Factor in Offensive Picks, Win Totals to Aid Draft Betting

mitch bears

Jay Pryce

Wednesday, April 25, 2018 2:44 PM UTC

Wednesday, Apr. 25, 2018 2:44 PM UTC

Burned out or wary of betting NFL Draft props? Here's a way to tie the event to futures wagering and cash. 

NFL Draft Betting

Sports bettors are increasingly intrigued by the NFL Draft, in part to the growing number of prop wagers available surrounding the event. Although fun, engaging, and potentially very lucrative, some investors are wary when it comes to gambling on bets such as the first team to take a running back, or over/under on a specific franchise trading up, or last quarterback taken. Why? Mainly unpredictability. The draft is similar to a living organism — dynamic, shifty, and changing unexpectedly depending on specific picks, trades, war room disagreements, you name it. The event is hard to pin down for bettors and teams alike.

A more stable and foreseeable way to use the draft to bet is to apply it to futures wagering. Here’s an angle that cashes regularly with your NFL picks: Fade poor-scoring teams from the previous year that overload on offensive selections against their season-long win totals on the NFL odds board. An explanation:

Imbalance is a Sign

Look for teams that finished in the bottom half of scoring the previous season that draft three or more offensive than defensive players, regardless of the number of picks. We're operating under the assumption that such a draft signals either big trouble or big changes in the works — whether it’s a rebuilding job, new coach, or new system. Obviously, not all teams approach the draft similarly, nor does any plan or strategy function flawlessly over the multi-day event: positions go unfilled, players fall off the board, picks are traded, and so on.

In the modern NFL, where scoring is increasingly on the rise, a poor offense typically takes longer to fix than a bad defense. This is often because a mediocre or inexperienced quarterback leads the team. Not only is the man under center the important position on any squad, but also the most consistent and predictable year to year statistically. One can anticipate an overload of offensive players potentially signals a red-flag scenario that a franchise is desperate for repair.

Now, some draftees may never take a snap in the NFL, or are traded away — heck, some end up playing different positions; we're also ignoring notable undrafted players with this angle. Regardless, the notion here is that there is some philosophical slant in the organization to go heavy on offense. This is odd in two ways: first, the majority of teams come out of the event with at most one or two extra players on one side of the ball; secondly, most imbalanced drafts favor defensive personnel.

Since 2001, teams that draft three or more offensive players and ranked in the bottom half in scoring the previous season are 10-19-3 over/under their projected win totals for the upcoming campaign. It takes time and experience to fix offenses. Only five of 32 qualifying squads in this stretch, for example, jumped to the top half of the league in scoring. The majority tend to perform poorly against the spread on a weekly basis, too. Including the playoffs, just nine teams own a winning ATS record (232-274-13, 45.8 percent) during the new season.

Three franchises overloaded on offensive picks by three or more in the 2017 draft: the Bears (4:1), Broncos (6:2), and Titans (6:3). Tennessee finished 2016 in the top half (14th) of the league in scoring averaging with 23.8 points per game, so they get tossed in this scenario (although it did push its win total of 9 last season). Both Chicago and Denver came up shy of their projected win totals with identical 5-11 SU records. The Bears, who drafted quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with the No. 2 pick overall, finished a half-game under a 5.5 (+105) mark. The squad struggled to 16.5 points per game, but a solid defense helped make it one of the few to finish with a winning ATS record (7-6-3). The Broncos, behind first-year head coach Vance Joseph, really bombed, finishing three games under a win total of 8 with a 4-11-1 ATS mark. The offense ranked third from the bottom with just 0.269 points per play.

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