One quote from Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, perhaps best sums up how bookmakers view taking bets on the NFL draft.
“It’s not if you’re going to win or lose,” Pullen said. “It’s how much you are going to lose.”
The draft kicks off Thursday, but betting on the top picks has been taking place for months. Odds can move dramatically with a single tweet or release of the latest mock draft. In some cases, they already have. A month ago, Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud was the consensus favorite to be the top pick. Starting this week, Stroud isn’t even the favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick.
ESPN’s sports betting team will cover the odds and ends with insights from bookmakers and bettors this week in this updating file. Bookmark it and follow along.
Notable Bets: NFL Draft
Odds to be No. 1 overall pick in NFL draft [via Caesars Sportsbook]
Bryce Young ( -1,600)
C.J. Stroud (+900)
The favorite in the first seven picks, per Caesars Sportsbook
Q&A with MOJO lead college football analyst Travis May
On October 14, MOJO, an online sports trading platform in New York, opened a market on the future NFL careers of college football’s top quarterback prospects. Travis May, Mojo’s lead college football, was in charge of the IPOs on Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, Anthony Richardson and Hendon Hooker. May has since formed career projections for more than 100 NFL draft prospects based on the following stats: yards, first downs, touchdowns 40-plus-yard plays, turnovers and sacks. The share prices represent the statistical achievements of players over their NFL career.
May recently visited with ESPN about his process, his projections and the players that have attracted the most attention from bettors.
Q: What was your approach creating IPOs for more than 100 NFL draft prospects?
May: It starts with determining if they actually have the skillset and traits. From there, you build out what they’ve already done on the field, and there are various predictive metrics for ever single position when it comes to predicting their NFL future, even before we know where they’re going to land in terms of draft capital. Using various predictive modeling, you can predict 40-50% of future variance in their NFL production. Just putting a few right pieces together. Start there, follow what the market tells you and constantly move the prices based on that. I was dead on with a lot of prices and the market disagreed with me on a lot of others.
Q: Which players did the market disagree with you on?
May: Early on, the market was incredibly bullish on Tanner McKee of Stanford. That’s no longer the case as people realize he’s probably going to be a fifth or sixth rounder at best at this point. I think a lot of times, the public is driven by mock drafts that people put out in October and November. They’ll take a mock draft and believe it’s gospel, and so they’ll drop a significant chuck of change on a player that they don’t really know anything about, but someone said they’re good. That’s fun. There’s been some really confident, bullish takes on a few players. Anthony Richardson’s definitely been the biggest riser on the market His last fall didn’t go great, but he still declared and ends up being a top-10 pick projection. [Editor’s note: Richardson’s opening price was $7.06 on Oct. 14. On Sunday, his price was sitting around $30, with 95% of the positions opened on Richardson now closed].
Q: Do you remember your thinking behind Richardson’s opening price in October?
May: It’s not necessarily about projecting the exact statistical splits, but more the number of games [they’ll play in their career] when you’re projecting that far out. At the time, he was projected for about a season and half of full starting action. So, implying that might have to sit, if he is an early pick,
Q: Bryce Young is trading around $44. What does that price reflect in terms of his career projections?
May: The middle outcome for him would be six or seven-plus seasons of him being a quality starting quarterback. That’s the middle outcome, which is pretty bullish for any prospect, because you’re building in his entire rookie contract plus a fifth-year option and two more years after that. He could play way longer than that, but that’s just the middle outcome. Looking at his career price, he’s already mapped out higher than a good portion of NFL starters, the majority of active NFL starters. So, the market’s pretty bullish on him. I mean, he’s just below Kyler Murray‘s career price, even though Murray’s accrued a lot of value already.
Q: It sounds like you got some early action. Has it been increasing as we get closer to the draft?
May: It’s increased significantly. This week in particular has been our biggest by far on the college market. [Last] Monday, just the morning, matched any single day we had, even in-season. It’s funny when there’s a new cycle of mock drafts, especially if it’s from a big name, we’ll see a massive flow of new trades.
It’s funny, I can tell what our users are reading based on who they buy. You learn a lot about people that are investing in the market.
Q: It sounds intense. How closely are you paying attention to the draft right now? Are you just completely absorbed?
May: I know the exact 19 players that have been taken in 95% of mock drafts since the middle of March.
Q: Is it a grind or fun?
May: It’s so much fun, because I used to build predictive models for fantasy football stuff and projections for college football and daily fantasy football. It’s just massive data projects that I was already doing before and now I get to do it full time.