The NFL Draft is in sight, and while opinions on players will continue to leak out in the week to come, there is enough information to zero in on some of the Draft Props currently available on DraftKings and FanDuel.
The Professor does not study college tape, so these bets are more about gathering the market consensus on players from various draft analysts and comparing that to the odds at the sportsbooks, as opposed to using my personal evaluations to make projections. With that framework in place, let’s look at some of the key draft positions, and the selections that could create a betting edge. For details on The Professor’s draft needs for each team, check out his AFC and NFC breakdowns.
Talent vs. Process: Kayvon Thibodeaux and Derek Stingley Jr.
The Oregon defensive end and LSU cornerback have drawn rave reviews for their immense talent, which was apparent the moment both stepped foot on a college football field, but their inability to check the boxes in the years since could send either down draft boards.
Draft analysts have a litany of complaints about both prospects ranging from questions on effort to durability concerns, but there don’t seem to be many questions about either player’s talent, and it’s fair to guess that some NFL position coaches are strongly expressing their opinion about what each player would accomplish under their tutelage.
Thibodeaux will likely go behind Michigan product Aidan Hutchinson, but if Hutchinson goes first to the Jaguars, there is a thought that the Lions would take Thibodeaux over Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker, as Thibodeaux’s skillset has a clear fit in Detroit’s front, and the Lions do not have Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke, whose history of valuing traits over production has led to the speculation that Jacksonville will take Walker over Hutchinson. If Walker, who is a more versatile prospect with the physical skillset to kick to the interior of the defensive line, is the first selection, then Detroit would likely pounce on Hutchinson, but if the Jags select Hutchinson, Walker may slide to the third pick.
This is reflected in the DraftKings odds; Hutchinson is -200 to go first, Walker +200, and Thibodeaux +2000, but at the second pick, the odds are Hutchinson +210, Walker +275, and Thibodeaux +300. The scheme fit argument makes sense to The Professor, who will take Thibodeaux to go second at +300 (+250 on FanDuel) and hedge it with Hutchinson at +210 (+175). That may seem to pair logically with the under on Thibodeaux’s draft position of 5.5, but The Professor will pass on that because if Thibodeaux gets past Detroit, he could slide.
This play could be further hedged by adding Malik Willis at +500 (+600 on FanDuel), but given that the Lions passed on the quarterbacks in last year’s NFL Draft, it seems they might be one of the dwindling number of organizations who believe a team can win in the modern NFL with a great roster around an adequate signal-caller.
As for Stingley, The Professor likes the under on his draft position of 11.5 at DraftKings, which is priced at -115. Draft analysts may quibble about details, but they universally praise Stingley as an elite talent at a premium position. The only receiver talked about that way is Alabama’s Jameson Williams, who is rehabbing a torn ACL, so while there are offensive and defensive linemen who appear to be locks for the top ten, no quarterbacks or skill players fit that description, which makes Stingley worth betting on. FanDuel does not have this type of prop, but you can bet this at slightly less value by taking him to go top ten at -115, though it is tough to give up Washington at 11, as the Commanders could double down on defense by adding Stingley to Kendall Fuller and William Jackson at cornerback.
Professor’s Plays: 2nd Overall Pick, Thibodeaux (+300, DraftKings) with Hutchinson (+210, DraftKings); Stingley under 11.5, (-115, DraftKings). Plays at FanDuel are at inferior odds.
Offensive Line at 3,4,5? Needs for the Texans, Jets, and Giants
Given the investments that the Jaguars and Lions have made on their respective offensive lines via veteran contracts and the draft, the assumption is that all options in a talented offensive tackle class will be available when the Texans get on the clock to make the third pick.
Many seem to think that the Texans will add to the offensive line, which is indicated by the odds on NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu, who is +100 to go under 3.5 and -130 to go over. Ekwonu’s +100 odds to go under are particularly notable because Alabama’s Evan Neal, who some draft analysts have ahead of Ekwonu, could be an option at the same position.
In addition to Neal, either Travon Walker or Kayvon Thibodeaux will likely be available, and in that scenario, the top two corners, Cincinnati’s Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and LSU’s Stingley, and the top three receivers, Alabama’s Williams, Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson, and USC’s Drake London would also be options.
In his AFC and NFC breakdowns, The Professor noted that the Texans, Giants, and Jets all have rosters so bereft of talent that they don’t have specific needs; they simply need elite players at any position. Houston has Jack Easterby in the building, and God only knows what he will tell Easterby to relay to Nick Caserio, who has employed a patient approach and waited for this draft to start Houston’s rebuilding process. The Giants are now run by Joe Schoen, who comes from a Buffalo regime that has not invested high picks in offensive linemen, and the Jets are run by Joe Douglas, who has already devoted significant resources to the offensive line in his tenure.
Throw in the possibility that a team decides to move ahead of Carolina at six to take a quarterback, and there are too many scenarios to think Ekwonu is a 50/50 shot to go at three as the +100 on the under would suggest; the -130 odds on the over support that, but even at -130, this is a reasonable bet. DraftKings has Neal’s draft position at 4.5, and given the lack of consensus in their position ranking, The Professor prefers to make this play through Ekwonu at the higher draft position. FanDuel does not have draft positions bets up yet, so it has to be placed on DraftKings.
Professor’s Plays: Ekwonu over 3.5, -130 (DraftKings)
Stocking up at Receiver
Due in part to the rising cost of wide receivers, the Packers and Chiefs elected to trade Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill rather than pay them, leaving both teams with a significant amount of draft capital and needs at receiver. Throw in the fact that the rising cost of receivers makes contributors on rookie contracts even more valuable, and there will likely be a run on wide receivers in the first round of the draft. The Texans seem relatively unlikely to target a receiver at three, but it’s not impossible, and if the Jets have a favorite player in mind to make quarterback Zach Wilson’s life easier, a receiver could go as high as number four.
In his AFC and NFC breakdowns, The Professor suggested that eleven teams had receiver as an obvious need or want and that four more teams could stand to add talent at almost any position. The Giants and Lions weren’t on that list because of recent draft capital allocation and/or free-agent signings, but either team could get in the mix, and on top of that, the receiver-needy Packers, Saints, Eagles, Chiefs, Jets, and Giants all have multiple picks, while the Lions, Jaguars, and Texans could move back into the first round.
Recent reports indicate that Alabama’s Jameson Williams, whose draft stock is murky after he tore his ACL in the National Championship game, could be the first receiver off the board despite his injury, which makes him close to a lock for the first round along with Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, USC’s Drake London, and Arkansas’ Treylon Burks.
That puts us at 5, and with Penn State’s Jahan Dotson, Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore, North Dakota State’s Christian Watson, Georgia’s George Pickens, and Alabama’s John Metchie III all possibilities to go in the first round, it is clear why DraftKings has the over on 5.5 first-round receivers at -240. Those are short odds, but it would be a significant surprise if this does not go over.
Professor’s Play: Over 5.5 First Round Receivers (-240, DraftKings)
The Professor has reached out to DraftKings to learn whether Michigan’s Daxton Hill will be a corner or safety for their positional props; if Hill, who is likely to play a prominent role in the slot at the NFL level, is listed as a safety, then DraftKings’ -250 on the over for 1.5 first-round safeties is a strong bet, though the better play is on Hill to go Top 32 at -135. Draft analysts rave about Hill’s ability to play center field as well as the slot; combine that versatility with his sub 4.4 forty-yard dash and the rise in the value of the slot cornerback position, and Hill is a likely first-round pick.
Penn State receiver Jahan Dotson is also a solid play for the first round at -125, which is arguably a way to get better odds on over 5.5 first-round receivers than the DraftKings prop at -240, as Dotson is widely pegged as the sixth receiver in this draft class.
DraftKings’ Top 32 odds for the quarterback trio of Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder (-120), North Carolina’s Sam Howell (-120), and Ole Miss’s Matt Corrall (-150) are also an interesting combined play; evaluations are all over the place on the top five quarterbacks, but with multiple teams with quarterback questions in position to jump back into the first round, it seems plausible that at least two of the three will hear their names called before Thursday Night is over, which would make this a profitable combined play.
Professor’s Favorite Plays: Top 32, Penn State receiver Jahan Dotson (-125) and Michigan safety Daxton Hill (-135)
Professor’s Combined Play: Top 32, Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder (-120), North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell (-120), and Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corrall (-150)
This article examined some early bets available ahead of the NFL Draft. The Professor will be back with more props from DraftKings and FanDuel as we approach Draft Night; look out for them on BeerLife Sports!