Pick Imbalance in NFL Draft Signals Betting Opportunities

Jay Pryce

Thursday, April 27, 2017 3:39 PM UTC

Thursday, Apr. 27, 2017 3:39 PM UTC

Happy NFL Draft Day! Dont want to gamble in the even't growing proposition market? Check out this angle utilizing the draft for season-long win totals.

The start of the NFL Draft is just hours away. Sports bettors are increasingly intrigued by the multi-day event with the growing number of prop wagers available. Although fun, some investors find it unfavorable to gamble on the first team to take a running back, or over/under on a specific franchise trading up, or last quarterback taken. It’s a crapshoot. Too many variables, too many mock drafts (barf), too much speculation, you get the picture.

For years, some investors have used the NFL Draft as a gateway to profit in other ways, primarily futures bets like season-long win totals. Here’s an angle that cashes regularly: fade poor scoring teams from the prior season that overload on offensive picks. Here’s an explanation:

 Imbalance Is A Signal

Keep tabs on franchises that finished in the bottom half of scoring the previous season that draft three or more offensive than defensive players, regardless of their number of picks. We're operating under the assumption that such a result signals either big trouble or big changes in the works—whether it’s a rebuilding job, new coach, new system, or whatever. Obviously, not all teams approach the draft similarly, nor does any plan or strategy function flawlessly over the 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 than an overload of offensive draft picks potentially signals a red-flag scenario that a franchise is desperate for repair. Some of these 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. Regardless, the notion here is that there is some philosophical slant in the organization to go heavy on offense, which is just odd. The majority of teams come out of the event with at most one or two extra players on one side of the ball. Moreover, most imbalance favors defensive players historically.

Since 2001, teams that draft three or more offensive players and ranked 16th or worst in scoring the prior season are 10-17-3 over/under their win totals in the upcoming campaign. It takes time and experience to improve offense. In fact, just five of the 30 squads 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, only eight teams owned a winning ATS record for the year (221-257-9 overall).

Three franchises overloaded on offensive picks in 2016: the Rams (5:1 offense to defense), Dolphins (6:2), and Seahawks (8:2). Seattle ranked in the top half of the league in scoring in 2015, so they get tossed in this scenario (although it did come up a half game short of their 10.5 win total), leaving Los Angeles and Miami. The Dolphins bucked the trend, despite a bottom-half scoring offense (22.1 points per game), with 10 wins; oddsmakers set the number at 7. They also eked out a favorable 9-8 ATS record. The Rams, however, made up the difference. The franchise slumped to 4 wins in their return to L.A., well below its 7.5 over/under. It also stunk it up on a weekly basis, going 4-10-2 ATS.

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