We’ve almost made it: The NFL draft is less than one week away. There are only so many more mock drafts one can consume before Thursday night. Instead, let’s ramp up the stakes for the first round by betting our hard-earned money on NFL draft prop bets.
I’ve talked with a couple MMQB reporters who have been talking with NFL personnel non-stop this offseason and I’m using their latest intel (along with outside mock drafts for one prop bet) to figure out where the value lies. Using current odds from a few sportsbooks (William Hill, DraftKings and FanDuel), here are my favorite NFL draft prop bets.
Dwayne Haskins draft position: OVER 6.5 (-120) at William Hill
Player to be selected with Giants’ first draft pick (all DraftKings): Montez Sweat (+800), Ed Oliver (+1000) and Rashan Gary (+2000)
The most interesting pick for me in the draft is the Giants at No. 6. New York could really use a young quarterback to be the eventual replacement for Eli Manning. The Giants also have the No. 17 pick in the draft, however, and can address that weakness with that pick. This quarterback class pales in comparison to last year’s crop, and the Giants have weaknesses all over their roster.
You can only take a GM’s statement with a grain of salt during smokescreen season, but I thought what Dave Gettleman said today in his presser was interesting: “I won’t force a pick. You can’t draft for need. You will get screwed every time and make a mistake.”
When asked if quarterback is in its own special category, he replied, “No, it is not.”
While one MMQB reporter thinks OL could be an outside shot at No. 6, the reporter believes that Gettleman will go best player available with his first pick, and that means taking a defensive lineman/edge rusher since that’s where the top-level prospects are in this class.
The Giants at No. 6 are the only realistic option I see for Haskins, and I just don’t think there are many teams eyeing a quarterback this year and the quarterback class isn’t anything to write home about. So I don’t think you’ll see a massive trade up by a team to jump ahead of the Giants. Haskins may not even be the second quarterback drafted, as there are teams that prefer Missouri’s Drew Lock or Duke’s Daniel Jones.
So while it’s easy to see why oddsmakers are so high on a quarterback like Haskins going early to the Giants, I think New York steers away from a signal-caller with its first pick, and the value is certainly with the non-QBs.
First receiver taken: Marquise Brown (+260) at FanDuel
Admittedly, this prop was much juicier earlier in the week, when I saw Brown as high as +900 at online sportsbooks. But since we’re using current odds, I’ll roll the dice at +260, even though the value admittedly isn’t what it once was.
One MMQB reporter said that Ole Miss WR D.J. Metcalf isn’t the consensus top wideout around the league, yet he is being priced like one (-177 to be first WR drafted at DraftKings, which implies 63.9% probability, and -150 at FanDuel). Multiple MMQB reporters said Marquise Brown was someone to watch to be the first wideout selected, despite his small size (5’9”, 166 pounds) and the fact that he’s coming off an injury (Lisfranc surgery).
But Metcalf has his fair share of concerns as well. He’s coming off a season-ending neck injury and dealt with other injuries in college, including a broken left foot. Inconsistency and drops plagued him at Ole Miss, as his production doesn’t nearly match his freakish Combine performance and build.
Brown has game-changing speed and was the most lethal wideout in college football last season. Metcalf wasn’t even the most dominant pass-catcher on his own team (that would be his teammate AJ Brown, who is third at +800 to be the first WR drafted).
Total tight ends drafted in first round: Over 2.5 (+270, DraftKings)
Multiple MMQB reporters told me that there is a legitimate shot that more tight ends will be selected on Thursday compared to wide receivers. While the wideout class is deep, the top of the TE class is very strong. Yet DraftKings’s implied probability for three TEs being picked Thursday is 27%, while DraftKings’s implied probability for three WRs going on Thursday is 51.5% (-106). Hmmmm.
Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant will be both in attendance for the draft in Nashville, and are ranked inside the top 25 on nearly every reputable big board (with Hockenson appearing inside multiple top 10s). It would be a very big upset if they both aren’t taken within the first 32 picks, especially given how many teams could use a top-flight tight end.
The wild card here is Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr. He’s versatile in that he can line up in-line or split out wide, and he’s a dangerous threat after the catch. It also helps that NFL teams can’t get enough of Nick Saban’s guys. There are a few teams that could use a giant security blanket for their QB in the back half of the first round, including the Raiders at No. 27, Packers at No. 30 and, gasp, the Patriots at No. 32 to close out Thursday night.
At +270, I’m willing to take the chance here that someone bites on Smith Jr. with the upside at TE falling off somewhat after the Alabama product. It’s a much bigger gap there compared to the projected top-3 at WR (Metcalf and the Browns) and the next tier, leading me to believe that a team is less likely to reach for a wideout in the first round with so many other strong options available at that position.
Over 11.5 Big Ten AND ACC players taken in the first round (-110) at William Hill
I was surprised to see William Hill open at this number considering South Point opened Big Ten players taken in the first round at 7.5 (over -110/under -110) and ACC players taken in the first round at 6 (over -120/under EVEN). It’s rare to see a two-player discrepancy between two reputable sportsbooks, especially considering it’s only a 32-player bet.
So this is where I looked at several mock drafts published in April, including ours at SI, ESPN, NFL.com, The Athletic, Rotoworld and others. The average number of Big Ten players selected was 6.57, while ACC was 6.14. So the average mock had a combined 12.7 Big Ten and ACC players picked, with just one mock falling under the 11.5 mark at William Hill.
Diving deeper, 100% of the mocks had Nick Bosa, Dwayne Haskins, T.J. Hockenson, Rashan Gary, Devin Bush and Noah Fant going in the first round for Big Ten. In the ACC, Brian Burns, Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Garrett Bradbury were also in every one. So we’re already at 10 players that are seemingly “near locks” to go in the first round, just needing 1.5 more. Daniel Jones and Dexter Lawrence were also in over 70% of the mocks I saw, while Chris Lindstrom was in the majority of them too. In the Big Ten, surprises such as Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Justin Layne also appeared.
I actually lean under 7.5 Big Ten players in the first round at South Point too, especially if it’s still at -110 juice where it opened. But since I don’t have betting access to that sportsbook, I have to roll with the combined over here currently at William Hill.
NOTE: One position prop that I'd stay away from the favorites would be defensive backs. On DraftKings, Greedy Williams (+120), Byron Murphy (+250) and Deandre Baker (+350) are the favorites to be the first DB drafted. MMQB reporters, however, say to keep your eye on a couple of corners that could sneak their way into the first round and possibly be the first DB taken. One name was Temple's Rock Ya-Sin (+2800).
Interestingly, Albert Breer wrote this nugget in this week's MMQB as well: "Here’s something that might surprise you: It wouldn’t shock me if Temple’s Rock Ya-Sin is the first cornerback drafted. My sense is there are five players in that mix. LSU’s Greedy Williams and Georgia’s Deandre Baker might be the best players, but there are questions about both from a football character standpoint. Both Washington’s Byron Murphy and Vanderbilt’s Joejuan Williams are seen as solid prospects, and people, but with perhaps a limited athletic ceiling. And that leaves Ya-Sin, who’s a solid kid and athlete, with the questions really surrounding his ceiling as a player and the level of competition he’s coming from. I’d be surprised if any corners go in the first half of the first round; the Steelers at 20 might be the first team to take one."
Another MMQB reporter mentioned Kentucky's Lonnie Johnson Jr. (whose odds aren't even listed!) as a late riser. So while Williams is the betting favorite to be the first DB drafted, he's not a great value with how wide-open this DB group is.