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Thursday, April 26, 2018 | 2 a.m.
The best advice regarding betting on the NFL Draft might be one word — don’t.
There are many reasons why wagering on the draft is unlikely to be a money-making endeavor, not the least of which is how many variables come into play. It’s practically impossible to handicap the approach of 32 teams to a close degree of certainty.
Sure, oddsmakers may not have a large advantage in knowledge — especially considering this is only the second year the state has allowed wagering on the event. But lines have now been up for more than a month, and any egregious mistakes were corrected immediately after a couple limit bets.
Many sports books also price a high hold percentage into their draft props. That makes them unbeatable over the long term.
Of course, none of this is going to stop gamblers from plopping down their money. Bookmakers have been taken aback by the level of interest in betting on the NFL Draft, which is part of the reason why they expanded the options this year.
So, since they’re going to get bet regardless, Talking Points might as well get in on the action. Here are four props that might be worth a look tonight, taken from the betting boards at William Hill and Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, where the prices look mostly fair.
Total number of SEC players drafted in the first round: Under 8 at minus-110 (risking $1.10 to win $1)
Everyone knows the SEC produces the most high draft picks on an annual basis. That doesn’t mean bettors should pay a premium to back college football’s marquee conference. This year’s consensus seems to be that the SEC has six surefire first-round picks — Minkah Fitzpatrick, Roquan Smith, Da’Ron Payne, Rashaan Evans, Calvin Ridley and Taven Bryan. There’s a whole host of other prospects that could sneak into the end of the first round or go early in the second — including Christian Kirk, Ronnie Harrison, Frank Ragnow and Sony Michel — but calling for three out of that group to go in the first day feels presumptuous. This bet may end in a push, but it looks more likely to go under than over.
Who will get drafted first: Minkah Fitzpatrick plus-135 (risking $1 to win $1.35) over Derwin James
Fitzpatrick, a cornerback from Alabama, opened as the favorite in this prop before James, a safety from Florida State, reportedly began springing up draft boards. Fitzpatrick seems to have gotten a second wind, however, and is going in the top 10 of many experts’ mock drafts. But the line hasn’t adjusted at the Superbook. This is about taking a value price, as Fitzpatrick is at plus-110 or plus-120 in the matchup at other books. It appears to be about 50/50 on who goes first between Fitzpatrick and James, so taking the plus-price is the only option on this prop.
More players drafted in the first round: Defensive minus-1.5 at minus-105 over Offensive at minus-115
The Sun’s mock draft came out with 17 defensive players to 15 offensive players, which sounds about right. That was the split in last year’s Draft, and teams also historically prioritize defense over offense in the early rounds. The National Football Post found a 51/49 split between defense and offense in the first three rounds over a decade-long sample size. That’s obviously not a huge edge and it also includes two more rounds than this prop, but this year’s class looks especially heavy on defense. Once teams get past the expected quarterback rush early, defense is going to become the focus.
Running Backs drafted in the first round: Under 1.5 at plus-155
At such a high price, this only needs a 40 percent probability of occurring to make it a profitable wager. Saquon Barkley being the only running back taken in the first round seems more likely than that. That’s how the Sun’s mock draft played out, with other potential first-rounders Sony Michel and Derrius Guice not getting selected. NFL front offices are only getting smarter and more analytically-driven, and it’s shown over time that running back is not a position worth investing in so early in the draft. Teams are more likely to do the right thing and pass in all cases other than a player considered as a generational talent like Barkley.