football-player football-score football-helmet football-ball Accuracy Arm-Strength Balance Ball-Security Ball-Skills Big-Play-Ability Block-Deconstruction Competitive-Toughness Core-Functional-Strength Decision-Making Discipline Durability Effort-Motor Elusivness Explosiveness Football-IQ Footwork Functional-Athleticism Hand-Counters Hand-Power Hand-Technique Hands Lateral-Mobility Leadership Length Mechanics Mobility Pass-Coverage-Ability Pass-Protection Pass-Sets Passing-Down-Skills Pocket-Manipulation Poise Power-at-POA Progressions RAC-Ability Range Release-Package Release Route-Running Run-Defending Separation Special-Teams-Ability-1 Versatility Vision Zone-Coverage-Skills Anchor-Ability Contact-Balance Man-Coverage-Skills Tackling Lifted Logic Web Design in Kansas City clock location phone email play chevron-down chevron-left chevron-right chevron-up facebook tiktok checkbox checkbox-checked radio radio-selected instagram google plus pinterest twitter youtube send linkedin search arrow-circle bell left-arrow right-arrow tdn-mark filled-play-circle yellow-arrow-circle dark-arrow-circle star cloudy snowy rainy sunny plus minus triangle-down link close drag minus-circle plus-circle pencil premium trash lock simple-trash simple-pencil eye cart
NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Props: Who’s First RB Taken?

  • The Draft Network
  • April 12, 2021
  • Share

Aside from deciphering who a given team’s quarterback of choice is, the most contentious draft debate every year is about when and where running backs should be selected. Calling the position “devalued” is already cliche, but the fact of the matter is there’s a widely held belief that impact running backs can be found throughout the draft. While that is true to an extent, it often ignores the plethora of bust backs that are also selected in the middle-to-late rounds.

Recent history tells us that teams are hesitant to invest their most highly valued piece of draft capital in a rusher. Only one running back has gone in the first round in each of the last two drafts. Only 10 running backs have been selected on night one dating back to 2013.

So how will the fate of the 2021 class of running backs play out on April 29? How many running backs will go on night one, and who will be the first one off the board?

Let’s start with the former. Here are the BetOnline odds for number of running backs selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft:

  • Over 0.5 (-250)
  • Under 0.5 (+170)

While it’s not out of the question that no running back gets taken on the first night of the draft—that’s the scenario that plays out in Trevor Sikkema’s latest mock—the odds and prevailing sentiment is that at least one if not two backs will be selected. The most likely landing spots are the Arizona Cardinals (No. 16), Miami Dolphins (No. 18), New York Jets (No. 23), Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 24), and Buffalo Bills (No. 30). It’s hard to imagine all five of those teams passing on the top three running backs in the class.

Best Bet: Over 0.5 (-250)

Speaking of the top three running backs, the bet on which one of them is first off the board is a far more intriguing wager. Here are the betting options:

  • Najee Harris (-175)
  • Travis Etienne (+180)
  • Javonte Williams (+500)

Harris has been the odds-on favorite for months now, surpassing the preseason favorite, Etienne. Harris’ sensational final season in Tuscaloosa resulted in nearly 1,900 yards from scrimmage and 30 total touchdowns. A four-year player at Alabama, Harris improved as an all-around back in 2020, pairing receiving skills with his powerful rushing ability. 

Explosive, shifty, big-play… those are the most used adjectives placed before the word “running back” when analysts describe Etienne. The former Clemson Tiger spent his last two collegiate seasons improving as a pass-catcher, adding another game-breaking element to his repertoire. The only major question mark is whether his pass-blocking issues will give playoff-caliber teams in need of an instant starter pause in the back half of Round 1.

The wild card here is Williams, who is the consensus RB3 for TDN and most draft analysts. Williams is powerful but quick with tremendous balance—he’s been a fast riser all year in the draft process. He more than holds his own as both a receiver and pass-blocker, which should afford him an instant opportunity to contribute in the NFL.

For my money, the value on Harris is too low to wager on. Scouts are fairly split on him as the RB1 anyway, and as we often see, the player labeled as the RB1 doesn’t always go first—especially when that player is projected to go in the back half of the first round. Etienne is intriguing, but feels like a fit for only Arizona (the least likely team of the aforementioned five to take a running back) and Buffalo. Williams, on the other team, would be a fit anywhere and offers the most bang for your buck at 5/1. 

Last year, I pounded the table for Clyde Edwards-Helaire as a longshot to be the first running back taken. This year, I’ll take that same shot on Williams.

Best Bet: Javonte Williams (+500)

What about Harris himself? Regardless of whether he's the first running back off the board or not, will he be a first-round pick? Here is the over/under for his draft position:

  • Over 32.5 (+135)
  • Under 32.5 (-175)

As you can see, the odds for the under are equal to Harris being the first running back off the board. So unless you believe two running backs are going in the top 32, there's no reason to wager on this prop instead of the previous one.

Click here to wager on this bet or other NFL Draft props at BetOnline.

Filed In

Related Articles

Written By

The Draft Network