Providing NFL Draft props for hungry football fans presents a unique challenge for sportsbooks. Unlike games, there is no past data to help set openers. How much do you rely on what seems like an infinite number of mock drafts? How much do you go by NFL insider reporting? And once those props are on the board, do you adjust odds to the latest NFL Draft reports and rumors?
Take a look at who will be the third overall pick in the 2021 draft as a perfect example. Since the San Francisco 49ers acquired the pick in late March, three different players have been the betting favorite at various points, seemingly changing as Mac Jones, Justin Fields and Trey Lance conduct multiple pro days, generating more speculation after each.
TheLines.com spoke with Jeff Benson, sportsbook operations manager for Circa Sports, to get a behind-the-scenes look at how the NFL Draft market functions with so much information flying, including draft smokescreens from teams intended to disguise their true draft intentions.
Benson and Circa started offering draft props last year during the pandemic when all other leagues had shut down playing games. The response from players and people in the industry then, when it was quite literally the only “game” left in town, has carried over to 2021.
“This year we really committed ourselves to putting out one of the largest draft menus really ever seen,” Benson said. “The handle has been incredble so far.”
Circa now offers more than 100 over/under draft position props for various draft prospects, what position each team will draft in the first round and some markets for local fans, like which player the Las Vegas Raiders will select.
How NFL Draft props are set amidst countless mock drafts
With so much information and disinformation flying in the weeks leading up to the NFL Draft, how does Benson know what a good opener is for a prop? He relies on gathering as much credible reporting as possible.
“It’s part art and part science,” Benson told TheLines.com. “Our team in the back will do a lot of research on previous years, mock drafts, listening to interviews from teams/players, scouting reports, etc. In the information and technology age we are in, Twitter is a fantastic resource as well. For us we try to gather as much information as possible and make the best and most informed decision when setting these openers.”
Benson encourages his team to not be afraid to set a bad draft opener that could cost the book a lot of money.
“Matt Metcalf, our director, talks all the time about price discovery and being first to market on certain offerings in the world,” said Benson. “We understand we are going to get some numbers right, and we also understand we are going to get some numbers wrong. To be honest, it doesn’t really bother us.”
That’s because Benson says the focus is on utilizing the sharp early information to get to the right number as quickly as possible. The strategy for Circa is to try to take the majority of the bets on a prop by being the first to offer it.
“We believe this strategy lends itself to making more money in the long run, because we are able to write more bets and generate more volume by being first to open.”
Are NFL Draft props adjusted based on reports/rumors or money coming in on bets?
Some NFL Draft bettors may have wondered in recent years if lines and odds are shifting based on the latest reports from NFL insiders or consensus mock drafts. That, or traditional movement based on bets coming into the book.
“I would say with the NFL draft, it is a combination of both, but we are certainly booking to the money,” said Benson.
He admits knowing what to believe and what not to believe as the NFL Draft gets closer can be difficult to filter.
“I think we are always trying to get ahead of the perception-based bets, and a lot of the rumors and smokescreens can be very challenging especially when you are the only market in the world on some of the things you are offering,” said Benson. “With these niche markets you tend to move more aggressively since there isn’t as much information available to the bookmaker so I would certainly say that this is a market that can shift based on a great workout from a player or a rumor that someone’s stock is falling, etc.”
Keep that in mind in future years, when trying to get the best of a number on various draft props. Know that the sportsbooks are watching the workouts too.
Our thanks to Jeff Benson and Circa Sports for their time and sharing some behind-the-scenes insights on NFL Draft markets.