This article is part of our NFL Draft series.
Here are some DraftKings NFL Draft bets that interest me. I can't claim to have any inside knowledge and could very well be wrong, but I'll try my best to explain the thinking.
FIRST RUNNING BACK DRAFTED: Travis Etienne, Clemson (+150)
Update: I might not have posted this Etienne bet had this article from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Gerry Dulac been published beforehand. Dulac says plainly that the Steelers will likely take a running back in the first round, and if not the first round then certainly the second. As much as I still stand by the reasoning written below – that to most teams Etienne makes more sense than Harris – the Steelers are probably one of the few cases where Harris is justifiable over Etienne in theory. I don't think it's a good pick, but in theory it might be since Dulac states that the Steelers are specifically looking for someone who can take a big workload. Or at least, they already have a speed back prospect in Anthony McFarland, and their Big Back option otherwise (Kalen Ballage) is not actually an option at all.
Harris strikes me as a more reasonable bet than Williams, who is the clearest fade to me of these three. Williams was supposed to be a bigger runner than Etienne, theoretically giving him more workhorse upside than Etienne, but Williams weighed in at 212 pounds rather than his previously listed 220, and even at the lighter weight he ran a 4.58 40. Etienne weighed in at 215 and posted 40 times at or under 4.45. So Williams is smaller than Etienne and around 0.15 seconds slower in the 40.
Harris, meanwhile, appears unlikely to do any athletic testing before the draft. At 6-2, 230 Harris has a well-rounded skill set, but athletically he's more similar to Ryan Nall than the flattering comparisons often offered by Harris' biggest proponents. If Harris' proponents need to compare him to Matt Forte and Steven Jackson then they're only confirming that they're confused about all three players. Forte ran a 4.44 40 at 6-2, 217, and Jackson ran a 4.55 at 6-2, 241. Harris may very well be good, but he is not similar to the much faster Forte or the bigger/faster Jackson.
The reason Etienne is my pick here is because I think he and Harris should have even odds, so if Etienne has more favorable odds than Harris then it strikes me as an inefficiency. Harris can't match Etienne's per-play production either as a runner or receiver, so for a team to value Harris above Etienne would almost need to be on the basis of size, which is usually in relation to workload projection. So for Harris to safely go ahead of Etienne, I think it would require a team to write off Etienne on the assumption that Etienne couldn't handle the workload they have in mind. Given the cheapness and ready availability of running back talent these days, it strikes me as odd that a team would specifically identify Harris as the only capable candidate to handle their remaining workload. You can find replacement-level running back snaps easily, but it's difficult to find a runner half as explosive as Etienne. Here's what I consider the big picture with Etienne:
Someone might reasonably name C.J. Spiller as a cause for concern with Etienne – both were dominant speed backs at Clemson – but (A) Spiller's failure in the NFL was at least partially due to injury, (B) Etienne at a listed 5-10, 205 has a meaningfully different frame than Spiller's 5-11, 194 and (C) Etienne's production was magnitudes better than what Spiller posted at Clemson. Spiller ran for 3,547 yards (5.9 YPC) and 32 touchdowns in four years, whereas Etienne ran for 4,952 yards (7.2 YPC) and 70 touchdowns. That's ridiculous, and Etienne's NFL pass-catching projection is strong too.
FIRST DEFENSIVE LINEMAN DRAFTED: Christian Barmore (+800)
Barmore is listed here behind Kwity Paye (-200) and Jaelan Phillips (+200). Both Paye and Phillips are interesting, but Phillips has major injury concerns and Paye is not especially unique for his otherwise notable athleticism as an edge defender. Paye's production and athletic traits mostly just blend in with those of fellow edge prospects like Joseph Ossai, Azeez Ojulari and Jayson Oweh. Barmore, by contrast, has no real competition for the DT1 distinction. Speaking of Oweh, he's my second-favorite DL bet at +1400.
FIRST NON-QB DRAFTED: Ja'Marr Chase (+220)
Chase is listed here behind only Kyle Pitts (+125). Pitts is a total beast, but Chase is likely going to Cincinnati at five, so Pitts needs to go to Atlanta at four for Chase to miss this bet. Pitts could very well go to Atlanta at four, but I think they're going to take either Trey Lance or Justin Fields. New coach Arthur Smith hasn't used a tight end like Pitts in the past and generally looks for blockers at the position. It's hard to see how he could make the most of Pitts, especially when selecting Pitts takes Atlanta out of realistic range for a franchise quarterback prospect for the indefinite future.
It's true that Matt Ryan's contract restructure all but makes him the certain starter for Atlanta in 2021, but in 2022 the Falcons can cut or trade him comfortably as long as they find a backup for cheaper than $8 million. Whether the Falcons act on that ability probably comes down to whether they have a viable alternative, and if they don't take Lance or Fields with this pick then they might as well give Ryan another contract extension right now.