2018 NFL Draft Props Analysis: Make Money on the League’s Ever-Growing Need for QBs
Brian Spurlock-USA Today Sports
The Nevada Gaming Control Board has once again approved NFL draft prop bets for this year’s event. Let’s break down some of the draft’s initial lines and find out where the value lies.
Number of RBs selected in Round 1: Over 1.5 (-150) or Under 1.5 (+110)
Saquon Barkley is the obvious back accounting for the “1” in the above lines. The No. 2 back in the draft is typically viewed as Derrius Guice, with Ronald Jones II and the Georgia duo of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb filling out the top five. While two of the previous three drafts have had at least two first-round backs selected, the position has largely faced a downward trend over the past 10 years.
Perhaps more concerning than the overall drop-off is where the first-round backs have generally been selected. The average first-round back was selected with the No. 20 pick in the draft from 2008 to 2012, but since 2013 first-round runners have on average been selected at No. 8. Teams have been less willing to burn late first-round picks on the position in recent drafts: Only the position’s truly elite talents earn Day 1 selections nowadays.
The bottom of the first round could obviously change with trades, but the final 10 teams picking on Day 1 don’t have pressing needs for an upgrade at running back.
- The Panthers, Saints, Jaguars and Vikings all selected backs in the first three rounds last year.
- The Bills and Steelers already have top-tier featured backs.
- The Patriots, Titans, Falcons and Eagles have at least the majority of their running back committees already figured out.
Some of the teams at the top of the draft have already addressed the position through free agency. None of the potential first-round backs has glaring red flags, but they also aren’t the squeaky-clean three-down backs whom we’ve seen earn Day 1 selections in recent history.
My lean: The last five years of the draft have taught us that teams view the running back position as mostly replaceable with the exception of truly game-changing talents. This year’s class of running backs is undoubtedly deep, but it could struggle to draw two selections in the first round without a trade, considering the lack of positional need in the bottom half of the first round. If you want to pound the over, go with the “Guice under pick 32.5” prop at -120 odds for a better payout. I like Under 1.5 based on this year’s class and the lack of overall need for featured backs. For more, check out our running back rankings.
Number of WRs selected in Round 1: Over 2.5 (+150) or Under 2.5 (-200)
At least three wide receivers have been selected in the first round each year from 2011 to 2017. Most mock drafts don’t have any contenders to earn a top-10 selection this year, but plenty of receivers have a realistic chance of hearing their names called in Round 1 after some of the quarterbacks and elite defenders come off the board. They come in all shapes and sizes, but each possesses the speed and on-field ability to warrant Day 1 interest.
Key: 40-yard (seconds) | bench (reps) | 3-cone (seconds) | 20-yard shuttle (seconds) | vertical (inches) | broad jump (feet and inches)
- Calvin Ridley | 6-foot-0 and 189 pounds | 4.43 | 15 | 6.88 | 4.41 | 31 | 9-2
- D.J. Moore | 6-foot-0 and 210 pounds | 4.42 | 15 | 6.95 | 4.07 | 39.5 | 11-0
- Christian Kirk | 5-foot-10 and 201 pounds | 4.47 | 20 | 7.09 | 4.45 | 35.5 | 9-7
- Courtland Sutton | 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds | 4.54 | 18 | 6.57 | 4.11 | 35.5 | 10-4
- James Washington | 5-foot-11 and 213 pounds | 4.54 | 14 | 7.11 | 4.32 | 34.5 | 10-0
The first two receivers were selected with picks Nos. 15-16 in our latest mock draft. The last three wideouts possess the on-field ability to warrant a selection no later than Day 2, and speedsters such as D.J. Chark could wind up going sooner than expected given the league’s ever-growing affinity for field-stretching speed (as evidenced by the first-round selections of Will Fuller and John Ross in back-to-back years). Over backers could benefit from potentially volatile leaguewide receiver rankings if rumblings about Ridley not being the consensus No. 1 receiver in the draft are true.
My lean: Ridley appears to be the only surefire Day 1 selection, but there’s simply a ton of speed and talent available at the position in a draft riddled with teams that could use a boost on the outside. The plus odds on the over are very interesting considering the aforementioned seven-year streak of three-plus receivers in Round 1, as well as the fact that William Hill is offering -175 odds on the over. I like Over 2.5 receivers given the value and volatility at the position. For more, check out our wide receiver rankings.
Number of QBs selected in Round 1: Over 5.5 (+150) or Under 5.5 (-200)
There are five signal-callers likely to hear their names called on Day 1 in Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson. It wasn’t that long ago that we had good odds on Jackson going among the draft’s top 32 selections, but it now seems more likely than not that all five quarterbacks will be off the board before the midway point of Round 1. Next up in the pecking order are the likes of Mason Rudolph and Mike White, among others.
The signal-callers outside the top five all carry enough question marks to render them nonoptions in Round 1. Noted NFL draft expert Dane Brugler didn’t assign anyone outside of the top five quarterbacks a grade higher than the third round in his 2018 draft guide. The under seems like a fairly reasonable proposition based on this year’s available talent, and it’s even more intriguing given what the last 25 drafts (1993-2017) have taught us.
- Average Round 1 quarterbacks: 2.48
- Median Round 1 quarterbacks: 2
- Most Round 1 quarterbacks: 5 (1999)
- Drafts with three-plus Round 1 quarterbacks: 12
- Drafts with four-plus Round 1 quarterbacks: 5
My lean: It’s unprecedented in modern football for more than five quarterbacks to be drafted in Round 1. It’s not clear if even six quarterbacks will be taken in the first two rounds, and that’s before considering the potential for Jackson’s draft stock to fall, given some of the (ridiculous) reports about his ability to play quarterback at the next level. I like Under 5.5 quarterbacks with both history and this year’s available talent pool on my side. For more, check out our quarterback rankings.
Player Draft Position Props
The following players have props for their specific picks:
- Baker Mayfield over (+110) under (-150) pick 6.5: Among the teams picking in the top six, the Browns, Giants, Jets and Broncos have been linked to a quarterback. Even if Mayfield is somehow the consensus fifth-overall quarterback in the draft, there’s still a chance to hit the under if a team such as the Bills or Patriots (!!!) trades up to pick No. 4 or No. 6 to get its preferred signal-caller.
- Bradley Chubb over (-140) under (+100) pick 5.5: Chubb is almost unanimously viewed as the draft’s best defensive end. The Giants’ decision to trade Jason Pierre-Paul to the Buccaneers has some believing that they’ll immediately fill the position with the No. 2 overall pick, but that would add another high-priced salary to the league’s 10th-most expensive defensive line. Chubb isn’t likely to fall far, but even the second nonquarterback selected could wind up being the No. 6 overall pick.
- Calvin Ridley over (-120) under (-120) pick 19.5: Ridley would have to make it past the Cardinals, Ravens, Seahawks and Cowboys before hitting his over. Each of those squads could use an upgrade at receiver, and Ridley is generally regarded as the draft’s top-ranked receiver despite concerns about his production and age. If last year’s top-10 receiver splurge taught us anything, it’s that elite wide receiver talents are still a premium in today’s league.
- Derrius Guice over (-120) under (-120) pick 32.5: If you think Guice will be drafted in Round 1, select his under prop. If you don’t think Guice will be drafted in Round 1, select the “under 1.5 running backs drafted in Round 1” prop for better odds. Guice is a three-down talent who worked his way onto the field during the Leonard Fournette era at Louisiana State, but he seems like a safer bet for Round 2 given the league’s aforementioned Round 1 running back trends and Guice’s (reportedly questionable) background.
- Lamar Jackson over (-120) under (-120) pick 17.5: It wasn’t that long ago that Jackson’s over/under odds were set at pick 32. We felt that was too low due to Jackson’s chance to impress with a mind-blowing pro day performance, but he chose not to do any athletic testing, and some have questioned his choice to use his mother as an agent. Still, Jackson is a special athlete regardless of his rawness as a passer, and special athletes typically are selected in the first round of the draft sooner rather than later.
- Saquon Barkley over (+110) under (-150) pick 5.5: Barkley has widely been linked to the Browns at either the No. 1 or No. 4 pick. He also makes sense at pick No. 2 to the Giants if they actually believe Eli Manning isn’t washed. (He is.) Both of these reports give momentum to the under, and teams could feel pressed to jump up to pick No. 5 for Barkley, considering that Colts owner Jim Irsay hasn’t hidden his desire for an Edgerrin James-level back. Plenty of draftniks believe Barkley is a superior prospect to 2015 and 2016 No. 4 overall selections Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette.
- Overall No. 1 Pick: Darnold (-250) seems like the guy the Browns would be best off taking at No. 1, but is that also why John Dorsey might draft Allen (+175) instead? The superior athlete with the bigger arm, Allen is the type of guy who looks like a good football player during the time of year when football isn’t being played.
- Second QB Selected: Darnold (+500) offers value if Allen is chosen No. 1, but it appears to be a two-man race between Allen (-175) and Rosen (+125). Are those quarterbacks really that much better than Mayfield (+1200)?
- Three QBs in Top 3: Only once in NFL history (1999) have the first three picks all been quarterbacks. The Browns and Jets are almost certain to take signal-callers, so a Yes (+135) is basically a bet that the Giants will draft a quarterback (or trade the pick to a team that wants a quarterback), and a No (-175) is a bet that they’ll select Barkley or Chubb. Reminder: The Giants have a new coach, a new general manager and a 37-year-old quarterback.
Pictured above: Josh Allen and Sam Darnold