NFL Draft 2023 Preview: Five Potential First-Round Players with Betting Value

The NFL Draft is on Thursday night, and there are tons of betting markets available across the legal sports betting landscape. This article will focus on five players with plus money odds that have a chance to sneak into the first round of the draft.

NFL Draft First Round Sleepers to Bet On

Most of the teams in the NFL have fewer than 20 prospects with first-round grades this year. That means there will be a lot of disagreement among teams picking towards the end of the round on which players deserve to be in that area.

In this article, I’ll take a look at some of the players currently offered at plus money odds with a strong chance of sneaking into the first round. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which players you want to buy in on and bet to be selected on Thursday night.

Make sure to shop the odds for these players as they can vary significantly from sportsbook to sportsbook. For example, FanDuel is offering +750 odds on Josh Downs to go in the first round while DraftKings has him at +250.

For the purposes of this article, I used odds from FanDuel, but there are tons of shops out there so be sure to shop around before placing any wagers. Let’s get to work.

WR Jonathan Mingo, Ole Miss (+500)

ole Miss logo

The Jonathan Mingo buzz has reached a fever pitch over the past few weeks, and it’s not completely inconceivable that he could land in the first round. He benefits from being one of the few big receivers in a draft full of small, slot-only types. Mingo is 6’2”, 220 lbs and is built like a running back.

He breaks tackles like one too with 208 receiving yards after contact in 2022, which ranked sixth among Power Five receivers per PFF. Mingo tested extremely well at the combine with a 9.86 RAS and an 89th percentile score in the vertical jump (39 ½”) and broad jump (129”). He also has 10 ⅜” hands (96th percentile) which helps in contested situations.

Unfortunately, the production never lived up to expectations while at Ole Miss, and it’s difficult to pin down exactly why when you turn on the tape. He started three full seasons for the Rebels (played just six games in junior season due to a broken foot) but had just four career games over 100 yards.

Two of those 100-yard games came in 2022 against Vanderbilt and Central Arkansas, where he got 40.6% of his yardage for the season. Mingo is a late bloomer with a concerning lack of production, but Peter Schrager had him in the first round to the Saints, and it wouldn’t shock me if a team picking in the 20s took a swing on his traits.

TE Luke Musgrave, Oregon State (+650)

oregon state beavers

In almost any other tight end class, we’d be talking about Luke Musgrave as a surefire first-round prospect rather than a Thursday night sleeper. However, with Dalton Kincaid, Michael Mayer, Darnell Washington, and Sam LaPorta stealing headlines, Musgrave has become the forgotten man in a loaded tight end class.

However, it’s through no fault of his own as he has some impressive traits to build on. Musgrave has elite speed for the position as he reportedly broke 20 mph at the Senior Bowl and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds, which ranks in the 88th percentile. He also had a 125” broad jump (93rd percentile) and 36” vertical jump (82nd percentile).

Musgrave combines that natural athleticism with a massive 6’5 ⅞” frame that will make him a matchup nightmare in the NFL. Unfortunately for Musgrave, he simply hasn’t played a ton of football between the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season and a knee injury that cut his 2022 season short after just two games.

Still, it’s conceivable that Musgrave could become the best tight end from a historically great class. Daniel Jeremiah has Musgrave at #38 in his big board, and plenty of mocks have seen him taken late in the first. If the tight ends start to go off the board early (which is conceivable given the lack of top-end wide receiver talent), don’t be shocked if a team takes a chance on Musgrave late in the first round.

OT Cody Mauch, North Dakota State (+470)

North Dakota State Bison logo.svg

In 2022, we saw two offensive linemen from the FCS, Trevor Penning and Cole Strange, go off the board in the first round. Could Cody Mauch follow suit? Mauch is a fascinating player. A high school quarterback, Mauch arrived at North Dakota State as a 221 lb tight end with freaky athletic traits. He bulked up to 302 lbs and transitioned to offensive tackle while maintaining much of that athleticism.

Mauch tested with an elite 9.33 RAS and was in the 80th percentile or better for the 40-yard dash, 3-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle, and bench press. He needs to be a freaky athlete given his lack of length – he has a 78 ⅞” wingspan and 32 ⅜” arm length, both of which are in the fifth percentile per MockDraftable.

There are some issues here, to be sure. Mauch is already 24 years old, putting him further along in his developmental trajectory, and there will be questions about his “tweener” status. He lacks the length most teams look for in offensive tackles and a true anchor to play on the interior. Mauch also only has 16 career snaps on the interior.

Still, Mauch is a fascinating prospect who also scored a 29 on the Wonderlic test, which is tied for the highest among guard prospects in the 2023 draft. Keep an eye on the Eagles at pick #30 as they have the luxury to draft Mauch, let him develop behind their All Pro offensive line talent, and mold him into a high-upside starter.

LB Drew Sanders, Arkansas (+125)

arkansas razorbacks

For a long time, Noah Sewell and Trenton Simpson were seen as the top two linebackers in this year’s draft class, but the momentum surrounding Drew Sanders has only continued to grow over recent months. A former five-star prospect out of high school, Sanders played edge at Alabama before transferring to Arkansas and becoming an off-ball linebacker.

That experience at edge clearly helped Sanders a ton as his biggest impact for the Razorbacks was made as a pass-rusher. He racked up 63 tackles and 11 sacks last season and will be a great fit for an NFL team that asks its linebackers to fire downhill and make plays in the backfield.

Sanders can improve as a tackler as he had 22 missed tackles last season according to PFF, but he’s better in coverage than you’d expect for a former defensive end. Sanders earned a 77.8 coverage grade from PFF in 2022 that was third among SEC linebackers with at least 200 coverage snaps.

I was surprised to see Sanders’ first-round odds as short as +125 given the public perception, but I believe people still don’t realize how impactful he can be. The Jaguars, Giants, Cowboys, and Bills all pick in the 20s and could use an upgrade at linebacker.

CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia (+210)

georgia bulldogs

Around this time last year, when everyone was doing their “way too early” mock drafts, you would not have found Kelee Ringo outside of the top 15 picks. He had just helped deliver Georgia its first national championship since 1980 with a game-sealing pick six and had elite athletic traits to be excited about.

So what has happened since then? Ringo simply didn’t develop the way evaluators had hoped, and he still has issues that need to be ironed out. Ringo is very stiff at times in coverage and plays reactionary football rather than anticipatory – that’s why he allowed 13 catches of 15+ yards last season, the second-most among SEC cornerbacks.

However, the athletic profile is undeniable. Ringo has a big 6’2”, 210 lb frame and clocked an approximate speed of 23.5 mph during a pre-draft workout – for reference, the fastest clocked speed in an NFL game last season was 22.1 mph. He also ran the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds, which ranks in the 92nd percentile for the position.

Ringo has a lot of work to do, but he saw 137 targets over the last two years in a schematically diverse defense in the best conference in college football. With his impressive athletic attributes and steely demeanor, Ringo is a boom or bust cornerback with loads of upside if teams can figure out how to iron out the kinks. He’ll also be 20 years old on draft day, which makes him even more enticing in the first round.

I've been a huge sports fan for as long as I can remember and I've always loved writing. In 2020, I joined the Lineups team, and I've been producing written and video content on football and basketball ever since. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. My goal is to tell enthralling stories and provide meaningful insight on the sports I write about while helping you cash some bets along the way.

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