Johnny Avello Of DraftKings Sportsbook Talks Big Hits And Misses In The 2020 NFL Season

The head of the DK sportsbook breaks down 2020's big bets and bigger surprises
Aaron Rodgers throwing

While we’re not quite at the Super Bowl yet, the fact that the NFL got in a full season is a minor miracle. Call it hubris, call it good planning, call it the ghost of George Halas, the fact remains: Despite an ongoing global pandemic, the NFL managed to juke, jive, and dodge its way to a full 17 weeks.

Yes, there were hiccups, and sure, every day of the week had to be utilized, and yep, some teams got screwed a bit through no fault of their own (sorry, Steelers fans), but in the end: football as we knew it, Sunday afternoons, pass the chips and salsa.

And with the games, came the bets. And with the bets, came the data. In fact, DraftKings Sportsbook — which is up and operating in nine states — issued a full-on breakdown of the betting season that was. And there are some really interesting nuggets contained in the report.

Perhaps the most fascinating bit was the section on the most and least profitable players people bet on. These are the players that either won or lost the most money for bettors.

Carson Wentz, moneymaker?

The most profitable player? Davante Adams, which makes a lot of sense, as he had only one week below six catches, he had seven 100+ yard weeks, and scored a touchdown in every game he played except for three.

But the second most profitable player? Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. 

Does not compute at first glance, but …

“Remember Carson Wentz was bet early in the season, took a lot of money on MVP, and really on everything else he was involved in,” said Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations at DraftKings. “It didn’t really surprise me, especially considering the jurisdictions we’re in, like New Jersey and Philly.”

Another reason Wentz was so heavily bet — and why he was profitable, despite playing so poorly that he ended up getting benched — was touchdown props.

“A lot of people were betting him to score a touchdown early in the year,” Avello said. 

And Wentz came through, finding paydirt five times in the first seven games.

In fact, Avello said the touchdown prop market — first, last, and anytime — has become a huge mover for the sportsbook market.

“First touchdown was a bet we used to put up just for the Super Bowl,” Avello said. “First touchdown, last touchdown, any touchdown. But now that’s the norm. It’s every single week on every single game. It rakes a tremendous amount of money.”

And a deeper look at the most and least profitable list shows it was those bets that really pushed the market.

For instance, Cam Newton was the eighth most profitable player, and he punched it in a dozen times.

The least profitable player? Surprisingly, that honor fell to Derrick Henry, who became just the eighth running back to hit the 2,000-yard mark in a single season. So why was he the least profitable? Despite scoring in 10 out 16 contests, his odds to do so were always low, bordering on hardly worth it. So on those weeks when he didn’t score, baths were taken.

Other running backs on the least-profitable side included Ezekiel Elliot, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Ronald Jones II, and Chris Carson.

Chiefs and Packers lead the way

On the team front, the Kansas City Chiefs had the most handle at DraftKings, while the Green Bay Packers took the most total bets. 

The Chiefs also took the most Super Bowl bets — 27% of them, in fact, along with 20% of the handle.

Avello was a little surprised the Chiefs took in so much money.

“The Chiefs Super Bowl odds were so low, the highest you could get at any time over the course of the year was about 6/1 or so,” he said. “For them to have the largest handle just shows people were betting them all the way down the ladder to where they currently are, which is +220.”

On that Super Bowl prop, Avello said their biggest risks lie with the Chiefs and team that was the second-most bet to win the Lombardi Trophy: the Buccaneers.

“That started way back in April when they signed Brady,” he said.

Aaron Rodgers surprise

Avello’s biggest surprise? The constant money being taken in on Aaron Rodgers for MVP from across the country. 

“Most money wagered in New Jersey was on Aaron Rodgers,” he said. “In Pennsylvania, Aaron Rodgers. In Indiana, Aaron Rodgers. He was the most bet everywhere except in Tennessee, where it was Derrick Henry, and New Hampshire, where it was Tom Brady. Talk about a bias.”

That bias extended past the MVP race; in Tennessee, the Titans were the most heavily bet team, and they didn’t appear in any other state’s top five. In Illinois, it was the same story with the Bears. This is a trend Avello expects to see continue in the near-term.

“Hometown for now, at least for a few years,” he said. “This is still new to a lot of jurisdictions. Like Colorado loves to bet the Avalanche, the Broncos. It’s new to them, and the first opportunity to make a future bet on your favorite team is exciting. But over time, probably over five years, if their teams are not that good, people will start spreading it out.”

Night time is the right time

When it came to the most heavily bet individual games, it was the islands that stood out on the map. Nine out of the top 10 were on Sunday or Monday nights, with the lone holdout being the Dallas-Washington Thanksgiving matchup. 

“When you have a full Sunday slate, people spread out their money on all the games during the day,” Avello said. “But when we come to one isolated game on a Sunday or Monday night, it’s the only game in town, so it’s going to receive the bulk of the action from everyone, regardless of whatever sports are being played. You take one football game and isolate it and it’s going to be the top offering.”

Which pleased Avello to no end this past weekend, the first time the NFL had six playoff games in a weekend, all of them spread out. In fact …

“The Browns-Steelers game was our top betting game for the entire year,” Avello said. “Take that game, the last game of the day — all the games were isolated, but that was the last game — and everything that went into that game, parlays, teasers, what have you. Plus, it’s the get-out game, people trying to get their money back or lock in a profit.”

And looking ahead, Avello thinks one game stands out this weekend that will probably topple the handle on the Browns-Steelers game.

“The Bucs-Saints,” Avello said. “These teams have met twice, it’s obviously an important matchup, two of the best quarterbacks of all time, the point spread is 3, the total is 51.5, it’s the last game on Sunday. It all lines up to be a monster.”


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