NFL Draft Betting Primer and Prop Strategy 101
This article was originally published by Betting Predators and is part of a Stadium Talk partnership with Betting Predators, a sports betting podcast/media platform with a hunger and drive to make sports bettors more successful bettors.
Like the teams themselves, sports bettors look toward the NFL draft as an opportunity to change their fortune. This annual event offers a bevy of betting options that can make a +EV (expected value) bettor very profitable and a novice one extremely overwhelmed.
We will break down the nuances of the NFL draft prop market and create a blueprint to identify different value bets, arbitrage opportunities, and ways to time the market that will not only make you profitable this season, but for every draft moving forward.
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Why Should You Bet the Draft?
If you're ever curious about a particular market being easy to beat, then question the betting limits. Most bettors at respected sportsbooks can bet at least a couple thousand on a side on a typical NFL Sunday during the season.
NFL sides and totals may be the most difficult market to beat in the industry, hence the larger limits. The sportsbooks are confident in their lines and are willing to take the risk here.
On the other hand, try betting NFL draft props at their openers. In March 2023, PointsBet posted their NFL draft prop over/unders with a $50 max bet, and within a few hours, they took down the entire slate of options.
The next day, they reposted them, sure, but also with new draft positions for each and with lowered max bet totals down to $20. Why would a sportsbook offer such low limits on a prop?
Simply put, NFL draft props can be extremely easy to beat because the bettors have the same information as the sportsbooks.
Why NFL Draft Bets Are Profitable
Every year, nearly every sportsbook posts game, player and novelty props. With the exception of the coin toss, the one that garners the most attention is the length of the national anthem (over/under) during the Super Bowl.
Sportsbooks take action on the prop without knowledge of how long the singer will take to complete the song (unless certain leaks come out, of course). The line usually stays where it is until the rehearsal, where someone records the time, and tells their friends, betting partners and/or syndicates, who, in turn, will bet the max at each low limit at every shop.
The national anthem is an information bet, which is why local and offshore books only let you bet micro-limits. If you have the information (i.e., if you know how long the singer will take), then this is easy money.
The NFL draft is no different. The bettor who can collect and trust the most information can take advantage of the sportsbooks’ lines accordingly and make a profit.
The sportsbooks make their lines based largely upon what they see on the internet as well, just like average bettors and NFL fans do before the draft. They refresh Twitter, read the latest rumors, and sift through the infinite mock drafts that seem to populate daily. In essence, they are doing what most of us do on a daily basis.
The difference, however, is they also need to post lines for the MLB, NBA and NHL slates. They also have NFL futures, the English Premier League, motorsports, darts and handball to worry about.
They don’t have the time or manpower to be as efficient at the low-limit NFL draft prop market because of all of their other offerings. This creates opportunity for bettors, even with the low limits.
When to Use Mock Drafts
One of the best ways of gathering draft intelligence is through mock drafts. The NFL Mock Draft Database collects the web’s mocks and puts them all in one location. This saves you from sporadically typing in "NFL Mock Draft" into Google several times throughout the day.
The site gets updated daily, links to the original articles, creates a consensus mock draft and even has a player comparison tool that lets you see the average draft position over time. As a fan, it's certainly exhilarating to read every mock to see who your team may or may not draft. As a bettor, however, it's overwhelming and can actually lead to huge losses over time.
The key to navigating the muddied waters here is to identify the mockers who are trustworthy, knowledgeable, and have proven to be accurate over time. Fantasy Pros and The Huddle Report rank different mock drafters to identify their accuracy based upon unique criteria. Large media personalities that are respected by the casual fan, in turn, may not necessarily be good NFL mock drafters overall.
At the Betting Predators, we have created a collection of the top-rated and (at times) industry-influencing NFL Mock Draft Experts, which we update as new mocks are released seemingly every day. We use this information to track and compare mocks for those we deem to be the most trustworthy in the industry, and others who might give us certain information we might not have had with a different mock drafter.
We have also included ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay in this mix as well, not because of their prediction prowess, but because of their influence on the mock draft community. Working for the sports media industry leader, Kiper and McShay receive a lot of attention from readers and other mock drafters alike, but their track record of mock draft accuracy is suspect to say the least.
Both Kiper and McShay are listed on our NFL Mock Draft Consensus tool to compare and find differences between both the best and the most popular NFL draft analysts. Finding glaring differences between the two groups can provide actionable opportunities as well, as can viewing mock drafters who are more unreliable/untrustworthy.
When to Bet
Much like the NFL season itself, it's prudent to bet the NFL draft either right when the lines post or late in the process. If you have done your research and have an understanding of where players are expected to go, you should absolutely be ready to bet when your sportsbook posts their draft props.
When betting openers, you are betting against yourself and the sportsbook — other bettors haven’t had a chance to impact the line yet. For example, a few years ago, when PointsBet posted their opening draft props for the 2021 NFL draft, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater offensive lineman Quinn Meinerz had an over/under of 122.5. Respected draft analyst Dan Brugler of The Athletic had Meinerz as the second-best center with a second-round grade, so betting under 122.5 was a no-brainer here. Meinerz was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the third round with the 98th pick.
If you didn’t do the research ahead of time, you may have missed on this opportunity. Within a few hours, the line was off the board, only to be reposted at 95.5. Although there is still value in the under at 95.5, you lost 27 draft slots by not attacking the opening number.
If you end up missing the opening number, then you may be better off waiting until either news breaks, the expert mocks update, or waiting to bet until a few days before the draft when most information is known about most of the players and the teams.
There are several that I have yet to bet, not because I don’t like the play, but because I know the current line isn’t going anywhere. I will wait on static lines for more info to make sure it's a bet worth my money.
Whether you're betting the New York Giants season win total, their Sunday game, or who they will select in the draft, you should have multiple sportsbooks to bet through.
In 2021, Rashod Bateman once had an over/under of 38.5 at BET365 (-125) and 26.5 (-110) at FanDuel. Blindly betting this middle is +EV. Or if you have done your homework, you know that Bateman had been mocked in the 20s since January via NFL Mock Draft Database, and four of our top seven "NFL Mock Draft Experts" had him going in the first round, which makes the under 38.5 a great bet.
If you shop around between sportsbooks — even if you do not know a single draftee or NFL team — you can still make money by attacking rogue lines and middle opportunities.
Another way to win consistently is by arbitraging the same play at different books. Again, in 2021, Mac Jones had an over/under draft position of 3.5 at both The Score and FoxBet. The Score, however, had Jones under 3.5 at +425 while FoxBet had the over at -175.
You can bet both sides of this play, leverage the sportsbook, and lock in a profit before the draft even begins. You may never get rich arbitraging, but you don’t go broke taking a profit either. The more outs, the better, no matter what.
Best Draft Props
Many sportsbooks offer a variety of betting options — betting who will be drafted first, who will be drafted first at a position, who will be drafted first on defense/offense, what team will draft the player, if the player will be drafted in the top 5 or top 10, and countless others.
These bets can certainly have value and may offer a large payout, but the hidden vig can be deceptive and considerably shrink your edge, if not extinguish it altogether. Unless you feel confident, have extrapolated the juice, and still find it to be worth the risk, it's strongly recommended that you bet two-sided props instead.
Bets such as "will X player" be drafted over or under pick 10.5, and "will the Cowboys select an offense or defensive player with their first selection," and "will there be over or under 18.5 offensive players picked in the first round" all clearly present their inherent vigorish, which makes factoring risk and potential profit much easier.
Missteps to Avoid
Whether you're reading Twitter, watching ESPN, or listening to the latest NFL podcast, you can easily get swept up in a narrative. After the San Francisco 49ers traded significant capital to move up to the number three pick in 2021, reports from credible sources stated it was with intentions of selecting Mac Jones.
Adam Schefter, Daniel Jeremiah and Mike Lombardi all reported as much, which drew the ire of nearly every NFL pundit. After all, Justin Fields was second in the class only behind Trevor Lawrence. Fields also went on to live up to the hype by taking Ohio State to the NCAA championship game.
Almost every scout and executive had Fields rated substantially higher than Jones as well, which made the news from the most trusted media reporters/personalities so hard to swallow. Not surprisingly, when Justin Fields had his second Pro Day and once again wowed the scouts, the odds quickly swayed in Fields favor.
A little over a week away from the draft, Fields then usurped Mac Jones as the betting favorite. Was the line move justified here, or was it a media narrative? (Spoiler: it was neither of them.) We will only find out when Roger Goodell walks to the podium.
Until then, I’d be very hesitant to buck the best and get caught up in the latest narrative. It was Trey Lance who received the late steam and eventually was chosen here.
When reading Twitter and uncovering every rumor, you need ask yourself, "who benefits?" Certainly some information that gets leaked is credible, but more often than not, teams are leaking false information about who they will take or thoughts on a prospect in an attempt to mislead their fellow NFL teams.
This gamesmanship happens constantly in advance of the draft, and while sifting through the nonsense to determine fact or fiction is extremely difficult, it can save you from a bad bet or put you onto a good one.
When analyzing the draft betting market, it's also a good idea to visualize how the draft will go. Creating your own mock draft based upon peoples opinion you trust could be a valuable resource as you go consider each pick/wager.
With that being said, it's extremely important to realize that one simple miscalculation could change the trajectory of the draft. For instance, who the 49ers select can have dramatic fallout from the teams picking behind them.
Don't put yourself in a position where you can lose many of your plays if someone doesn’t get picked to the team you thought they would. Understand how the butterfly effect can impact your picks as you go about building your NFL draft betting portfolio.
View the Betting Predators updated and customized NFL Mock Draft Experts consensus (Google Spreadsheet) .
If you want to see Chris Dell's Mock Draft 1.0 and other early takeaways from Betting Predators' 2023 NFL Draft Most Accurate Mock Consensus tool, you can read his free article.
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