DK Director: NFL Draft Betting Volume Close to Regular Season Game

Sportsbooks and gamblers ride an NFL Draft see-saw. Gamblers seek an edge provided by their data.

Books conversely seek a monkey wrench, the surprise early pick throwing the rest of the draft out of order. This shields them from paying out a string of successive picks, some against large money.

Both sides take turns riding high after the draft unfolds tonight at 8 p.m. ET. Although the entire seven-round event runs through Sunday, most of the action and focus for NFL Draft odds is on Round 1 tonight.

Will Another Big Surprise Happen in the NFL Draft First Round?

Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations at DraftKings, told Gaming Today he likes the quarterback class. Many in this select group will go early and set up the rest of the drama.

“The No. 1 pick in this draft is a no-brainer, and No. 2 probably is a no-brainer,” Avello said regarding Caleb Williams to the Chicago Bears and Jayden Daniels being taken by the Washington Commanders.

“The Williams selection (-20000, or 200-1) can’t hurt us; we’ve had that figured for probably a year. It gets more interesting after that because you don’t know everything these teams think, and there could be a surprise. That’s what saved us last year.”

The big move happened right at the top of the draft.

Gamblers expected the Houston Texans to draft C.J. Stroud second, which they did.

But they could not anticipate Houston trading four future draft picks to move up and grab the third selection. Houston made the most of that by taking the ultimate defensive rookie of the year, Will Anderson.

Stroud and Anderson made the rejuvenated Texans one of the league’s most exciting stories. Houston made the postseason and even won a playoff game over the Cleveland Browns.

Draft-night gamblers, however, took a sack. Numerous individual pick selections and a parlay of the top three picks became losses.

Bookmakers were relieved with the audible.

“When Anderson went third, now all of a sudden, the draft order wasn’t what everybody thought, and that changed the entire direction of it,” Avello noted. “That put us in a very good position.”

Ah, the deals between GMs. It’s a true art that gamblers can’t anticipate. Some moves also go on to dramatically impact the following seasons.

A significant recent example was the Philadelphia Eagles teaming with the Dallas Cowboys to leap-frog the New York Giants and take DeVonta Smith in 2021. DraftKings data showed bettors expecting the Giants to take Smith. Nobody saw this coming, as it happened just before the Cowboys drafted.

The betting impact was one thing. How it changed both teams was another.

Smith has helped the Eagles reach a Super Bowl, and Kadarius Toney, whom the Giants took instead, is already gone. He has gained two Super Bowl rings with the Kansas City Chiefs as a role player while the Giants still lack a potent deep threat.

More Draft Coverage: Second Overall Pick Odds | Fourth Overall Pick Odds | Fifth Overall Pick Odds

How the NFL Draft Mimicks Regular Season Betting

Avello said the draft handle rivals a lower-level regular-season game. He credits the NFL’s slick marketing campaign to create a made-for-TV betting event.

“None of the other drafts can even hold a candle to this,” he asserted. “The NFL is the best by far. They market themselves better, put the event in different cities, and draw big crowds to it. Fans are more passionate about their football team than anything else, so if one of their favorite players is announcing the next round, you turn it into a real show.”

The pacing of that show is friendly to the books. There are 10 minutes between selections, and the books stay one selection ahead. Once the first pick is announced, bettors will likely see the third pick put up for more betting. That would give gamblers 10 more minutes for their second-round pick and 20 for the third.

Avello said the timing is perfect, allowing books to post their selections and bettors to adjust if needed.

Favorite NFL Draft Betting Props

An increasingly popular selection is the over-under for when a player is drafted.

This was important in 2021 when offensive lineman Penei Sewell had an over-under for 5 5 selections. He was expected to be taken fifth by the Cincinnati Bengals to protect Joe Burrow, who had been lost the previous season because of poor protection.

Suddenly, on draft night, the buzz became that Ja’Marr Chase might leapfrog him. Why? Burrow had asked for Chase, his receiver at LSU. So, Chase went fifth, and Sewell went seventh to the Detroit Lions.

Both teams won. The Bengals have prospered with Chase, even reaching the Super Bowl. Now a playoff team, the Lions signed Sewell to a four-year, $112 million contract extension Wednesday.

One of Avello’s favorite draft areas is the selection of the player position each team will take in the opening round. It’s more of a pinpointed gambling decision.  There are only a few options, and the gamblers have heard varied opinions.

“Let’s say you are a New York fan, and you read in the papers that the Jets need an offensive lineman or tight end,” he said. “That’s also what the handicappers say, that’s what the team says, etc. You form an opinion and then go to the board to see if you like the price.

“Or you can look at the case of the New York Giants. You might figure from all the attention in that media capital that they need a wide receiver and a quarterback. It may be a long shot that they take a quarterback in the first round this year, but you also know that Daniel Jones hasn’t panned out.

“They need a quarterback either this year or next, and I don’t think Drew Lock (whom the Giants picked up in the off-season) is the answer for them. So, you have a choice to lay a little bit more juice and go with the wide receiver or take the plus money and roll the dice on a quarterback.”

Sounds like gamblers must roll the dice. And, after all, what are drafts for?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Portions of the interview have been edited for style and clarity.


About the Author
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo is an award-winning writer and broadcaster, who has covered the sports industry since the 1970s. He won the Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Boxing Broadcasting by the Boxing Writers Association of America in 1997, and is in the New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame. Bontempo has broadcast major fights all over the world. The advent of legalized sports wagering shifted his focus to this exciting new industry in 2018.

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