2021 NFL Draft Props: 13 Value Bets & Longshots For Day 1
Abbie Parr/Getty Images. Pictured: Davis Mills
Analyst Brandon Anderson reveals 13 of his favorite props for the 2021 NFL Draft, featuring seven bets with odds of +500 or longer.
NFL Draft QB Props
Exact Order Picks 1-3: Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields (+425) at BetMGM
Brandon Anderson: BetMGM is offering some of these exact order props, and this one is my favorite because it’s basically an inflated way to bet on the No. 3 pick. There won’t be any surprises at Nos. 1 or 2 — we’ve known for more than a year that Trevor Lawrence will go first in the draft, and it’s been clear for a month that Zach Wilson will be next.
The 49ers knew that, too, or else they wouldn’t have pulled off their blockbuster deal without knowing exactly who would be there and exactly who they wanted — you don’t give up three first-round picks just to give yourself a better view of the options. You move heaven and Earth because you have a guy you think is the face of your franchise, and because you smell Wilson going second, which means your guy will slip to three and you want to act before anyone else.
I maintain that that guy is Justin Fields, who has the talent to go No. 1 overall in most drafts.
Like Simon, I haven’t bought the Mac Jones smoke for a second, and Trey Lance is a perfect fit but a long-term project. Fields is a better version of both — he has Jones’ accuracy and Lance’s athleticism, but more of each.
Justin Fields is that dude. He has been all along.
Justin Fields Top 5 Pick (+125) at DraftKings
This pick goes with the previous one and acts as something of insurance and me doubling down on my belief that Fields is a level above every quarterback in this draft not named Trevor Lawrence.
I rate Fields closer to Lawrence than the rest of the QBs. Fields had an absurd 83% True Accuracy rating this season, higher than Mac Jones and higher than any QB Football Outsiders had ever measured. The next four highest guys are all between 75 and 78%, and three of the four were No. 1 draft picks (Joe Burrow, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray). Fields is also an absurd athlete with a 4.40 40, and he plied his trade against a really difficult schedule at Ohio State with less scheme and weapon help than the other top QB prospects.
The whispers in draft circles about Fields are that NFL teams are scared by his slow decision making and processing speed, but internet scouts and the Twitterverse almost entirely agree he is a great prospect. I think he’d be a No. 1 pick in many drafts, and I think he’s the guy the 49ers traded up for.
Even if I’m wrong about that and the Niners don’t take him, I think Fields is so good that some team will rush to find a way to snag him shortly after the 49ers pick. Maybe that’s Atlanta bringing Fields back home to Georgia, or maybe it’s a team trading up for a mega talent. I just can’t see Fields sliding far.
Davis Mills Draft Position Under 60.5 (+100) at BetMGM
I have two more Mills-driven longshots below — small partial unit plays — but this is a full play. My read on the draft is that Mills seems to have separated himself as the quarterback most likely to go after that top five, and if the top five really go in the first 10 or 15 picks as expected, someone is going to take the leap on a quarterback in the next 50 picks.
I’m not a believer in Kyle Trask or Kellen Mond, and Mills has the sort of pocket poise and feel for the game that makes scouts think he “feels” like a quarterback, for better and for worse. He profiles as at least a strong backup option and a potential developmental starter, and this is basically just a bet that he goes somewhere in the first two rounds at even money.
NFL Draft Value Bets
Penei Sewell Draft Position Under 6.5 (-110) & First Non-QB Selected (+500) at FanDuel
Other than a star quarterback, few things in the NFL are more valuable than a franchise left tackle. Penei Sewell has been the top tackle on the board for over a year and stayed that high even without playing this year. He was the first freshman starter at Oregon in ages and gave up literally one (1) sack in two seasons with the Ducks. He’s also one of the younger prospects at age 20, so he has plenty of time to develop.
Sewell is the sort of guy you draft and plug in for the next 15 years. For these teams picking after the top three who don’t need a QB anyway, Sewell could be a godsend, basically like landing a No. 1 pick without even needing to trade up.
I think Sewell is in play for the Falcons, though it’s also possible that pick gets traded for a team moving up for a QB. In that case, Sewell makes a ton of sense for Cincinnati, especially because it makes more sense to protect your franchise QB than to give him a fancy toy (Ja’Marr Chase). And if Sewell is somehow still there when Miami picks, what better way to use that pick the Dolphins got from Houston for offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil than by replacing him with a better, younger, cheaper version in Sewell?
I love Sewell as a top-6 pick at -112, but I think he has a good chance of hitting the second prop too and going as the top non-QB on the board. At the end of the day, a stud left tackle is just more valuable than an elite tight end or a great receiver.
Under 1.5 First-Round TEs (-550) at BetMGM
I prefer to play most props at longer odds, but sometimes you just need to pick up a little change to fund all those long bets. Vegas is giving out money on this one. Kyle Pitts is obviously going in the first round, so the only question is whether any other tight end will join him. And it sure seems obvious that the answer is no.
The biggest threat is probably Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth. While Freiermuth is big and athletic and might be a perfectly competent NFL tight end, he doesn’t have the sort of profile that gets a guy drafted in the first round at a non-premium position. Notre Dame’s Tommy Tremble is another option but also doesn’t look like a first rounder. It takes a special talent to get a tight end drafted in the first round. There’s only one of those guys this year. These odds should probably be at least double this number.
First Safety Drafted: Trevon Moehrig (-370) at FanDuel
Let’s drink the juice and put another winner on the board so we can fund the rest of our longshots.
There’s not a clear star safety on the board, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see the first round conclude without a safety’s name called. That doesn’t mean there’s not a consensus top safety.
I’ve read a whole lot of big boards and mock drafts over the past months, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone but Moehrig as the top safety in any of them. He’s a versatile ball-hawk safety and looks NFL-ready. More importantly, I’m not sure he has much competition as the top safety selection. In the end, it doesn’t really matter if Moehrig goes first round or even top 50. He just has to be better than the rest of the options, and I’m willing to bet at -370 that he does.
Under 0.5 First-Round RBs (+320) at FanDuel
I don’t see any running backs walking across the stage Thursday night.
A decade or two ago, Najee Harris would’ve probably been a top-10 pick. He’s a strong, patient runner between the tackles, and I’m sure he’ll be a fine NFL back. Travis Etienne is the crazy home-run hitter, but he strikes out too many times for my liking, getting stuck on blockers and lacking pass protection skills. Javonte Williams is talented but couldn’t even win his own job at North Carolina.
All of these guys look ready to contribute in the NFL, but are any of them game changers? I don’t buy it. Running back is the NFL’s version of NBA centers. There are just too many of them, and the life cycle is too short, to spend this high of a draft pick. I’m looking at the teams toward the bottom of the first and just don’t see which one is going to waste a pick on a luxury back. They’re either too smart or have too many holes.
I’ll play the plus juice and hope we wait until Friday to hear a running back’s name.
NFL Draft Longshot Bets
Davis Mills Drafted First Round (+1100) at DraftKings & Tampa Bay First Position Drafted: QB (+2500) at BetMGM
It’s becoming more and more en vogue to see teams take that longshot quarterback at the end of the first round. First-round picks have that magic fifth year on the contract, an extra cheap year on the deal that pays off huge if the pick is a hit. The tail end of the first is a great spot for a contender to take a developmental quarterback, or for a team at the top of the second to trade up a few picks and lock in that rookie-deal fifth year.
Davis Mills needs some development, but he has the pedigree and the know-how. He’s also pretty accurate on those mid-range balls and has nice touch on his passes. There’s been some mock draft buzz about Mills sneaking into the first, and I think he’s the best QB prospect outside of that top five. Would it be so crazy to see the Bucs close out the first round by drafting their QB of the future to learn behind Tom Brady for a year? Or to see another QB-desperate team that misses their guy in the first round make a move up from the second?
NFL teams are desperate at quarterback. I’m willing to bet on desperation, though these are smaller partial unit, longshot plays.
First RB Selected: Javonte Williams (+850) at BetMGM
This play is sort of a corollary to the last pick. If there’s no running back that goes in the first round, then there’s a pretty good chance that all three of Harris, Etienne, and Williams go somewhere in the second. And if I don’t think any of these guys has separated himself as a surefire first-round pick, then that likely compresses the order they’ll be selected in and makes this something of a pageant pick, with beauty in the eye of the beholder.
Etienne is the home run swing. Harris feels more like the safe single. Could a team talk themselves into Williams first as something of an in-between pick, trying to hit that double down the line? Williams is a strong runner with a nasty stiff arm, and while he isn’t a three-down back, most teams these days use two backs, and we already know Williams is a great “thunder” back for a team that already has a “lightning” guy.
Most likely, Williams ends up the third RB off the board, but I think he ends up within around 10 or 15 picks of the top two backs. If they’re that close, I think Williams should be more like +400 to be the first one selected, so I’ve got to play the long odds here.
Falcons First Pick: OL (+2000) at BetMGM
The draft starts at No. 4 with the Atlanta Falcons on the clock. We know the first three picks will be quarterbacks — Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and whoever the 49ers finally take at No. 3. That puts the Falcons up next, and they’ve got options. It could be a QB of their own, under the logic that you only get so many cracks at a franchise guy, but is Atlanta really taking their fourth option to sit on the bench a couple years behind a still viable (and expensive) Matt Ryan?
The more likely scenario has Atlanta grabbing TE Kyle Pitts to open up this offense. Pitts is the favorite to go to the Falcons, and WR Ja’Marr Chase is also in play, but are we sure the Falcons should be taking a weapon? Atlanta has already invested a ton in Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Hayden Hurst.
Rather than plugging someone in behind a position of strength at QB or in the receiving corps, why not grab a player who makes those already good players even better? Penei Sewell might be the best non-QB in the draft. Atlanta could take him at No. 4 and plug him in immediately to improve PFF’s No. 21 offensive line from last season. Sewell makes sense. So too does a trade down to another team desperate for the QB of their choosing. If Atlanta trades down, then Sewell, Rashawn Slater, and Alijah Vera-Tucker could all be in play.
The narrative fits. Atlanta can help itself both now and later by taking an offensive lineman, and at +2000, I have to take the shot.
Pre-Draft Rookie of the Year Pick
Azeez Ojulari To Win Defensive ROY (+1300) at FanDuel
Let’s close out with one we’ll have to wait awhile on.
This is a light defensive draft, so DROY feels up for grabs. We know at this point that voters prefer to reward splash, which means we need some serious numbers from a Rookie of the Year winner. As great as Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn are, only two corners have won DROY since Charles Woodson in 1998.
Three of the last five DROY winners have been pass rushers, and that makes sense. It’s easy enough for a rookie to rack up a big sack total even if they don’t play a ton of snaps and even if they don’t dominate, since 10 sacks just means 10 flash plays over a whole season.
Sacks are how Chase Young and Nick and Joey Bosa won this over the past five seasons, and I think Azeez Ojulari is the best pure pass rusher in the draft. Even if he’s a bit small and ends up a situational pass rusher, he’ll catch voters’ attention if he gets to eight or 10 sacks. Ojulari led the SEC in tackles for loss, forced fumbles, and sacks, and he’s my early pick for DROY straight up, let alone at +1300 odds.
The NFL Draft is finally here! Let’s get that bread.