March Madness, MLB’s Opening Day and The Masters are on the horizon. Those marquee events will be quickly followed by the start of the NBA and NHL playoffs.
Alas, the NFL continues to rule the sports — and betting — calendar. And it does so 24/7/365.
So even though we’re 10 days clear of Super Bowl 57, NFL betting markets are once again percolating as the league’s next big wagering event draws near: the 2023 NFL draft, which will be held in Kansas City, home of the reigning champion Chiefs.
When the NFL Scouting Combine wraps up March 6 in Indianapolis, we’ll be inside of two months until the Chicago Bears — who currently hold the top pick in the 2023 draft — will officially be on the clock.
Which player are the Bears — or, more likely, a trading partner — going to select with that No. 1 pick come April 27? Oddsmakers are confident it will be a recent Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback.
Here’s an early look at NFL draft betting odds and action.
Odds updated as of 4 p.m. ET on Feb. 22.
Get your BetMGM promo code
Read about the Best NFL Betting Sites
New to NFL wagering? Check out our NFL Betting Tips
NFL draft: No. 1 pick odds
When the Houston Texans inexplicably rallied for a 32-31 victory at Indianapolis in Week 18 — a result punctuated with a successful 2-point conversion — they relinquished the No. 1 pick to the Chicago Bears.
In so doing, the Texans promptly sparked a bidding war, with Chicago general manager Ryan Poles effectively serving as the auctioneer. Because even though the Bears own the No. 1 pick for the first time since 1947, few expect them to use it.
The reason: Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud — two talented quarterbacks who declared for the draft after two seasons as their team’s starter — have been pegged as this year’s top prospects.
However, Chicago already has its franchise quarterback — at least in theory. In 2021, the team traded up in the first round to get Justin Fields (who preceded Stroud at Ohio State).
Assuming the Bears are happy with Fields’ progression through two years — and they seem to be — they’re going to entertain offers for the No. 1 pick from quarterback-desperate teams down the draft board.
The GM who puts together the sweetest package will leap-frog Chicago (and every other team) and — if you believe the draft pundits and oddsmakers — nab either Young or Stroud.
In all, four quarterbacks are among the five players with the shortest odds to go No. 1. The other two passers are Florida’s Anthony Richardson (+700 at BetMGM; +750 at FanDuel) and Kentucky’s Will Levis (+800 at BetMGM; +850 at FanDuel).
The only non-QB in the top five: Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, who is sandwiched right between the four quarterbacks at BetMGM (+600) and FanDuel (+700).
» READ MORE: Where do the Eagles stand in 2024 Super Bowl odds?
NFL draft: A tradition unlike any other
If any of the top five favorites is the first to hear his name called on the opening night of the NFL draft, this streak will continue: A quarterback or pass rusher has been the No. 1 pick in nine straight drafts dating to 2014. That’s when the Texans used the first pick on sack specialist Jadeveon Clowney.
In fact, since Penn State running back Ki-Jana Carter was selected first in 1995, the No. 1 pick has come from just three position groups: quarterback (18), defensive end (5) and left tackle (3).
The tackle with the shortest odds in this year’s draft? It depends on the sportsbook. BetMGM has Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski sitting eighth on its No. 1 pick oddsboard at +10000 (or 100-to-1).
However, Skoronski is tied with Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. at FanDuel (both at +15000).
FanDuel is also offering an NFL draft market on which wide receiver will be the first to get drafted. Quentin Johnston tops that list at +150, followed by TCU’s Jordan Addison (+230), Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba (+430) and Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt (+470).
All four receivers are tied for 12th at FanDuel in odds to be drafted first — each checks in at +20000 (200-to-1).
BetMGM has the same quartet at +15000 odds to go No. 1.
NFL draft: Tracking the action
General managers are known to be salivating over Young, the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner who put up huge numbers in his two years at Alabama.
However, BetMGM customers are drooling over Kentucky’s Levis, who has attracted the most betting action at the sportsbook.
As of Monday, 22.2% of all bets and 34.6% of all money at BetMGM was on Levis to be taken No. 1. Young was second in both tickets (15.9%) and handle (22.9%).
Following Young in ticket count are Carter (14.5%), Richardson (13.0%), Alabama pass rusher Will Anderson (12.6%) and Stroud (9.7%).
In terms of dollars wagered, Richardson (13.4%), Carter (9.2%), Stroud (7.2%) and Anderson (6.4%) round out the top six behind Levis and Young.
Of course, with more than two months to go before NFL commissioner Roger Goodell takes his first steps to the podium in Kansas City, NFL draft odds and action are certain to change.
That said, barring something stunning, it’s a near certainty that a quarterback will go No. 1 overall for the 19th time in the last 26 years.
Yes, even if the Bears hang on to their pick.
The Inquirer is not an online gambling operator, or a gambling site. We provide this information about sports betting for entertainment purposes only.