The NFL Combine — currently happening in Indianapolis — is a key event for team general managers, scouts, and … sportsbooks and sports bettors.
Yes, the best information game in town is back at America’s sportsbooks this year in advance of the NFL Draft. Expect wild swings in player draft markets depending on what they do at the combine, what mock drafts say between now and April 27, and every manner of tea leaf reading in-between.
“I do think with NFL Draft markets, everything stems back to information,” said Spencer Diaz, a FanDuel trader. “Daniel Jeremiah drops a mock draft, you check that out. You see he has Tyree Wilson over Will Anderson Jr., that’s going to move the line because that’s someone respected in the space. That’s the information piece.”
Where will the top college prospects land? Find out in @MoveTheSticks' 2023 Mock Draft 2.0! DJ breaks down his picks w/ @LanceZierlein on the latest episode 👇
Full episode: https://t.co/iFe1OlRERq pic.twitter.com/MlC1jmNsI4
— NFL Podcasts (@NFL_Podcasts) February 21, 2023
But that’s not all.
Much like in other, more traditional markets, when the big bets come from respected bettors, the line is going to move as well. Key difference here: The sportsbooks will then scramble to find where the information driving those bets is coming from.
“Almost all the time, when we’re analyzing those bets, it’s tied back to information,” Diaz said. “If we see a big bet that might move the line, we’re thinking that the customer is privy to some information that we’re not aware of, something we’re missing.”
Already this draft season — and even with sportsbooks offering only a tiny fraction of NFL Draft action thus far — there has been a big move.
Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson has been steadily moving up in many mock drafts. FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars and a handful of other sportsbooks have had “Who will be the No. 1 pick?” up for months now. For a good chunk of that time, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young has been the favorite, and he remains so. (He’s at -130 at Caesars currently, up to -165 at FanDuel.)
But then Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports dropped a mock last week that had Richardson going first to the Indianapolis Colts via trade with the Chicago Bears. Richardson’s odds to go first had been north of +5000 everywhere; all of a sudden, they weren’t.
Today, he’s as low as +600 at Caesars.
“When you see a move like Anthony Richardson, you want to react to it right away, because there might be some information there we don’t have,” Diaz said. “Money comes in fast, you have to react.”
But when it comes to this Richardson stuff …
“The Anthony Richardson steam is pretty funny, because it came from a mock that had him going No. 1 overall,” said Connor Allen, the sports betting manager for 4for4 Fantasy Football. “It’s important to remember that early on, these markets just ebb and flow with steam. Nobody knows anything before the combine, and even after the combine it usually takes teams a bit to get themselves sorted. But there will be some great post-combine nuggets about the general idea where teams are headed.”
Of course, those nuggets can sometimes be fool’s gold, and this draft season, the sifting through the information might be more important than ever.
Talent? Paging Talent?
“I think one of the themes is there’s a lot of exceptions in this draft, like undersized players or guys that don’t check every box,” Jeremiah said Sunday morning. “There’s a boatload of intriguing players, but there are very few Patrick Surtains, Sauce Gardners, Trevor Lawrences, Joe Burrows. There’s just not the slam-dunk guys that I thought we’ve had over the last few years.”
And things get even trickier at the top, according to ESPN’s Todd McShay, who reported that he would be “scared to death” to take Young first.
Update: Alabama QB Bryce Young's real height is 5'10½, according to ESPN's Todd McShay.
“If I’m a GM, I’m scared to death of drafting him.” said McShay.https://t.co/IX0Jf0GLXP pic.twitter.com/jcz1ZAlf9G
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) February 27, 2023
Allen, for what it’s worth, doesn’t think Young is a surefire No. 1.
“There is absolutely a chance Bryce Young doesn’t go first overall,” Allen said. “He is a great prospect but is barely six feet tall, and if he weighs 200 pounds at the combine it’ll be because he drank 10 gallons of water before. For better or worse, certain teams will shy away from drafting a QB of smaller stature.”
Anthony Amico, who covers the draft for Establish The Run, takes it a step further.
“Young is an awesome, awesome player. But in reality, he’s the smallest QB we’ve ever seen drafted in the first round — and that isn’t hyperbole,” Amico said. “There are going to be teams who flat out will not select him. I don’t think Bryce will go first unless it’s Houston who trades up. And yes, I do think the Bears will make a trade.”
Adam Schefter agrees with that assessment — at least the Bears part.
Sources: The Bears already have been approached by multiple teams about trading the draft’s No. 1 overall pick, and Chicago is said to be “leaning toward” moving the pick. So the No. 1 pick now looks like it’s for sale. pic.twitter.com/2w03L6qP0L
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 27, 2023
This opens up an intriguing situation, as the near-consensus top four quarterbacks in the draft — Young, Richardson, Kentucky’s Will Levis, and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud — all profile differently. The answer to which team trades up will make or break who goes first overall.
All this drama and intrigue, and the first pick will be just one of dozens of available markets to choose from before long.
“By the end of this week, early next week, you’ll start to see some more markets trickle in,” Diaz said. “It’s very information heavy, and the combine gives you a great chance to get more information on the prospects, which in turn makes us more confident in our prices and makes us more confident to increase our offerings to the customers.”
Gentlemen, start your (information) engines.