Will NFL Draft betting continue to grow?

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The first round of the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday drew a television audience of 15.6 million between three networks, making it the most-watched NFL Draft in history.

It shows just how powerful the NFL is along with how starved for any kind of live sporting event America is while being isolated during the coronavirus pandemic.

The same type of enthusiasm was shown by bettors who had phone accounts among the four sportsbooks operating phone apps within the state of Nevada. It was only the third year of Nevada allowing odds to be posted on the NFL Draft, but the situation of not having MLB, NBA, or NHL daily action put more focus on the draft among bettors.

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“Nevada’s handle for this draft is around five times bigger versus other years,” said William Hill’s director of trading Nick Bogdanovich. “It’s the equivalent of a Thursday Night Football game.”

The previous two years, William Hill offered just 10 props on the NFL Draft while spending most of its booking time on the active major sports. But at the end of last weekend’s draft they had posted 104 of them.

The question is whether or not that type of popularity will continue next season when the Draft competes against the other sports for a piece of the casual bettors’ bankroll. Bogdanovich thinks it has a chance to sustain despite more competition for the dollar. 

“People really love the draft, there’s just so much interest surrounding it,” Bogdanovich said. “I expect the handle to be similar, or even potentially increase, for next year’s draft.”

But the ultimate question to be asked how far William Hill and the other books go with next year’s Draft is whether or not they won? Bogdanovich categorized the three-day event as a small loser.

Caesars Palace sportsbook director Jeff Davis also said they lost on the Draft because most of the clientele on their phones were sharp and they didn’t have a lot of Joe Public plays.

Circa Sports had their first NFL Draft experience and found themselves a small winner among the dozens of props they offered despite some early skepticism.

“I don’t really have a reference point to comment on the handle, but I thought it was respectable given our mobile app customer demographic,” said Circa Sports manager Chris Bennett. “We were a small winner on the draft. I figured it was an underdog to make money going in, so we’ll happily take the result.”

To make up for the lack of regular sports to bet on, each of the books jumped in a little deeper on the Draft props and may have overextended itself. It’s like a Saturday college basketball schedule with over 100 games when 90 percent of the numbers are perfect, but the other 10 percent is what numbers the sharps are picking on. It’s impossible to be perfect on every prop, and they don’t call the wise-guys sharp for no reason.

The Circa win stemmed from one player being drafted with the last pick of the first round.

“Our biggest win was the Chiefs drafting Clyde Edwards-Hilaire, as it tilted four props in our favor which included group match-up of top four running-backs, Chiefs first pick on offense, over 0.5 RBs drafted in the first round, and D’Andre Swift draft position over 32.5,” Bennett said.

Bennett also added that he thinks picking a RB first is a waste of a pick, but he loved the Bengals picking Joe Burrow.

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BetMGM operating out of New Jersey by GVC Holdings runs the app in Nevada for MGM Resorts and they wasted little time in offering odds to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year with Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow the 5-2 favorite followed by Detroit’s Swift at 17-2 odds with the longest odds coming from Las Vegas’ Henry Ruggs III at 18-1. They posted odds to win Defensive Rookie of the Year with Washington’s Chase Young the 7-2 favorite followed by Arizona’s Isaiah Simmons at 9-1. BetMGM also posted Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence at -250 to be the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

I got the feeling from last week’s draft that I was watching the Dolphins franchise being transformed before my eyes as we saw with the Cowboys in the early ‘90s following the Herschel Walker trade. Ryan Fitzpatrick will probably be the starter in Week 1, with No. 5 overall pick Tua Tagavailoa likely about +200 to start, but all 11 of the players selected were clean picks done so by the staff with structure and purpose as opposed to Denver’s John Elway who made picks as if he were still the quarterback and not the overall boss thinking bigger picture. I thought the best pick overall in the first round considering value was the Cardinals taking Simmons with the eighth overall pick, someone who wasn’t on their radar but couldn’t resist when he fell.

Overall, I must say I enjoyed this draft perhaps more than any other and I’ve watched them all since being televised. The lack of live events made it must-see and despite not having all the glitz and glamor of a regular draft, or not even being in Las Vegas as scheduled, it will always be memorable because of the situation we were all in together. It gave me some much-needed giddy-up in my step with hopes that this virus dies and our sports come back.

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