The NFL Draft was supposed to have been held on a virtual island constructed within the fountain pool of the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Instead, it will be held in an archipelago of virtual spaces around the United States, another bi-product of the COVID-19 pandemic impacting daily lives and daily distractions. Even America’s favorite sport and betting pastime.
This will be weird, as commissioner Roger Goodell curates the online proceedings from his basement in Bronxville, free (at least in person) of the jeers. After all, those congratulatory handshakes would require so much soap afterwards.
But in many ways, this draft will represent a return to normalcy, or, at least, new-normalcy with the prospect of actual games — for the NFL or any league — still a speculative exercise.
And that’s in part why the draft, which commences on Thursday, April 23, has mushroomed as a betting market in the absence of most any other live action, other than obscure European soccer or table tennis or esports.
The draft schedule is as follows: Round 1, April 23, 8 p.m. ET.; Rounds 2-3, April 24, 7 p.m. ET.; Rounds 4-7, April 25, 12 p.m. ET. It will air live on ESPN, ABC, NFL Network.
Excitement around NFL Draft betting
Typical draft intrigue combined with loads of free time for sharps and dabblers to apply to analysis could lead to some lucrative opportunities for bettors.
“No matter how many mock drafts you read, no matter how much you’re around what the general consensus is, there are always surprises. There’s always picks we didn’t see coming or a team that valued a player much higher than everyone else,” PointsBet Sports Content Manager Andrew Mannino told PlayUSA. “So, I think that in this time where people have more, sort of, space and mental time to devote to thinking this out, there are definitely some gems out there.
“And I think that when we see those usual surprises that we see in the early picks of round one, I think that there’ll definitely be some people who find some gems.”
And the haters try and say I live in my mom’s basement…
Roger Goodell right after this was filmed…
”Ma! The meatloaf!”👇 https://t.co/cwG6WEznKL
— James T. Yoder (@JamesYoder) April 17, 2020
Mining for them has been brisk on both coasts.
PointsBet has taken more than double the amount of NFL Draft bets as this time last season.
For sports-starved bettors, an NFL Draft like never before
That the now-virtual event represents one of the first tangential connections to a beloved American sport since the COVID-19 lockdown broadens the importance of those extra offerings, he said.
FanDuel and DraftKings representatives told ESPN that betting volume was markedly higher than last year, also, and Fox Bet traders told PlayUSA that they expect volume for the upcoming draft to be “four to five times” a normal year.
William Hill director of trading Nick Bogdanovich said his company had planned on posting “five or six times” more draft proposition bets than usual – they’ve only been allowed by the Nevada Gaming Control Board since 2017 – because of expected interest in a Las Vegas-based ceremony.
“Betting is definitely way up,” he told PlayUSA. “I don’t know what the exact number is. Is it up three times, four times, eight times? But it’s going to be quite substantial.
“We were going to originally [post more bets] just because the draft was in Las Vegas and it was going to be 800,000 crazies here for three days and it was going to be off the hook. So, I knew that we had to get a bigger and better menu up for this year on that alone. But when all that fell through, just the sheer demand for it was there still there.”
PointsBet has launched 210 markets compared to 120 last season. That’s both to accommodate customer demand for something familiar, and because traders don’t have the other major sports to cover, Mannino said.
“As we get more experienced, as legalized sports betting in New Jersey continues to evolve, we’ve got more experience to look back on. There definitely would’ve been an uptick in our offerings, but we would’ve had a lot more on our plate in the meantime and we would have been spending a lot of time on college basketball, the NBA and NHL,” he said. “So, we certainly wouldn’t have as much attention to devote to it. I think the bettors have more time too.”
Tua Tagovailoa speculation a popular betting market
Not even poor broadband can prevent the Cincinnati Bengals from selecting former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow first-overall.
Text from a participant on the NFL’s mock draft that started at 1 pm EST. “Mock draft today already technical glitch w Cincinnatis 1st pick!!! Brutal.”
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 20, 2020
The national-title-winning, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback has been heavily critiqued, as expected, in the weeks preceding the proceedings, but also elicited praise from the likes of Hall of Famer Brett Favre. Bogdanovich considers Burrow such a lock at number one that his company isn’t offering any prop bets on the first-overall pick.
“It’s not really a viable booking proposition. It might be worth some publicity or something,” he said. “They’ve already declared it, that they’re going to take him, so no one’s going to lay it.”
Burrow is a staggering -100000 to be the first player taken at FanDuel, but a relative bargain at -10000 at PointsBet and DraftKings, which even has a market on where his supposed predecessor, Andy Dalton, will play next season.
Multiple outlets have markets on whether the last player selected, the so-called ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ will be an offensive or defensive player. Draftkings posted a potentially lucrative trifecta of sorts in asking the exact order of the first three running backs selected.
NFL draft can be “just like an ATM for bettors,” says bookmaker @Rex_Beyers … … … 🤔 https://t.co/ICahzsUOGT
— David Payne Purdum (@DavidPurdum) April 20, 2020
Multiple sportsbooks are offering matchplay bets asking which player will be taken first. Former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa opened at -150 at William Hill to be drafted ahead of Washington counterpart Justin Herbert (+130) and has lost public favor despite recent public discourse regarding his history injury.
Meanwhile at DraftKings, in a prop pitting two of Tagovailoa’s former targets, wide receiver Jerry Jeudy is heavily favored (-225) to be taken before teammate Henry Ruggs III (+225).
FanDuel has a market on first “Hog Molly” taken, with another Crimson Tide product, offensive lineman Jedrick Willis Jr., the clear favorite.
Ohio State defensive end ChaseYoung is the runaway favorite for first defensive player taken, standing at -3000 to go second at FanDuel and -10000 at PointsBet
Virtual draft has changed virtually everything
While Bogdanovich considers Burrow a lock at the top spot and Young a near-cinch to Washington at No. 2, the rest of the draft, he said, has become a fascinating case study in decision-making in a vacuum.
That includes team player personnel and bettors.
“Everything’s changed for all the people preparing for the draft. All you’re hearing is a lot of rumor and innuendo on social media and Twitter and people running with it,” he observed. “It’s really the most wide-open crapshoot of all time.
“The draft starts at [pick] three. At three you never know. For the longest time, everyone talked about Tua, somebody trading up and taking him in the three hole and now there’s talk of him dropping out of the top ten. So that goes to the wildness of this whole situation. I mean, it’s great theater.”
Bogdanovich likened the situation to two years ago when the first experiment of allowing betting on the Academy Awards in New Jersey was briefly halted after social media buzz suggested the winner of the Best Director category had leaked, swinging betting volume toward away from the favored eventual winner.
“Maybe some team started the rumors so they could get [Tagovailoa] at an earlier spot. You really don’t know,” Bogdanovich said. “I mean, obviously, we’ll tune in on Thursday and we’ll all find out.
Reminder about Draft week: teams putting out info or “starting a rumor” always have an agenda. Believe it at your own risk.
— Andrew Brandt (@AndrewBrandt) April 20, 2020
“But like I said, it’s all speculation and if you’ve done any research at all in this mock draft, it’s so all over the place. It’s not even funny. I mean some people got [Utah State quarterback] Jordan Love going six and some going 28. It’s interesting and it’s good. Everyone’s getting a little taste of the NFL right now.”
Rumor-prompted market volatility has kept PointsBet traders busy, Mannino said, with Tagovailoa at the center in the New Jersey market, also.
“We’ve seen case after case where a rumor starts and then it’s reflected in the mock draft. And then there’s smoke and then bettors are coming for it,” he said. “It’s keeping us on our toes for sure and the odds are fluctuating all the time.
“At the end of March we had Tua as -650 to be the second quarterback drafted and Herbert at +500. Today they’re both at -115 and it’s a coin toss. We’ve seen rumors come out or you see a new mock draft and people chasing it, getting in on it. And as those rumors circulate, it certainly can be having an impact in the betting community.”
Vegas misses another party in a lost spring
A vacant Strip has been strange enough to process for Bogdanovich, a Las Vegas native. The lost opportunity for the city to host its own house-warming party for the NFL has left him equally disappointed. He’ll still be in his office, as usual, for the draft, but he would have ducked out if the bash had gone on as planned.
“It was going to be crazy,” he said. “People just absolutely love the NFL Draft and there’s not a better place in the world to hold an NFL Draft than in Las Vegas. So it would have been worth going down to see the scene.
“We have to shut betting off at a certain time anyway, so I probably would have driven down to The Strip and from a distance watched the wildness.”
It’s still going to be wild. And a little weird. But there are gems to be found.