While the NFL Draft has exponentially increased in popularity and betting interest, sportsbooks are split on how to handle the growing demand – because in actuality, the house doesn’t always win. Some sportsbooks are embracing the excitement and continuing to post numerous proposition bets, while others have drastically reduced their menus because of an inability to avoid net losses.
“We have customers that bet year-round. So, if a customer is fortunate enough to beat the draft, we aren’t just going to take it down,” DraftKings sportsbook director Johnny Avello told ESPN, expressing that he is offering over a few hundred props. “We are going to continue to keep it up and get better at booking it.”
Let’s not cry too hard for the house. Bookies still have a built-in hold percentage and access to the same information as bettors, if they track it effectively.
“If a sportsbook was super into it, they could clean up,” one professional bettor and draft specialist told ESPN. “The juice is higher for draft props and the indexes aren’t always fair either. The bettors sometimes think they have an advantage but that’s not always the case. You better not miss.”
This event is unique for oddsmakers and thus requires a different approach and mindset. Money-making opportunities do exist, just like they do in every market, but one must first understand specific nuances and strategies in order to attack it properly.
A different animal
Simply, the draft market is extremely soft and volatile; truly unlike anything else. With conventional NFL games, the market is tight and does not involve huge odds changes, unless a major development occurs. For example, the Dallas Cowboys opened as one-point home favorites last December over the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles. News of an injury to quarterback Jalen Hurts, an MVP candidate, surfaced and the point spread eventually closed around 4.5 points. That was a giant story, and oddsmakers still handled it with ease.
However, with draft betting, the odds can change drastically for a variety of reasons and induce a scramble. The juice on a single prop could swing from +150 to -300 in a single moment. A simple index on the first wide receiver selected may have three different betting favorites over the span of a couple weeks. This occurs because the market is entirely based on speculation and reports from media members who are themselves merely aggregating info and opinions from sources while also battling targeted misinformation.
“It’s about actively managing and finding out who actually knows something and what’s a smoke screen. That tends to be really difficult but I think we’re getting better year by year,” Caesars Sportsbook lead draft oddsmaker Joey Feazel told ESPN, while also sharing that his bosses recently changed their workflow to have him solely focus on the draft, rather than having the entire team monitor all news of all sports. The draft market is a different animal and should be treated as such.
One popular comparison is the NFL preseason. The common denominator is that it entails uncovering valuable information, such as the starters’ playing time. While that info is certainly vital and leads to larger point spread moves than we see in the regular season, it still involves a football game with a relatively limited number of potential outcomes. However, the draft is a market of what a few people from the front office, scouting department and coaching staff will decide to do. The permutations of outcomes are so much wider, when you account for all the players, teams, offensive and defensive positions, and that’s before you factor in the inevitable draft-day trades.
New year, near me
Each NFL Draft has its own narratives, and the betting market reflects that. Those may involve quarterback uncertainty, positional depth or an overall eagerness by top teams looking to trade down. One must constantly adapt and understand how major storylines will impact the selections. There inevitably is a domino effect from free agency, trades and main draft developments in the weeks leading up the first round.
“Once we put up a market early, I feel confident in that market. It’s the volatility in that market we don’t see coming,” Avello said.
Last year, we saw quarterbacks Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett, Desmond Ridder and Matt Corral all open with draft position props that reflected first-round expectations, including two in the top 10. But only one was chosen before the third round – a seismic shift between the combine and draft day.
This year, we are starting to see teams lose interest in a few marquee quarterbacks. It likely will not be as free-falling as last year but it looks fairly clear we will not see QBs drafted with each of the top four picks, as was believed to be the case just last month. We might see only two board in the top six picks, as teams constantly change their minds and glean more information. The entire process is fluid.
Media insiders and draft specialists have very good information. However, they do not share every kernel every single time they appear on TV or post content. That occurs for a variety of reasons. First, they lack sufficient time to empty the entire bucket. Also, they may have not yet fully vetted all of it. Or perhaps they are holding that information based on a promise they made to a particular source. However, a bettor can connect some dots and glean wisdom based on peripheral information that has already been posted by teams and other draft gurus.
“Things just constantly change. You’ll get teams that think their overall talent is better than it once was. Or teams will start thinking alike and a player is projected 11th and then all of a sudden he’s seventh. It’s really tricky,” Avello said.
Last year, the Houston Texans threw a curveball by drafting defensive back Derek Stingley Jr. with the third overall pick. Or did they? Three weeks before the draft, books offered 100-1 odds for the LSU product to be drafted in that slot. Around that time, in a media session, Texans head coach Lovie Smith casually vocalized they were looking to improve their secondary. Cincinnati’s Sauce Gardner was viewed as the top cornerback but Stingley had an unusual background with elite pedigree but just three games played
in his final college season. As more news surfaced, Stingley eventually reached -130 in the final days before the draft.
On the clock
Draft betting is not for everyone. It requires countless hours and a firm understanding of a granular niche. And like anything related to betting, it also requires discipline. The last thing you want to do is chase steam. Remember, on March 10, C.J. Stroud’s odds shifted within minutes from +240 to a -300 favorite to be the first overall pick. Bryce Young, who was the favorite until then, resumed the favorite status a month later and is currently -1400. Life comes at you pretty fast if you’re reckless and think something is easy money.
My next column will appear on Tuesday and include my official plays for this draft. Nothing is guaranteed, except how different the market will look between now and then.