Kayvon Thibodeaux from Oregon and Aidan Hutchinson from Michigan. Both are edge rushers.
Thibodeaux is the slight favorite to be the first player taken, with his odds currently sitting at -115. Hutchinson sits at +110 to be the first player drafted.
Thibodeaux was the higher graded prospect by most entering the season, and he had a very solid year. However, he dealt with some injuries and wasn't as productive as Hutchinson. Hutchinson also had the benefit of participating in many marquee games late in the season that boosted his profile.
Maybe you're not convinced the Jaguars will go pass rusher first overall. There's also a chance that the Jaguars could draft an offensive lineman to protect their investment in Trevor Lawrence. Evan Neal, a tackle from Alabama, is +800 to be the first player drafted.
If you'd like to take a shot on a team trading up for a quarterback, Kenny Pickett from Pittsburgh is the quarterback projected to be first off the board. Pickett currently sits at 12-to-1 to be the first overall pick. Other quarterbacks near the top of the leaderboard include Matt Corral from Ole Miss at 25-to-1 and Malik Willis from Liberty at 30-to-1.