After a uniquely formatted 2020 NFL Draft that conformed to the new realities of a pandemic, the NFL inches back to normalcy with the 2021 edition of its annual college player selection process but still with NFL Draft bets galore available. This year’s proceedings take place in Cleveland from April 29- May 1 and will have some of the projected top selections and even a limited number of fans in attendance.
As has become increasingly customary in recent years, the draft will appeal to both hardcore football fans and bettors, and it will hold maximum intrigue for those who happen to be both. The ‘purist’ non-betting football fans will naturally be interested in what new additions teams make and what blockbuster trades might transpire. In turn, those with a betting interest will have a stake in the process as well, via NFL Draft prop wagers placed at legal, regulated sportsbooks.
Markets naturally vary by sportsbook. Some of the most popular options for NFL Draft bets center on the draft’s early rounds and ‘firsts’ throughout the process. For example, DraftKings Sportsbook, BetMGM and FanDuel Sportsbook have some or all of the following NFL Draft-related markets available:
- 1st overall pick
- 2nd overall pick
- First WR Drafted
- First QB Drafted
- First CB Drafted
- First OL Drafted
- First RB Drafted
- First Safety Drafted
- Round 1 Position Totals
- First TE Drafted
Comparing the most accurate mock drafts to the odds of NFL draft bets
With each passing year, mock drafts become an increasingly popular and pervasive part of the pre-NFL Draft process. In an age where it seems anyone with a website even tangentially related to football throws up at least one mock draft each spring, there are many inexperienced hands offering their predictions in the weeks leading up to the draft.
Conversely, there are also many who have developed a legitimate expertise for prognosticating the draft and quite the track record for accuracy over the years.
In an effort to see how in sync some of the leading mock drafts are with NFL Draft bets, TheLines.com examined five from particularly respected sources that ranked among the leaders in overall accuracy in 2020 and compared their predictions to the odds for the first player taken at each position for DK Sportsbook, BetMGM and FD Sportsbook.
Those mock draft sources are the following:
Albert Breer (website: The MMQB)
Lance Zierlein (website: NFL.com)
Steve Serby (website: NY Post)
Staff rankings (website: theScore)
Nate Bouda (website: NFL Trade Rumors)
No. 1 overall pick
The seemingly virtual lock of all NFL Draft bets. As with last year, when LSU’s Joe Burrow unanimously sat atop everyone’s rankings, the phenomenon repeats itself in 2021 with Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. The towering signal caller is largely seen as a can’t-miss prospect, and at 6-foot-6, he has even more prototypical physical tools than last year’s top overall selection.
Lawrence is essentially considered bulletproof in terms of his skill set, and the marriage between him the QB-starved Jaguars is seen as a virtual lock at the top of this year’s draft.
Need some more corroboration? Look no further than the 1st overall pick odds at DK and BetMGM, where Lawrence is listed at a whopping -10000. At FD Sportsbook, he’s a bargain by comparison at -6000. Even all the recent hype surrounding Zach Wilson doesn’t move the needle on his distant second status – the BYU product is currently either +1400 (DK/MGM) or +1300 (FD).
First WR drafted
Unlike last spring, when there was no true consensus among a wide receiver group that included Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs, our five mocks are all in agreement on LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, who posted an 84-1,780-20 line in 2019 before sitting out 2020 in order to focus on eventually going pro.
At a solid 6-foot-1 and 201 pounds and having run a 4.38 40-yard-dash at LSU’s pro day, Chase has obliterated any possible doubts attached to his missed season and is pegged to go either No. 5 to the Bengals or No. 6 to the Dolphins.
Based on some of the other outstanding, NFL-ready talent at this position, this feels like a market where there would be at least some uncertainty regarding what player might be taken first. Yet, the sportsbooks don’t reflect as much.
Chase is listed at -435 at DK Sportsbook, -500 at BetMGM and -950 at FD Sportsbook. While there’s a big gulf between the first two and the latter, the overriding theme here is Chase is a heavy favorite. Heisman Trophy winner and second-place occupant DeVonta Smith is no shorter than +500 (DK Sportsbook) and as long as +750 at FD Sportsbook. Smith put up an outstanding 117-1,856-23 line to earn the distinction of the nation’s top receiver, yet Chase seems to be considered the more complete pro prospect than the slighter Smith.
First CB drafted
Finally, a market for defense among 2021 NFL Draft bets. It’s a year of consensus at multiple spots, as there is zero disagreement among our five mocks on Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II. Lauded for his size/speed combo and having defensed a total of 24 passes (including four INTs) during his three-year Crimson Tide stint, Surtain is seen as the Cowboys’ pick (No. 10) by three of our five most-accurate mock drafters. Meanwhile, Breer has Surtain going to the Panthers at No. 8, and Zierliein is the true outlier with his prediction that the star corner will go to the Falcons at No. 4.
While FD Sportsbook isn’t currently carrying a 1st CB Drafted market, both DK and BetMGM have Surtain as -250 and -275 to be the first at his position off the board. The only conceivable challenger in terms of odds – and he’s a longshot at that – is South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn, who carries +200 and +250 odds at DK and BetMGM, respectively.
First RB drafted
There are two running backs in a tier above the rest in this draft, but the position is still outshined by both quarterback and receiver in terms of draft capital. Both Clemson’s Travis Etienne and Alabama’s Najee Harris are considered late first-rounders in a best-case scenario. However, only Zierlein currently has one of them going off the board the first night, and it’s with the last pick of the first round at that. The NFL.com analyst sees the defending-champion Buccaneers nabbing Etienne No. 32 overall.
Serby’s latest mock only goes as far as the No. 25 selection, but it’s worth noting he had Etienne going to the Jets at No. 23 with their second first-round pick in the previous iteration of his mock.
Given it’s Etienne’s and not Harris’ name that pops up on the radar of two of our mocks, this could be one of the spots where there is some value for bettors.
Harris is listed as a solid favorite across the board at DK (-150), BetMGM (-160) and FD (-140). Etienne checks in behind him at +200, +225 and +150, respectively. The fact Harris offers elite speed, packaged within a 6-foot-2, 230-pound frame, naturally makes him a scout’s dream. His 3,843 collegiate rushing yards, 781 receiving yards and 57 total TDs illustrate the measurables translate extremely well to the field.
However, Etienne’s efficiency was off the charts, as he averaged an absurd 7.2 yards per carry in four college seasons and scored 78 total touchdowns across 55 career games with the Tigers. He’s arguably an even better receiver than Harris (97 receptions in his last three seasons) and could therefore be uniquely valued by a RB-needy team.
First OL drafted
Even the big uglies up front are carrying a bit more draft prestige this year than the runners they open lanes for on game day. Much like last season when Mekhi Becton and Jedrick Willis seemed to be clear 1-2 at the position but Georgia’s Andrew Thomas went ahead of both at No. 4, all the talk this spring centers around Oregon’s outstanding Penei Sewell. The consensus has been Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater and Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw are behind Sewell.
Our five mocks are in almost unanimous agreement here in terms of the first OL to be taken. It’s Sewell, whose list of accolades during his last college season in 2019 included the Outland Trophy, the Morris Trophy, unanimous All-American selection and a first-team All-Pac-12 nod. Zierlein has him going the highest, to the Bengals at No. 5. Meanwhile, the Lions pouncing at No. 7 and the Panthers taking the leap at No. 8 remain possibilities with our selection of 2020 most-accurate mock drafters.
Only Serby deviates, tabbing Slater as the first off the board to the Broncos at No. 9 overall. It’s worth noting the two players are seen to be close enough in talent to cause some ambiguity about which might be plucked first.
The sportsbooks are largely mirroring the Sewell love. The big man carries a -1100 price in the First OL Drafted market at BetMGM, with FD and DK checking in at -950 and -715, respectively. Slater is a clear-cut No. 2 across the board as well, but an undeniably distant second with prices of between +375 (BetMGM) and +320 (FD).
First safety drafted
Compared to all the other positions we’ve covered, safety comes off as a virtual draft wasteland this season. However, for bettors, the first safety drafted market could be one of the safest to wade into, albeit with a steep price. TCU’s Trevon Moehrig-Woodard is the clear odds-on favorite, and only two of our five mocks have him even going in the first round.
What makes Moehrig-Woodard’s case particularly interesting is both theScore and Bouda don’t have him just scraping by on the first night – he’s safely ensconced at No. 17 to the Raiders, with no other player at his position in sight until Day 2. As such, the 21-year-old is a solid -400 at DK and -350 at BetMGM to be the first safety taken.
Moehrig-Woodard is regarded as a top-notch cover man at free safety with excellent instincts, which manifested themselves in the form of 21 defensed passes, including seven interceptions, over his 33 college games. He’s also considered an above-average tackler who forced a pair of fumbles among his 124 total career tackles with the Horned Frogs.
The question for those looking to get down NFL Draft bets is whether there’s any other fellow safety lurking behind him with a shot to leapfrog Moehrig-Woodard on draft weekend. DK and BetMGM make Oregon’s Jevon Holland a relative longshot in this regard. He’s at +400 at the former and +280 at the latter. Holland actually proved to be more of a ballhawk – he racked up nine interceptions in 27 games over his two college seasons – before sitting out 2020. The two players are almost identical in dimension, but Moehrig-Woodard’s speed is widely deemed superior.