One of the highlights of the NFL season for four decades has been the televised draft of college talent every spring.
In many respects the draft has evolved into a cottage industry of sorts, especially in the internet era, with literally hundreds of so-called “draftniks” researching and publishing their exhaustive analysis of what each NFL team will do — or should do — in the attempt to improve its roster for the upcoming season.
Many draftniks have parlayed their success in forecasting the draft into positions with both NFL organizations and media outlets and effectively turning their hobby into full time careers.
Given the shutdown of sports due to the coronavirus, which has now lasted more than a month with no clearcut end in sight, this Thursday’s NFL Draft will achieve record ratings. To suggest they may come close to Super Bowl ratings may be a stretch but such is the appetite of the sporting public that such lofty numbers for the first round cannot be dismissed out of hand.
For the last several years, wagering on various props surrounding the NFL Draft have been permitted by the Nevada Gaming Commission. With the legalization of sports betting nationwide, other states, most notably, New Jersey, have followed suit. Although sportsbooks remain closed, several books that have apps for use on mobile phones shall be operational with a wide variety of wagering options, most of which are geared to Thursday’s first round.
In anticipation of the draft, Circa announced last week an option for bettors to fund their already existing accounts electronically.
Nevada is more conservative in the props allowed. New Jersey has been more liberal in what bettors can wager upon and have in their not quite two years existence been very creative across the board with prop offerings.
Because the NFL shut down last month, normal activities surrounding the vetting of potential draft picks has been extremely limited. That could result in more surprises and trades than usual, especially in light of the uncertainty connected to the 2020 season.
With no uniformity in props being offered, both in Nevada and nationwide, my comments and recommendations are more generic than specific although I will be using specific Nevada props that are available as of this past weekend although similar if not identical props can be found in other parts of the nation.
Total number of quarterbacks drafted in first round — Over 4.5 (+625 at Circa). Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert are all but certain consensus first-round picks and Jordan Love is considered a mid-to-late first rounder. Three other prospects include Jalen Hurts, Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm. Each was highly rated at some point in their college careers.
Hurts is the most intriguing, though lowest rated, of the trio. His leadership skills led both Alabama and Oklahoma to the College Football Playoff. Some scouts have compared him to New Orleans’ Taysom Hill with improvisational skills but do question Hurts’ accuracy. Yet Oklahoma saw enough in him to make him the starter after he left Alabama
Note that a similar but different prop at William Hill has the combination of QBs and RBs is Over 5 at +120. I expect at least one RB to be a first round pick. I would prefer this prop to the Circa prop although it takes at least six QBs/RBs for this prop to cash (Five is a push).
Raiders first pick is a wide receiver — No (+120 at Circa). Many mock drafts have the Raiders selecting one of the top three WRs with this pick (CeeDee Lamb. Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III) but there is depth at the position in this draft and the Raiders also pick 19th in this round.
Teams can never have too much offensive or defensive line help and the Raiders might opt to strengthen an area of defensive weakness last season — a lack of a consistent pass rush. Wouldn’t you love hear the discussions between coach Jon Gruden and GM Mike Mayock?
First RB picked — Ohio State’s JK Dobbins (+650 at Circa). Georgia’s D’andre Swift (-160) and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor (+250) are the other highly regarded RBs in this draft and a strong case can be made for any of the three.
The betting value is with Dobbins, who saw a heavier workload last season at Ohio State (21 attempts per game) than he’ll see in the NFL. And OSU has a history of delivering All-Pro NFL running backs.
Number of defensive players selected in first round — Over 14.5 (-125 at William Hill). The oft-heard adage of “offense sell tickets but defense wins championships” still rings true (16 of the last 29 Super Bowl losers scored under 20 points compared to just two of the winners).
Most mock drafts are evenly split between offense and defense but it would take a split of 18 or more offensive players of the first 32 taken for this prop not to cash.