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Regional bets abound for NFL Draft

Even under normal circumstances, Andrew Mannino and his PointsBet trading and risk team would be zeroing in on this week’s NFL Draft as a marquee wagering opportunity for their clientele.

We all know by now that the coronavirus pandemic is providing anything but normal circumstances for the 2020 sports scene, and the company’s sports content manager has acted accordingly.

Mannino joined PointsBet in the fall of 2018, and his first NFL Draft cycle the following spring saw the company showcasing around 120 bet types for the football league’s three-day selection extravaganza. At the start of the week, the online wagering service was close to 200 offerings, “with more coming every day,” he said.

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Communications director Patrick Eichner said the company has already surpassed its draft-based handle compared with 2019, and expect a money pool closer to that of a standalone Monday or Thursday Night Football matchup by the time the weekend is out.

“It seems that every time there is a new prominent mock draft or new smoke, people are getting in on it right away,” Mannino said. “I think it reflects the at-home culture, with everyone still glued into watching what’s going on in the sports world without much other news to overtake it.”

Indiana is the lone Midwestern state to give bettors a full plate of NFL Draft offerings. Michigan and Illinois each allowed in-person sports wagering for the first time in March, but neither had online sports betting available by the time the COVID-19 shutdown began and all casinos are closed.

Iowa launched mobile and in-person sports wagering in August 2019 but does not allow individual prop bets on players who have yet to play professional games.

But just how far are sportsbooks willing to mine into an event based on limited outcomes? To get an idea, William Hill U.S. director of trading Nick Bogdanovich told Gaming Today last month that he expected between 32 and 40 individual player props to be available to the company’s eligible customers, but that books “can’t put a ton of that stuff up just for the sake of putting it up.”

Indeed, William Hill had 39 available player position props available as of Tuesday morning. But the wagers for first player taken by position groups; permutations around quarterback prospects Justin Herbert of Oregon and Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama; and whether the Southeastern Conference will outstrip all other leagues in draft selections; were numbering by the dozens.

More than 75 custom “your odds” options were also available through William Hill, from props as simple as whether Herbert would be chosen in the top 10 (-2500) to a parlay of Florida’s C.J. Henderson being the first cornerback selected along with Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs being the first offensive lineman drafted (+3300).

Wannabe draftniks have other options through PointsBet, which launched its online service in Indiana in March shortly before the COVID-19 shutdown. The company’s eponymous PointsBetting feature allows bettors to maximize their confidence — and their risk — on individual selections. If Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb were at an over/under of position 11.5 and a bettor was confident Lamb would fall, that person could adjust the position to their confidence level and maximize their return. But the reverse holds true, too: Go out on a limb and find yourself way off on a draft choice, and you’ll pay a price for each position you were away from the target. 

So the persistent pause of the global sports world appears to be stretching the limits of action after all. Not everyone is unnerved by that prospect, though.

“We’re confident in our quantitative and trading team in that we’re going to put out odds that reflect the best current standing on where the draft actually is,” Mannino said. “And we’ll take bets on them. Being a bookmaker entails risk, right? We’re willing to take bets from people, but we’ll move correspondingly off the action and adjust those lines.”

Consider the Tagovailoa and Herbert example from earlier. Around the start of April, Mannino said the Alabama quarterback was a -650 selection in the “second quarterback drafted” prop, with Herbert lagging at +500. As of Tuesday, both were now -115 co-favorites in that market.

Tagovailoa and Herbert have also driven several of DraftKings’ most wagered individual props both by handle and bet volume, according to early-week data provided by communications director Stephen Miraglia. Choosing the first three picks in order tops the list in both categories.

If you’re wondering whether the expansion of props has filtered down to the team-specific level in the evolving world of state-by-state gambling, the development on that front is slow. Only the New York Giants and Jets’ first selections garnered interest among DraftKings’ top 10 categories for action. FanDuel’s online sportsbook offers a full-range, team-specific player selection prop in the markets where it is most firmly established (Giants/Jets, the Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts), but not much beyond those.

Even PointsBet, with all its offerings, only goes so far as an offense-or-defense prop for a given team’s first selection, although Mannino said that reactive Day 2 and Day 3 props will be available on the team front, based on a squad’s initial selections.

Make no mistake, though: The players are the straws stirring the drink.

“(The draft) so necessarily involves teams outside your immediate sphere, outside of your favorite and its division rivals,” Mannino said. “What one team does can affect what every other team can do in the draft, so you’re plugging in to teams you otherwise wouldn’t follow as much.”

Mannino said he is hopeful that lessons learned from this week’s expanded draft menu will help craft PointsBet’s strategy for the next NBA Draft (currently scheduled for June 25), despite its more limited scope. His team is remaining creative, even though they’re meeting virtually and having to think on their feet almost daily.

“These are unusual times, but there is still a great opportunity to expand our offerings,” he said.

Indianapolis Colts – Player Odds for First 2020 NFL Draft Selection

Jordan Love, QB, UCLA +500

Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson +600

Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State +750

Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado +750

Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame +850

Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU +900

Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor +950

Jacob Eason, QB, Washington +1100

Eight players, +1300

Midwest Position Odds for First 2020 NFL Draft Selection

Listed in alphabetical order; top five positions listed where available (not all teams have position odds posted)

Detroit Lions

Cornerback -180

Defensive lineman +250

Linebacker +600

Quarterback +750

Offensive lineman +1100

Green Bay Packers

Wide receiver -175

Linebacker +400

Offensive lineman +500

Cornerback +1000

Defensive lineman +1000

Kansas City Chiefs

Cornerback +200

Linebacker +250

Offensive lineman +250

Running back +750

Defensive lineman +900

Minnesota Vikings

Cornerback +115

Wide receiver +220

Offensive lineman +400

Defensive lineman +500

Linebacker +1200

Source: FanDuel Sportsbook