For NFL Prop Bets, The Number Counts For A Lot More Than The Player

The value comes from spotting disagreement among the sportsbooks
courtland sutton

It’s thanks to people like Courtland Sutton that we love the fine art — or maybe it would more accurately be called a science — of line shopping.

With the NFL preseason upon us, futures bets options for season-long performance by both teams and players abound among the major online sportsbooks. Betting on teams’ regular-season win totals is one way to go, in addition to picking a Super Bowl champion, MVP winner, or others meriting titles or awards.

But by drilling deeper into the sportsbook sites, you find prop bets available on statistics of dozens of quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers. Unless you’re an absolute fantasy football geek or they’re on your favorite team, you might not have heard of many of the players involved, but that should not dissuade you — the key is evaluating the numbers as much or more than the players.

The online sportsbooks are often in sync with one another in setting odds on how many TD passes someone will throw (Russell Wilson has a consensus over/under 24.5), how many yards a running back will gain (major books have Nick Chubb in a narrow range between 1,200.5 and 1,225.5), or receptions a wideout or tight end will snare (Deebo Samuel’s a consistent over/under 59.5).

But sometimes there’s disagreement about a player’s projections. One book, for whatever reason, will vary distinctly from others. And that’s when a savvy bettor making use of multiple sites will pounce. And that’s where, deep in the weeds, we currently find Broncos wideout Sutton.

He’s no Tyreek Hill (more about him later), which is why FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars Sportsbook, and BetMGM all post his TD reception over/under at a modest 4.5. But they’re not as unanimous as seems at first blush concerning a 6-foot-4 receiver who had just two TD catches in each of the last two seasons.

Betting the “under” — meaning four or fewer regular-season TDs for Sutton — requires laying vig of -140 with DraftKings, -145 with Caesars, and a still worse -152 with FanDuel. BetMGM, meanwhile, offers its standard -110 pricing to bet on Sutton to go under 4.5, the same price as betting him to go over the number.

We’re not smart enough here to say confidently that Sutton will do no more than four end zone dances in 2023, but we can tell that the majority of oddsmakers think that will be the case. That tells us there’s value betting Sutton under 4.5 on BetMGM, which is not necessarily the case with those others.

With similar reasoning applied, we’ve found some other player props worth considering this week — all because the numbers have value, not because of any great insights about the players themselves. In no particular order, we list them below.

Bryce Young, o19.5 TD passes, FanDuel (-112)

Who knows how the top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft will perform in his first year guiding the Carolina Panthers? Not us. Not his coaches or parents. Not anyone. Maybe we’ll get a hint in Young’s preseason debut Saturday against the New York Jets, but that’s not what’s important.

What matters is that BetMGM has posted 21.5 and DraftKings and Caesars have posted 22.5 as their over/under TD passes for Young. To be fair, DraftKings (+120) and Caesars (+115) offer plus value for those betting the over 22.5, but we’d feel a lot better having that 19.5 number at FanDuel’s standard -112.

Jalen Hurts u3700.5 passing yards, DraftKings (-110)

This is no knock against the Eagles’ fabulous young quarterback, who might have been league MVP last year if not for a late-season injury. Hurts blossomed in his second full season as a starter, with his yards rising to 3,701 in 15 games after 3,144 in 15 games in 2021.

So sure, considering his superlative receiving corps, he could clear 3,700.5 without a sweat if healthy throughout this season. But the other sportsbooks are more modest than DraftKings in assessing the likelihood.

The o/u on Hurts from the others is 3,625.5 on FanDuel, 3,599.5 on BetMGM, and just 3,560.5 on Caesars. To be able to bet under 3,700.5 at DraftKings’ standard pricing is nice value on the possibility that DK is giving Hurts a tad too much credit.

Mac Jones o3025.5 passing yards, Caesars (-115)

Jones had both an injury and sophomore slump last year, knocking him down to 2,997 yards passing after 3,801 in his strong rookie campaign in New England. While there was some clamoring for him to be replaced as starter in midseason, there was also a lot of disenchantment with his offensive co-coordinators, now replaced by Bill O’Brien.

So the question is which Mac Jones we get in 2023, in addition to whether he’ll be healthy. The three books other than Caesars all set his yardage o/u at 3,150.5 or more. Caesars, meanwhile, posts a total that is well lower, and at its standard pricing to boot (although its standard of -115 for these prop bets is worse than competitors). Betting him over and rooting for Mac to rebound is worth consideration.

Justin Fields u850.5 rushing yards, BetMGM (-110)

In his first full season starting for the Bears, Fields became just the third QB ever to exceed 1,000 rushing yards in the regular season, with his total ending at 1,143. Since it’s such a rare feat, it seems he’s not expected to match that number.

The o/u on Fields’ rushing yardage make FanDuel and DraftKings (both at 800.5) and Caesars (775.5) seem a lot more pessimistic about his potential volume this year than BetMGM. That gap of 50 to 75 yards between it and the other books speaks pretty loudly as to value using its 850.5 while counting on Fields to become a more traditional quarterback with another year of maturation.

Darren Waller o625.5 receiving yards, FanDuel (-112)

Waller had some big years with the Raiders, exceeding 1,100 yards in both 2019 and 2020. The big tight end’s production has dropped off since while he accumulated injuries, resulting in just 388 yards in nine games last year after 665 in 11 games in 2021.

He was traded to the New York Giants for a draft pick in the spring, and though healthy this summer, he’s not exactly joining a pass-happy offense. Still, FanDuel’s big three competitors all set his o/u at 699.5 or more. FanDuel gives Waller a much easier bar to clear for bettors backing him to help win them some money.

Tyreek Hill o7.5 receiving TDs, Caesars (+100)

While he had career bests in both receptions and yardage in his first season in Miami, the dynamic Hill somehow finished with a modest seven TD catches. He had more than twice that many in Kansas City two years earlier.

Here’s the thing: While BetMGM and DraftKings post the same 7.5 number for his TDs, they see him as likely to clear it, applying juice of -140 (BetMGM) and -135 (DraftKings) to bet the over. And way over on the other side of the betting world, so nice that it requires not a single dollar of vig at all, is Caesars. If you like Hill, you should like Caesars’ number.

Mike Evans u65.5 receptions, DraftKings (-120)

We come last upon a very intriguing number for a Buccaneers wideout who has been nothing but consistent throughout nearly a decade in the NFL. How consistent? Well, for one thing, he’s never had fewer than 66 catches in a year (his low was 67 in 2019).

So why is DraftKings posting this lower o/u and its peers going even lower (61.5 for Caesars and 60.5 for FanDuel), and we’re suggesting it’s worth consideration despite Evans’ great, steady history?

Well, it may have something to do with a guy named Tom Brady no longer throwing passes his way like in the last few seasons. It may have something to do with fellas named Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask competing fiercely (?) in training camp for the right to be the next to do so.

We have no idea how many balls will end up in Mike Evans’ arms this year. We do know he has more wiggle room with DraftKings than the others to collect them, if you’re betting the under. That’s all you need to know.

Photo: Dustin Bradford/Getty Images


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