The NFL Draft Is Finally Here, And There’s Still Money To Be Made

Despite this late date, sportsbook pricing still allows for some arbitrage opportunities
trevor lawrence
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For people who have been hyper-following the NFL draft season and placing bets across every sportsbook in the known universe — chasing middles, arbitrage, and mispricings — there is going to be both a sigh of relief and a wish the NFL draft happened every few weeks, as very little compares to trying to stay one, two, or sometimes a few dozen steps ahead of the books.

There have been plenty of opportunities to lock in profit, both by pitting books against each other and by staying ahead of the news.

And even now, at this late stage in the game, there are still arbitrage opportunities with some of the operators in those states that allow draft wagering. For one, DraftKings is running a Pro Football Focus odds boost, giving +225 for over 1.5 running backs to be drafted in the first round, while FOX Bet is offering -182 on the under.

And as far as news goes? Plenty can still happen today, and for the last month, as long as you were willing to keep your eyes glued to Twitter and have every sportsbook’s app at the ready, there was money to be made. The NFL draft is an information game, and being quick on the draw as new information comes to light is the surest way to make money in the NFL draft season.

But this year’s draft season felt a little more looney than usual. There was less in the way of “information” and more in the way of legitimate guesswork with the NFL combine not happening, many top prospects either sitting out the 2020 season or coming off shortened college campaigns, and the one big trade — the San Francisco 49ers moving up to No. 3 — sending the mock draft community up in arms.

The trade and fallout

Basically, on March 30, after the 49ers traded up to the third pick, Adam Schefter of ESPN said he would be “shocked” if the 49ers didn’t take University of Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. That caused Jones’ odds to drop all the way down to -305 on DraftKings before settling in the -250 range. 

Almost every single mock drafter, fantasy analyst, and NFL analyst — not to mention every 49ers fan — was none too pleased with the news. “Justin Fields!” was basically the response to this, as many, if not most, had the Ohio State quarterback ranked as a much better prospect.

And then … it happened. San Francisco brass went to check out Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance on their second pro days, and everything flipped. Fields became the favorite, and Lance went from a +900 longshot to a +300 not-quite longshot. Jones could have been had for plus-money.

And then … nothing happened. No new reports from Schefter, no new reports from anyone. That is, until 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan held his now infamous “I can’t guarantee that anybody in the world will be alive Sunday, so I can’t guarantee who will be on our roster on Sunday” press conference, which led many to believe Jones was, is, and always will be the pick.

As a result, Jones was back to the favorite, and then some. He was at an eye-popping -400 on DraftKings Wednesday morning to be the third overall pick. As for Lance and Fields? Lance was now second behind Jones to be picked third, with his best odds at DraftKings at +400. And if you still thought Fields was the choice, he was all the way up to +750 on BetMGM.

And then Schefter spoke later Wednesday, saying the 49ers had yet to make a decision.

As a result? The odds shifted one more time. Best wagering prices at the time of this writing are Jones at -190 on BetMGM, Lance +280 on FanDuel, and Fields +500 on DraftKings.

(EDIT, Life Comes At You Fast Department: Hours after this story posted, the world turned upside down again, with Lance becoming the favorite and Jones a distant second. Cue facepalm emoji.)

Let’s mock it out

Since no one asked for one more mock, here’s another mock. (Not included: The -10000 odds this writer will end up on the couch if his wife were to find out how much he’s got riding on the draft, although a lot of it is arbitrage, honey.)

1) Trevor Lawrence of Clemson to the Jacksonville Jaguars: He can be yours for -10000 at DraftKings and BetMGM. (He’s an obscene -50000 at FanDuel. Yep. Bet $500 to win $1.)

2) Zach Wilson of BYU to the New York Jets: Not much better in the odds department, with the best an almost-reasonable -2500 at BetMGM.

3) Mac Jones of University of Alabama to the 49ers: Sticking with Schefter’s original opinion on this one. His best odds are the -190 at FOX Bet.

4) Kyle Pitts of University of Florida to the Atlanta Falcons: This one has gotten away, as Pitts to Atlanta could’ve been had for +300 (or more) a few weeks back, and it was still plus-money last week. Now, the best bet you’ll find on Pitts is to be chosen under 4.5 at FanDuel, where he’s -134.

5) Ja’Marr Chase of LSU to the Cincinnati Bengals: They could take an offensive lineman here, but most mocks have come around to the Bengals reuniting Chase with his college quarterback, Joe Burrow. Best place to bet this is William Hill, where he’s -150 to go under 5.5.

6) Jaylen Waddle of Alabama to the Miami Dolphins: The Fins could do anything here, from taking a wideout to drafting an offensive lineman to trading yet again. But Waddle — who many are comparing to Tyreek Hill — has been moving up in many mocks, and he would give Miami a big-play threat. He can be had for +300 to Miami on FOX Bet.

7) Justin Fields of Ohio State to the Detroit Lions: This one is a little off the board, but it tracks. Jared Goff can’t be the answer, right? New coach Dan Campbell told the Detroit Free Press in February that he wants a “mobile quarterback,” and that’s not Goff. Plenty of mocks have Micah Parsons, the Penn State linebacker, being the pick here, but passing up Fields feels wrong. And Fields to the Lions is +1000 on FOX Bet. (Alternately, there is plenty of thought that the New England Patriots have their eye on Fields, and a trade here wouldn’t be the biggest shock — and the books agree, with Fields to the Patriots at +400 on FOX Bet.)

8) Penei Sewell of the University of Oregon to the Carolina Panthers: The Panthers are another team that can go in numerous directions, but if Sewell is available here, I have a hard time believing he won’t be the pick. He’s at +450 on FOX Bet to go to Carolina,

9) Micah Parsons to the Denver Broncos: This would’ve been Lance, but the Broncos’ trade for Teddy Bridgewater sure sounds like the team isn’t going to spend its first round pick on a QB. Parsons fits here. He can be had for +400 to the Broncs on DraftKings. (This is also a prime trade spot. Would it shock if the Washington Football Team or the Chicago Bears tried to move up for a quarterback? Wouldn’t surprise.)

10) Patrick Surtain II of Alabama to the Dallas Cowboys: He was once +200 to Dallas on BetMGM (part of the reason zero wives were consulted in the creation of this article). Now the best Surtain bet to Dallas is even money at FOX Bet. 

11) Rashawn Slater of Northwestern to the New York Giants: While many think the Giants are going to go wide receiver here, taking Slater — who many analysts think is a better NFL bet than Sewell — feels like a good move for the Giants. He’s at +500 to go to the Giants on FanDuel.

12) Jaycee Horn of South Carolina to the Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles are another team many expect to take a wide receiver here, but they go Horn, who may even be better than Surtain. Best odds are the +280 on FanDuel.

13 to 32: Yeah, right. Good luck.

Photo: David Platt/Clemson/USA Today

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