Who Goes No. 1 Overall in 2021 NFL Draft?

The 2021 NFL Draft is nearly a full year away, but it's never too early to look ahead. Who are the most likely candidates to go No. 1 overall?
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The 2020 NFL Draft is officially in the books and it didn’t take the oddsmakers long to post the odds for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 Draft. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow was the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft after a record-setting season in which he ended up with a Heisman Trophy and a national championship.

At first glance, we see that the sportsbooks have Clemson’s star quarterback Trevor Lawrence sitting atop the betting market as a prohibitive favorite at odds of -305. This is hardly the “easy money” you might think it is.

Odds courtesy of FanDuel

Odds courtesy of FanDuel

History tells us that quarterbacks typically have an advantage over other positions when it comes to being the top overall draft pick. After the Bengals selected Burrow, 15 quarterbacks have now been selected No. 1 overall in the NFL draft dating back to 2000. Myles Garrett (2017, Browns), Jadeveon Clowney (2014, Texans), Mario Williams (2006, Texans) and Courtney Brown (2000, Browns) are the only defensive players to earn the distinguished honor in that span. On the offensive side of the ball, Eric Fisher (2013, Chiefs) and Jake Long (2008, Dolphins) are the only non-quarterback players to get the call.

Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (-305): Lawrence has led the Clemson Tigers to the National Championship game in each of his first two seasons and is listed as the Heisman Trophy co-favorite with Ohio State QB Justin Fields. Lawrence is widely regarded as one of the best quarterback prospects in the past decade after shining once again in 2019 by throwing for 3,665 yards and 36 touchdowns while rushing for 563 yards and nine touchdowns.

Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State (3/1): Fields has only one year of starting stats under his belt after transferring to Ohio State and starting in 2019. Fields originally enrolled at Georgia but was unable to wrestle the starting signal caller job from Jake Fromm, who was just drafted by the Buffalo Bills this year. Last season, he led the Buckeyes to a 13-1 record in his first full-time role as a starter and shined throwing for 3,273 yards and 41 touchdowns while adding 484 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.

Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon (4/1): If the franchise that is awarded the No. 1 overall pick is already set at quarterback they could set their sights on the best offensive prospect in the 2021 draft class. The Oregon offensive tackle was a unanimous All-American as a sophomore and plays one of the most demanding positions in the NFL, protecting the quarterback's blind side. The 2020 Outland Trophy winner has only allowed one sack in his two seasons as a member of the Ducks.

D’Eriq King, QB, Miami (16/1): King enters the 2020 season on a 15-game FBS record streak of scoring at least one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown. For his career, King has thrown for 4,925 yards with 50 touchdowns. He's also rushed for 1,421 yards and 28 touchdowns. King began his college career as a wide receiver at the University of Houston where he caught 59 passes for 504 yards and three touchdowns. After earning the starting quarterback role in 2018, King threw 36 touchdowns while adding 14 scores on the ground in just 11 games before seeing his season cut short with a knee injury.

Take Note: Micah Parsons (25/1) of Penn State checks in as the first defensive player on the board, with Clemson’s Travis Etienne (50/1) listed as the first running back.

The Play: There is value on Fields (3/1), Sewell (4/1) and Parsons (25/1) as opposed to laying exhorbitant juice on Lawrence. If you prefer Lawrence, my advice is to pivot and grab his plus-odds in the 2021 Heisman Trophy market or on the Tigers also at plus-odds in the College Football Championship market. If Washington, Carolina or Miami earns the top overall pick in next year’s draft, there is a strong chance that, if a trade can not be worked out, they could easily look to select Sewell No. 1 overall. This market is way too volatile due to potential injuries and the possibility that many of these players decide to return to school for another year of progression if the 2020 season does not go the way they envision. Due to so many unknowns, this market is a pass for me at this point in time.

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