David Chan is a professional handicapper with Covers Experts. Click here to purchase his guaranteed picks.
As far as I’m concerned, the 2008 NFL season kicked off last weekend in New York City.
The NFL draft is arguably the most important aspect of the entire offseason. Teams aren’t made or broken on individual picks, but their collective choices often shape the direction of the franchise for years to come.
As a handicapper, I’m only interested in the here and now. How a team is going to fare three, four, or even five years down the road doesn’t concern me all that much. Does that make analyzing the Draft a waste of time? Not by a longshot.
Now is the time to start doing your homework. What teams added talent that can help them immediately? Who will be this year’s breakout rookies? Figuring that out can go a long way in helping you find value in NFL futures.
Here is a look at three teams that offer significant value in terms of 2008 season win totals.
Buffalo Bills: over 7.5 wins (-160)
I’m not alone in praising the Buffalo Bills for their savvy selections. But if their opening season win total offered is any indication, the oddsmakers aren’t on the same page.
With the 11th pick overall they selected Leodis McKelvin, a cornerback out of Troy. Considering how poorly the Bills secondary performed a year ago, particularly against upper-tier passing attacks, McKelvin will be a welcome addition. He has the speed, size, and talent to step in and make an immediate impact. Buffalo has been missing a big play corner since the departure of Nate Clements. McKelvin fits the bill, so to speak.
Knowing that their secondary was an area of concern, the Bills also drafted Reggie Corner out of Akron, and Kennard Cox from Pittsburgh. Corner was a fourth-rounder, while Cox went with their final pick in the seventh round, but I actually feel the latter will prove to be the better selection. Cox is a big hitter and can also help out against the run. Corner needs to add some size before he’s a solid contributor.
The Bills other main focus was at wide receiver, where they drafted a pair of possible studs in James Hardy (Indiana) and Steve Johnson (Kentucky). I say possible studs because there are plenty of question marks surrounding both players. Hardy could line up opposite Lee Evans as the team’s No. 2 option. He’s a big, athletic receiver that should be a good fit with second-year starting QB Trent Edwards.
Buffalo isn’t getting much love from oddsmakers, as they have them down for another seven to eight win season. I get the feeling that they could thrive in the top heavy AFC East. For that reason I’m looking to go over 7.5 wins, and hoping to get reduced juice at 8 at some point prior to the season kicking off.
Denver Broncos: over 7.5 wins (-145)
I haven’t come across many so-called experts praising the Denver Broncos for their draft, but I really like what they’ve done, filling plenty of holes with young talent.
Their most notable selection came in the first round when they opted for offensive tackle Ryan Clady out of Boise State. He wasn’t the top rated tackle on the board when they took him, but I like the move. Clady is an excellent fit in the Broncos' zone-blocking scheme. He has excellent size and speed, and most importantly, a ton of upside. With 11-year veteran Matt Lepsis retiring, Clady should have the opportunity to earn a starting job come September.
Eddie Royal, a wide receiver out of Virginia Tech, was a relatively quiet second-round choice for the Broncos. Considering his lack of size and questions regarding his stability, it’s hard to call him a steal at number 42.
What you have to realize is that Royal wasn’t selected for his ability as a wideout. He’ll likely be thrown into the fire as the Broncos' punt returner, an area where they need plenty of help. If you watched the Broncos at all last year, you probably saw at least one mistake from returner Glenn Martinez. He single-handedly cost me two bets, maybe more. Royal has good hands and speed to burn.
The other pick that jumped out at me was running back Ryan Torain in the fifth round. He’s exactly the type of back that Mike Shanahan loves: a guy that will run north-south and pick up plenty of yards after contact. Torain has also proven to be an excellent receiver out of the backfield, again fitting right into the Broncos' screen-heavy offensive scheme. Like Royal, there are questions surrounding Torain’s stability.
Denver isn’t short on depth at the running back position, but that doesn’t mean Torain won’t get a chance to shine. Remember, Andre Hall was buried in the depth chart before his number was called late in the 2007 season.
The Broncos fell out of favor with the betting public down the stretch last year, and for good reason as they finished with just seven wins. Oddsmakers are expecting better things from Denver in 2008 and I can’t help but agree. After a sneaky-good draft, this is a team headed back above the .500 mark.
Cincinnati Bengals: over 7 wins (-145)
With Chad Johnson’s departure inevitable, the Bengals aren’t going to get much love from bettors or oddsmakers. The books are pegging them for a 7-9 season, which happens to be identical to last year’s record. That’s fine with me, as I feel Johnson’s eventual trade, along with a solid draft will have the Bengals contending in the AFC North.
As far as the draft goes, the Bengals addressed their biggest need by taking a linebacker with their first selection. They also paved the way for Johnson’s exit by grabbing a diamond-in-the-rough wide receiver in the second round.
Keith Rivers was Cincinnati’s first pick, ninth overall. He may not have been the most talented linebacker in the draft, but he was probably the best all-around player and won’t cause any problems in the locker room.
That was an ongoing theme for the Bengals in this draft as they selected guys based more on character than anything else. Certainly not a bad thing considering some of the personnel issues they’ve faced in recent years.
With their second pick, the Bengals grabbed a relative unknown in wide receiver Jerome Simpson out of Coastal Carolina. He is a game breaker, and could prove to be the next Marques Colston, another receiver that rose from the ranks of a Division I-AA school to become a go-to guy in New Orleans.
Cincinnati didn’t stop there as it also plucked receivers Andre Caldwell (Florida) and Mario Urrutia (Louisville). Caldwell has blazing speed and is an excellent fit with the strong arm of Carson Palmer. Urrutia doesn’t have the speed, but could prove to be an excellent red-zone target with his 6’5”, 232-pound frame.
The Bengals had arguably the deepest draft of any team, selecting 10 players, but I wouldn’t suggest they’re in a rebuilding phase. After a disappointing 2007 season, there is a need for some fresh blood. This is a team that has plenty of room for improvement and unlike the betting majority; I’m high on them entering the 2008 season.
Obviously those weren’t the only three teams that got considerably better through the draft, but they are three that boast strong value when it comes to futures for the 2008 season. Shop around for your season win totals when they’re released at most major sportsbooks in the coming weeks. Best of luck, DC.