For a few hours Thursday evening, life is going to feel like it’s back to normal for sports bettors.
Well, as normal as it can be in these circumstances.
When the 2020 NFL Draft kicks off via videoconference at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on ABC, ESPN and NFL Network – instead of the sunny Las Vegas Strip as originally planned – bettors and bookies will square off, sweating out wagers as player names are announced off of cue cars. Even though fans will have to watch it from their couches, the Thursday-to-Saturday event is a much-needed reprieve while the nation continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bettors have had several weeks to attack the NFL Draft props markets, and with a very limited amount of sports to wager on during this time, the 2020 version of one of pro football’s biggest nights is seeing unprecedented fan interest. By taking mobile action on these softer betting markets based entirely on information, oddsmakers have had to remain on their toes, needing to stay on top of tons of new information constantly being churned out in the social mediaverse and beyond.
Booking the NFL Draft has always been a challenge for oddsmakers. In previous years, some have determined that the considerable amount of time and energy required to stay on top of all the news amounts to just too much of a headache. In other words, the ends don’t justify the means. All it takes is one oddsmaker to fall asleep at the wheel for bettors to flock in and take advantage of a stale line or a mispricing. Such markets provide plenty of opportunities for those who act with catlike swiftness, allowing them to get ahead of some wild line moves.
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A volatile quarterback market
After sitting at odds of 6/1 or higher to be the second quarterback selected, steam on Oregon QB Justin Herbert made him the betting favorite at some sportsbooks to be the second gunslinger off the board before the market changed course midweek, when Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa – whose stock had seen a corresponding drop amid injury concerns – was backed by optimistic bettors.
On Wednesday morning at William Hill, where Tagovailoa’s draft position is among the five most popular prop bets ahead of Thursday’s event, the 22-year-old from Hawaii had gone from a 7/1 longshot to a -130 favorite to be the third QB selected. But by Wednesday night, Herbert was -140 in the same market, with Tua at even-money.
Herbert’s draft position has also attracted plenty of betting action. The Pac-12 standout’s OVER/UNDER was 5.5 (OVER -235) at FanDuel Sportsbook at the turn of the month, but optimism has seen the juice on the OVER drop substantially, flipping to plus-money for a while. At the time of this publication, FanDuel is offering Herbert at 5.5 (OVER -140/UNDER +120).
First round QB and WR props attract betting interest
Bettors are drawn to the skill positions, and this year they are not shying away from wagering on props involving quarterbacks and wide receivers. The notion that the 2020 Draft features one of the deepest WR classes of all time has led to many wagers on the number of pass-catchers taken in the first round. With a run on WRs expected to come Thursday night, some mock drafts are projecting even six to seven to go in the opening round.
Quarterbacks are also seeing their fair share of betting interest. As of Wednesday afternoon, the largest NFL Draft bet taken at William Hill was a $4,000 wager to win $1,000 on OVER 3 quarterbacks drafted in the first round.
At Caesars sportsbooks, QBs taken in the first round closed at 4 (UNDER -130/OVER even money), “with some early money going UNDER 4.5 to force us down,” Senior Sports Trader Rex Beyers told BetChicago via email Wednesday evening. “There has been decent 2-way to that market since.”
According to Beyers, the ‘QBs taken in the first round’ prop is a popular attraction again this year just like it was in 2019, “when it seemed four QBs were a cinch to go yet only three got drafted on Thursday night.”
Sharp action provides clues on Lions’ plan at No. 3
With LSU’s Joe Burrow expected to go No. 1 to the Bengals and Ohio State’s Chase Young No. 2 to the Redskins, all eyes are on the Detroit Lions at No. 3. Guessing what GM Bob Quinn does when it’s his turn to pick has been a popular topic of conversation. A look at the betting market may offer some clues.
“We have a couple of multi-way props that might be telling,” Beyers told BetChicago vie email. “We have an exact order of first three drafted players where ‘Burrow/Young/Herbert’ drew a little sharp action, perhaps indicating someone might trade up with Lions to draft Herbert at 3. And for our ‘Third Pick Overall’, the FIELD opened at +4000 last week and we got as low as +225 there before closing it at +240 as the second-choice behind Jeff Okudah — and well ahead of Tua, Simmons, Young, Burrow and Herbert.”
Also read: Betting market helps project first round
NFL Draft best bets
While the lines have moved rather significantly over the past couple of weeks on most of my NFL Draft wagers (especially Chase Young UNDER 2.5 at -500), here are two bets worth considering on Thursday evening.
Wide Receivers Drafted in First Round: UNDER 5.5 (+140)
Unprecedented depth at the WR position in this year’s draft could increase the willingness of teams in the latter half of the first round to wait, with the understanding that there will be plenty of talent later on to choose from. After losing out on the first four or five studs, GMs can address another position that isn’t as deep with the comfort of believing there will be other good WR options waiting for them.
Teams want to protect their QBs, and the temptation to bolster their offensive line in a draft with plenty of depth at WR may be too much to ignore. I’ll gladly take the plus price here in a prop that I consider to be a genuine coin flip.
Jordan Love Draft Position: OVER 19.5 (-150)
This line continues to get steamed as I type this, so be sure to shop around for the best price. It is no secret that Love’s draft stock has plummeted over the past couple of weeks. But at this point, it looks like he may not even go in the first round (although Jacksonville picks at No. 20 and desperately needs a young QB). Even at 19.5, I am happy to lay some extra vigorish on the OVER here.
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