Mel Kiper Jr and Todd McShay

  • Mock drafts tend to be less accurate as the first round goes on.
  • Draft experts often predict right position, but wrong player.
  • NFL Draft Odds have set Trevor Lawrence at -100000 to be the number 1 overall pick.

CLEVELAND – The NFL Draft is one of the most exciting times for many NFL fans. The 2021 NFL Draft starts on Thursday and surely everybody has been looking up mock drafts to see which prospect their favorite franchise might be selecting.
It’s incredibly tough to predict draft selections correctly and even the experts who spend hours upon hours watching film and talking to sources find it difficult to get more than a handful of exact picks correct.

The same can be said for NFL oddsmakers, but their selections tend to be consistent with reality.

How Accurate Are Experts Mock Drafts?

Arguably the two most well-known NFL Draft experts are Mel Kiper Jr and Todd McShay. These two are seen as the premier talents in terms of predicting the NFL Draft, but how accurate are they?

Looking at mock drafts from last year, the two were able to predict the top end of the draft pretty well, maybe not getting the exact player right, but usually being able to predict what position a team was going to take.

Aside from draft day trades, which are nearly impossible to predict, the experts were accurate in the early portion of the first round. However, the two were unable to correctly project the middle and end of the round.

Mel Kiper Jr First Round Predictions 1-10 11-20 21-32
Exact Player Correct: 4-10 1-10 1-12
Position Correct: 7-10 1-10 2-12


Todd McShay First Round Predictions 1-10 11-20 21-32
Exact Player Correct: 6-10 0-10 1-12
Position Correct: 7-10 1-10 2-12

How Accurate are Sportsbooks Odds?

Online sportsbooks  were slightly more accurate than the experts in predicting the outcome of the first round in 2020. While also more accurate on the top end, the sportsbooks shined in projecting the later picks in the round.
These projections were based off of prop bets of team position/player drafted as well as player O/U draft spot.

  • Example: Redskins to draft defense (-900), Chase Young draft position Under 2.5 (-875)

Sportsbooks First Round Predictions

Sportsbooks First Round Predictions 1-10 11-20 21-32
Exact Player Correct: 6-10 1-10 1-12
Position Correct: 8-10 3-10 5-12

Since the research shows that sportsbooks are more accurate than the draft experts in predicting the draft, let’s take a look at the 2021 NFL Draft first round based on sportsbooks’ odds. For the sake of this article, no draft day trades will be accounted for.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB, Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

  • First Overall Pick Odds: Lawrence (-100000)

Lawrence has been considered the number one pick in this draft since he was in high school. This one should be no surprise considering he’s viewed as a generational level of talent.

2. New York Jets: QB, Zach Wilson, BYU

  • Second Overall Pick Odds: Wilson (-4000)

Wilson has all but solidified himself as the No. 2 pick in the draft after his season at BYU. The Jets are projected to get their quarterback for the future.

3. San Francisco 49ers: QB, Mac Jones, Alabama

  • Third Overall Pick Odds: Jones (-200)

This pick is considered to be between Jones and Trey Lance with indications that Jones is the 49ers guy. These odds mirror the latest news reports.

4. Atlanta Falcons: TE, Kyle Pitts, Florida

  • Fourth Overall Pick Odds: Pitts (-200)

According to the odds, the first non-quarterback to be taken this year is Kyle Pitts. There are rumors a team could trade for this pick and grab another quarterback, but sportsbooks say otherwise.

5. Cincinnati Bengals: WR, Ja’Marr Chase, LSU

  • Chase Draft Position Odds: Under 5.5 (-175)
  • Team to Draft Chase Odds: Bengals (-165)

Sportsbooks indicate that Joe Burrow will get a new weapon as well as an old friend rather than some protection on the offensive line.

6. Miami Dolphins: WR, Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

  • Position of Dolphins First Pick: Wide Receiver (-200)
  • Team to Draft Waddle Odds: Dolphins (+400), the favorite

Just like the Bengals, the Dolphins are projected to get their young quarterback a pass-catching option with their first pick of the draft. And similarly, they will snag a player that comes from the same college team as their QB.

7. Detroit Lions: WR, DeVonta Smith, Alabama

  • Position of Lions First Pick: Wide Receiver (EVEN)

The last of the “big three” wide receivers is projected to go to Detroit to give their new quarterback, Jared Goff, some extra help on the outside and replace some lost pieces. There are rumors of Detroit trading back where a team might come grab a player like Trey Lance (Lance Draft Position O/U 6.5).

8. Carolina Panthers: OL, Penei Sewell, Oregon

  • Position of Panthers First Pick: Offensive Lineman (-130)
  • First Offensive Lineman Drafted Odds: Sewell (-550)

If Cincinnati decides to take Sewell, this opens the floodgates for some picks with high odds. However, betting odds indicate this is the most likely destination for Sewell.

9. Denver Broncos: QB, Justin Fields, Ohio State

  • Position of Broncos First Pick: Quarterback (-130)
  • Team to Draft Fields: Broncos (+500), favorite among remaining teams

The Broncos are slated to move on from Drew Lock and get a different quarterback for the future. This is one of the popular picks rumored to be traded, but again, trades aren’t accounted for in this mock.

10. Dallas Cowboys: CB, Patrick Surtain II, Alabama

  • Position of Cowboys First Pick: Cornerback (-250)
  • First Defensive Player Drafted: Surtain (-140)
  • Surtain II Draft Position Odds: Under 10.5 (-175)

All signs point towards Surtain II being the first defensive player off the board. The Cowboys had one of the worst defenses in recent memory last year and drafting a lockdown corner would surely help improve the defense.

11. New York Giants: LB, Micah Parsons, Penn State

  • First Linebacker Drafted: Parsons (-400)
  • Parsons Draft Position Odds: Under 14.5 (-155)

The Giants are favored to take a wide receiver with this pick, but with the top names off the board, drafting a linebacker has the next shortest odds for the team at +300.

12. Philadelphia Eagles: CB, Jaycee Horn, South Carolina

  • Position of Eagles First Pick: Cornerback (+150)
  • Jaycee Horn Draft Position Odds: Under 12.5 (-160)

Horn fills a glaring need for the Eagles and brings the upside the team may be looking for. If Horn is available, the betting odds suggest he will be the Eagles pick.

13. Los Angeles Chargers: OL, Rashawn Slater, Northwestern

  • Position of Chargers First Pick: Offensive Lineman (-175)

Protecting your young franchise quarterback is never a bad idea, and odds point towards the Chargers getting Justin Herbert a quality lineman.

14. Minnesota Vikings: OL, Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech

  • Darrisaw Draft Position Odds: Under 15.5 (-130)
  • Position of Vikings First Drafted Player: Offensive Lineman (+120), the favorite

The Vikings would love to get Slater with this pick, but with him being taken already, Darrisaw makes sense at this spot.

15. New England Patriots: QB, Trey Lance, North Dakota State

  • Position of Patriots First Drafted Player: Quarterback (+150), the favorite

In all likelihood, Lance will not be available at No. 15. A team would probably trade up and get Lance inside of the top 10, but for the sake of this article he falls to the Patriots.

16. Arizona Cardinals: CB, Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech

  • Position of Cardinals First Drafted Player: Cornerback (+120), the favorite
  • Farley Draft Position Odds: Under 23.5 (-140)

The Cardinals will need help replacing Patrick Peterson in the secondary. Despite the injury concerns, Farley’s talent and upside should keep him in the mid-first round.

17. Las Vegas Raiders: OL, Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC

  • Vera-Tucker Draft Position Odds: Over 15.5 (-130)
  • Position of Raiders First Drafted Player: Offensive Lineman (+180), the favorite

The Raiders are favored to draft an offensive lineman, Vera-Tucker may already be drafted at this point, but he would be a great get for Jon Gruden.

18. Miami Dolphins: DE, Jaelan Phillips, Miami

  • First Defensive Lineman Drafted: Phillips (-130)
  • Phillips Draft Position Odds: Under 21.5 (-300)

Miami could use a pass rusher, and they might be able to grab Phillips with the No. 18 pick. The edge-rusher pool is relatively thin this year, but Phillips might be drafted by a team in a familiar area.

19. Washington Football Team: OL, Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State

  • Jenkins Draft Position Odds: Under 24.5 (-145)
  • Position of Football Team First Drafted Player: Offensive Lineman (+140), the favorite

Another offensive lineman goes off the board, this time to Washington. Jenkins could be the last offensive lineman taken in the first round.

20. Chicago Bears: WR, Rashod Bateman, Minnesota

  • Position of Bears First Drafted Player: Wide Receiver (+275)
  • Bateman Draft Position Odds: Under 27.5 (-120)

The Bears are projected to take an offensive lineman in this spot, but without a lineman worth taking this high, wide receiver becomes the next most likely pick.

21. Indianapolis Colts: DE, Kwity Paye, Michigan

  • Paye Draft Position Odds: Over 16.5 (-130)
  • First Defensive Player Drafted: Paye (+130)

The Colts are favored to select an offensive lineman with this pick, but like the Bears, there’s no lineman worth taking this early. Paye has the second-best odds to be the first defensive lineman selected. Indianapolis is also listed as most likely to select a defensive lineman if not an offensive lineman.

This is about where the experts and sportsbooks start to guess and is where the real money can be made. For example, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who pick at No. 32) are favored to take a defensive lineman. Those favored odds are set at +200, showing that even  legal sports betting sites don’t have full confidence in their pick.

Those that want to watch their NFL Draft bets hit in real time can tune into ABC, ESPN, ESPN Deportes, or NFL Network on Thursday, April 29 at 8 p.m. EST.

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