2022 NFL Draft: Odds, contenders and best bets to be the first running back drafted

Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III makes a catch against Michigan. Syndication Detroit Free Press
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Caleb Wilfinger

NFL· 3 weeks ago

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Deputy Editor for Pickswise. Lover of all US sports and Southampton FC.

The NFL Draft is just 9 days away. Heading into it, the running back position is weaker than it’s been in recent years. While the position is not as coveted in the draft nowadays, there is value to be had on the board without a clear superstar.

With the draft rapidly approaching, it’s time to break down how the running back position could play out. Let’s take a look at the odds and best bets to be the first RB selected.

Odds to be the first running back drafted

Odds available with FanDuel Sportsbook at time of publishing.

Breece Hall -250
Kenneth Walker +280
Isaiah Spiller +1500
James Cook +3000
Kyren Williams +3500

First running back drafted prediction: Kenneth Walker (+280)

Former Iowa State running back Breece Hall is the favorite to be drafted first among RBs at -250, but where is the value in that? Despite crushing the NFL combine, Hall is still not projected to be a top 20 pick next Thursday. As we have seen in recent drafts, it’s hard to project where teams value certain players more than others. At a volatile position like running back, there are examples were projections don’t line up with the results. After all, Clyde Edwards-Helaire was drafted over Jonathan Taylor in 2020.

Kenneth Walker was a star at Michigan State in 2021, rushing for 18 touchdowns and more than 1,600 yards en route to taking home the Doak Walker Award last December. If Hall ends up falling into the 2nd round, there is a chance that a team with solid perimeter options chooses the best “pure runner” in the draft to bolster its rushing attack. At nearly 3/1 odds, we’ll take a shot with Walker.

Check out our wide receiver first pick preview

First running back drafted longshot: James Cook (+3000)

While Hall or Walker are the most likely to be the first two running backs drafted, James Cook may provide the best value on the board at a robust price of 30/1. A former Georgia Bulldog, Cook is an excellent pass-catcher out of the backfield and provides a similar role to that of James Robinson. After running a 4.42 40-yard dash and scoring well at the combine, there is a decent chance that Cook could be selected higher than expected.

With this running back class, it’s conceivable that a front office may fall in love with Cook on Day 2 of the proceedings. If Hall and Walker drop down the board for whatever reason, Cook could quickly rise through the ranks to be taken by a contending team. Taking a stab at this price is worth a look.

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Pickswise is the home of NFL Picks. Be sure to check out all of our post-Super Bowl offseason coverage as we gear up for the 2022 campaign.

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