Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images/AFP
It seems like an eternity since sports fans had something of substance to look forward to but this week offers us all a break from COVID-talk and a glimpse into what may shape the 2020-2021 NFL Season. Always a highly anticipated event, this year's NFL Draft from April 23-25 is taking on some added significance, not only for sport-starved fans but also for providers of sport betting in the US. It's real, live sports betting that fans, bettors and sportsbooks have been craving.
In normal times, the NFL Draft would be in direct competition with the NBA and NHL postseasons but this year, the future of pigskin will be the only game in town. With the US legal betting industry having gone through exponential growth since last time NFL teams filled out their rosters with college Studs, the 2020 NFL Draft could realistically not only be the most anticipated in history, but it may also set a bar that it may never touch again.
Thursday night's Draft will be televised on NFL Network, ESPN and ABC and everybody involved is expecting big things. Because widespread legal betting in the US has only been available for one NFL Draft, it is a tad difficult to gauge just how much money will flow into sportsbooks from Thursday to Saturday, although it didn’t stop some analysts from weighing in.
All-in-all about $5 million is projected by some to be bet on this year’s NFL Draft. It’s not an eye-popping number but it does represent an increase of about 5 times what was brought in last year. Some sportsbooks are predicting as much as 10 times more action than they saw last year and PointsBet is expecting about the same amount of betting traffic as an average Monday Night Football game, which would equate to 10s of millions of dollars bet on the Draft.
“This year’s draft will be by far the biggest handle we’ve seen,” said, Nick Bogdanovich, the William Hill US Director of Trading. “Had the NFL draft been held in Las Vegas as originally scheduled, there’s no telling how much would have been bet but we would have written an insane amount of money.”
What sportsbooks are offering
The NFL Draft represents an actual, sellable sporting event for sportsbooks to promote and possibly the last one in quite some time. As a result, the sportsbooks have been more than eager to take advantage. "There's no clarity on when sports will come back, so sportsbooks are all really hitting the draft hard," says Jim Murphy, an oddsmaker and writer at SportsInsider.com.
"Hitting it hard" is a direct reference to the number of bets available from revenue and action-strapped sportsbooks. Bookmakers are said to be offering about 150 prop betting opportunities which is about three times more than usual. This year, there will be betting opportunities on the traditional like the first overall pick to more interactive bets like Total Alabama Players to be Drafted in the First Round and Number of RBs drafted in the first round.
There will also be some examples of sportsbooks making it up on the fly. Who will No. 1 overall pick hug first? Highest number of people in the same room. Total dogs showed during the first round. Will any draftee experience local technical difficulties? And Will any draftee be shown drinking beer? They are among the more unusual prop bets available at this unusual time.
In the short time that betting has been permitted on the NFL Draft, however, there hasn't been a whole lot of success for the sportsbooks. "Generally speaking, you don't take one square dollar [on draft props]," Jeff Davis, director of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, said. "And you get absolutely throttled."
There are many in the sports betting industry and scores of sports fans that have had April 23 circled on their calendars… and for good reason. The NFL Draft offers the world its first real sports action in five weeks and could be the only one we see for the foreseeable future. Fans and those that provide sports betting services deserve a break from our present reality and it all starts Thursday.