NFL Draft week is finally here! By way of background, I have loved the NFL draft as far as I can remember being able to read. I can recall doing a first-round mock draft in my room as a 9-year-old using just the Sports Illustrated and Dr. Z’s top prospect list. I remember crying because my bus driver told me the Browns traded one of my favorite players, Chip Banks, to move up and draft some guy named Mike Junkin. I knew Dr. Z didn’t have Junkin rated highly, so not only did they trade one of my favorite players, but they passed on Shane Conlan for Junkin. I was crushed.
As an aside, the Draft wasn’t nearly the spectacle it is now, and they used to conduct the first round in the morning during a weekday. How far we have come.
I have used my lifelong love for the draft to help make some draft prop wagers. It has been much easier to pick off winners in the past but now with legalized betting in multiple states and the fact that there is nothing to bet on besides the draft, the lines are slightly more efficient and much more volatile.
I still believe that the key to wagering on draft props is getting ahead of the market and reacting as quickly as possible to the ever-changing news flow. It’s also important to be able to filter which draft analysts and reporters to pay attention to and which to ignore. I won’t go into detail on the specifics but the ones to pay attention to aren’t the ones you might expect.
The growth in popularity this year has also created an ability to middle many of these props as long as you have multiple “outs” or access to many different sportsbooks. It’s important to remember that many of the limits on these props are much lower than a typical game limit and that’s why I really only hit props with + odds to get the best bang for your limited buck.
If you follow me on twitter (@clevta), you would have seen that I posted a batch of props already in the last week. These have almost all moved significantly towards my side and therefore don’t really have enough value to consider right now.
For example, last Monday I posted Tua Tagovaoila to be the third QB drafted at +340. Within 30 minutes, that prop dropped below +300 and after more rumors surfaced that teams may be shying away from drafting him early, his odds now sit at +120. Instead, I am going to list a batch of new props that I consider most interesting at current prices.
Note: I will be only listing props from two online sportsbooks, 5Dimes and DraftKings. Make sure to line shop as some of the props I post will have significant line movements.
Tua Tagovailoa to be drafted by Jacksonville: +500 (Draftkings)
As an alternative to the third QB prop I mentioned above, I wanted to find a specific team odds where he could be drafted. On Saturday morning, I took Tua to be drafted by Jacksonville prop at +1000 but those odds have been cut in half since. I still like the +500 here as there are really only three teams that can take Tua in the top 9: Miami, LA, and Jacksonville.
All the smoke seems to be that both Miami and LA will either take Herbert or pass on Tua. Carolina is probably not taking Tua after allocating so much to Teddy Bridgewater and obviously Arizona is set with Kyler Murray. That leaves Jacksonville at No. 9 and a chance to take a big swing with the upside of Tua. The Jags are essentially tanking as it is and virtually no money allocated to Gardner Minshew, they may see this as an opportunity to find their future QB or let him sit and get a top 2 pick anyways.
WRs drafted in first round: Under 5.5 +160 (Draftkings)
The top 3 WR, Cee Dee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, and Henry Ruggs are locks to be drafted in Round 1. Two other WRs, Justin Jefferson and Denzel Mims, have been included in almost every mock draft. I believe one, Jefferson, is highly likely to be drafted in Round 1. Mims is listed at -167 to be drafted in the first round, a probability of 63% which is good but far from overwhelming odds. Even if Mims is included, there still needs to be a sixth receiver selected Thursday night.
There are a couple of other receivers who have a chance, including Brandon Aiyuk and Jalen Reagor. By all accounts, this is the deepest wide receiver class the NFL has ever seen. The separation between receivers who have a shot of being drafted at the end of the first round, like Aiyuk and Reagor, and other WRs like Michael Pittman, Laviska Shenault, etc isn’t large enough for teams to reach for.
Highly sought after position groups like cornerback and pass rusher are not very deep this year so it would be hard for me to think teams would take a receiver in the first round over taking one of the few solid prospects at corner or edge. I think ultimately five receivers will get drafted in Round 1 due to the deep nature of this class.
C.J. Henderson draft position: Under 12.5 +137 (Draftkings)
Henderson’s tremendous 40-yard dash time of 4.39 has vaulted him to a top half of the first round. After the clear No. 1 cornerback, Jeffrey Okudah, the class is not considered deep at all and a team will have to potentially reach on Henderson in order to get the next best corner.
Plenty of teams sitting in their current draft slots can use Henderson, mainly Carolina, Jacksonville, and Las Vegas. There has also been plenty of discussion that the Falcons are also looking to trade up from 16 and cornerback is clearly their top need. The Browns and Jags are potential trade partners in order to move up into the top 12. In either case, Henderson’s stock is climbing and at +137 his odds are good enough to take him inside the top 12.
A.J. Epenesa not drafted in first round: +180 (5Dimes)
Epenesa was ultra-productive at Iowa, where he collected 26.5 career sacks, 11.5 this past season. However, his combine results were downright awful for such a highly rated edge rusher. He tested in the bottom 15th percentile among current NFL edge rushers. His 5.04 40-yard dash was by far the worst among all edge rushers at the combine and .09 seconds higher than the second-worst tester. It’s not unprecedented but very rare for an edge rusher with Epenesa’s athletic testing to get drafted in the first round.
Since 2014, only one edge rusher with a SPARQ NFL percentile under 16% has been drafted in Round 1;. L.J. Collier finished in the 9.3 percentile last season and went 29th to the Seahawks. Collier had a poor combine as well but even his 4.91 40-yard dash crushed Epenesa’s. It also doesn’t help that Collier was a total non-factor as a rookie with only one pressure in 152 defensive snaps.
In 2016, Shane Ray was drafted 23rd by Denver after posting a SPARQ NFL percentile of 19.6 but his 40-yard dash was an impressive 4.68. It’s possible a team late in the first round decides that his production trumps any mishaps at the combine but I am taking the + odds that they won’t.
Zack Baun gets drafted in Round 1: +125 (5Dimes)
Baun not only produced at a high-level last season, with 12.5 sacks and 19.5 TFL, but he also had a solid combine. His 10-yard split of 1.54 was tied for the best among edge rushers at the combine and historically that metric has been useful for teams to measure short burst for edge rushers. Outside of expected No. 2 pick Chase Young, there aren’t a ton of edge rushers available in this draft. Pass rusher might be second, after QB, among all sought after positions in the NFL. Maybe his diluted drug test failure has scared off enough bettors to increase his odds but with the new CBA drug policy, I think there is an overreaction here.
Henry Ruggs to get drafted by the Raiders: +500 (Draftkings)
This is a case of the Raiders in need of an explosive wide receiver and Ruggs being the clear top deep threat in this class. It doesn’t hurt that Jon Gruden has seen Tyreek Hill completely change the Chiefs’ offense firsthand and him wanting his own version. With Tyrell Williams on the outside and possession receiver Hunter Renfrow manning the underneath routes, Ruggs would be the home run hitter Gruden covets. The ghost of Al Davis approves.
Isaiah Simmons to get drafted by Browns: +1400 (Draftkings)
I am taking a bit of a gamble here that Simmons falls to No. 10. As great as the media and social media folks think Simmons is, I just have something in the back of my head that tells me the NFL gets a bit wary of “hybrid” players who don’t have a true position. I think Simmons’s floor is 10 to the Browns, as they would love his 98th percentile SPARQ score and him fitting their two biggest needs on defense, at linebacker and safety. At worst I think this would be a spot where a team could trade up and the Browns are always a potential trade down partner.
Position of Cowboys first selection: OL +500 (Draftkings)
This is purely a bet on the Cowboys using their first selection, most likely in a trade down scenario, on Michigan center Cesar Ruiz. Longtime Dallas center Travis Frederick abruptly retired last month and it’s been clear that Dallas covets its offensive line. The other clear need for Dallas is at cornerback where they need to replace Byron Jones, but with both Okudah and Henderson likely off the board, Dallas may want to trade down to accumulate more picks and take Ruiz.