The NFL draft is barely a week in the rearview mirror and is about the furthest thing away on annual sports calendars from happening again, so naturally we’re talking now about … the NFL draft?
Yes, I’ve largely ignored all the 2021 draft projections. But now more than ever, anything with a local angle and on-field focus tends to catch my eye.
So here’s something: The site Foxbet.com created a prop bet with odds on the most likely No. 1 overall pick in 2021. The clear favorite, of course, is Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
But 30 players are listed in all. And down toward the long shots, you’ll find a very familiar name: Gophers wide receiver Rashod Bateman, at 100 to 1 odds.
Wait, you might be thinking. Didn’t Tyler Johnson, the Gophers’ other star receiver in 2019, just get drafted in the fifth round? What gives?
Well, Bateman has the size (6-2, 200-plus pounds), hands and big-play ability to attract more NFL chatter (even though I think Johnson was a steal for Tampa Bay and will be a very good pro).
He’s been termed a “dark horse” to be the first receiver taken next year and has shown up as a possible first-round selection on some of those “way-too-early” 2021 mock drafts I’ve been trying to avoid.
Even so, having him in the mix as a No. 1 overall pick is pretty far-fetched. Only three WRs have been the No. 1 pick in NFL history, and the most recent was 1996 (Keyshawn Johnson).
In nine of the last 12 drafts, a quarterback has been the No. 1 overall pick. Lawrence could make it 10 out of 13. Or if you maybe want a different Gophers player who could, theoretically, edge into that top spot, consider QB Tanner Morgan.
He was dynamite in 2019 and he shows up at 33 to 1 odds (again per Foxbet) to be the first QB taken in the 2021 draft. Only nine other QBs have shorter odds.
Maybe the biggest takeaway in all of this: If Morgan and Bateman have excellent seasons — a big if, since there’s hardly a guarantee there will be a college football season — both of them could play their way into being first-round picks.
The last time the Gophers had one first-round pick? Laurence Maroney in 2006. The last time they had at least two first-round picks? 1950.