As prop betting on the NFL Draft soars in popularity, such wagers have become a vehicle for a quick, short-term profit. For those astute enough to lock in on Bryce Young when the college season came to an end, the bet cashed at +250 last Thursday night when the Carolina Panthers took the Alabama quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick.
At Mojo Markets, a sports betting platform that lets users trade athletes like stocks, this year’s draft offered a new twist. Unlike traditional sports wagers such as the aforementioned props, Mojo customers can invest in players as a long-term value proposition.
Last Thursday, a collection of VIP Mojo customers congregated at The Ashford, a swank bar located on the pedestrian plaza in Downtown Jersey City. There, the VIPs attempted to unearth a few diamonds in the rough comparable to Brock Purdy, the upstart 49ers quarterback who improbably led San Francisco to last season’s NFC Championship Game.
Thank you to everyone who came out to our NFL Draft party yesterday! 💎📷🤝
Always a good time with our users 📈📈📈 pic.twitter.com/SPcJ8rVQf8
— Mojo Markets (@mojo) April 28, 2023
Nicknamed “Mr. Irrelevant” for being selected with the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft, Purdy ended last season as one of the three most traded players on Mojo. After the third-string quarterback won his first eight starts with the Niners, Purdy’s price reached $11 a share, surging approximately 90% in the span of less than a month.
“One of my buddies told me about Mojo; I was kind of in from the start,” a VIP bettor, who identified himself only as Brian, told Sports Handle on the condition of anonymity. “I wish I knew about it earlier, because there were some guys like Purdy I would have loved to invest in.”
Brian has accounts at a host of top New Jersey sportsbooks. At one book, he is limited to wagers of $5 or less. Another is more generous, allowing him to place bets at $20 or under. The constraints do not presently exist at Mojo, where he has taken long positions of up to $10,000 on certain players.
A hardened sports bettor and poker player, Brian has placed more than $2.15 million in wagers at one prominent New Jersey book. As of April 27, his ledger stood around $2.24 million, producing a total profit of $93,771. Mojo, however, enables Brian and other VIPs to hold on to assets, just as a trader might with a growth stock such as Amazon or Netflix. Wagers on the lifetime value of professional athletes are not available at mainstream books, and Mojo is currently only live in New Jersey.
If you ask Brian to describe the “player stocks” in his portfolio, he is able to rattle off statistics off the top of his head with surgical precision. For top investments, he will typically wager anywhere between 1,000 and 5,000 units. In one case, he wanted to take a long position of up to $30,000 on Tennessee Titans tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo, but ultimately settled on $10,000. For now, Okonkwo should yield an estimated profit of around $4,525, according to Mojo’s calculations.
Described as a “freak athlete” by Brian, Okonkwo had 52 receptions and five touchdowns in his senior year at the University of Maryland. But Okonkwo slipped to the fourth round in last year’s draft, primarily due to an inflammation of his heart muscle that doctors say can be caused by COVID-19. Nine other tight ends went before him.
Fully cleared by doctors, Okonkwo grabbed 32 catches for 450 yards in his rookie year, earning one of the highest tight end rankings on Pro Football Focus, said Brian, who will be holding Okonkwo for a long duration.
Brian is also taking a chance on Desmond Ridder, a third-round pick from last year, who has been named as the Falcons’ starting quarterback. Brian drew comparisons between Mojo and various futures bets made by two buddies to settle a debate.
If he bets a friend $20 that Ridder will lodge more than 50 starts over the next five years, there is a good chance both will forget about the wager by 2028. But with Mojo, trading on Ridder gives him a chance to beat the market.
“I believe in Desmond Ridder more than the market. I believe in Okonkwo more than the market,” he emphasized. “It’s a way for me to invest in the players I believe in.”
The third-floor private party at The Ashford featured an open bar and catered food for Mojo bettors. At one point, Mojo offered a free raffle for any bettor who predicted that Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud would be selected in the top 3. Stroud wound up going second to the Texans.
Bettors who locked in on Young, Stroud, and Anthony Richardson before the draft enjoyed upsized gains as soon as the quarterbacks were taken in the top 5.
Wow! Anthony Richardson goes No. 4 to the Indianapolis Colts over Will Levis
Richardson’s stock is up a whopping 17% as he joins a Shane Steichen-led offense that thrived in Philadelphia just last year with dual-threat quarterback Jalen Hurts under center
Is Richardson next? pic.twitter.com/e2zZ4a9JKg
— Mojo Markets (@mojo) April 28, 2023
Another Mojo VIP had about $50,000 in his account as of last Thursday night, spread among 10 to 15 players. The bettor, whose first name is Matt, found out about the app from one of his friends, a member of Mojo’s trading team. The trader, he emphasized, strictly abides by company rules in keeping its methodologies close to his vest, and the two have not discussed anything related to the prices that appear on the Mojo platform.
Ahead of the Draft, Matt “traded in and out of a few positions” on several prospects. Dalton Kincaid, a tight end drafted No. 25 by the Bills, has a cashout value of around $7,200 in his Mojo portfolio. Matt’s strategy will differ at the start of the 2023 season, when he plans on adding a few players, then holding on to them over the course of the year.
The two VIPs already have their sights set on next year’s draft. Among the college players that appear in their portfolios are Duke quarterback Riley Leonard, Penn State quarterback Drew Allar, LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, and Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton III.
If Ridder doesn’t pan out, the Falcons still might not be bad enough to draft reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams, Brian surmises. Instead, the Falcons may opt for another mid-round pick as a potential replacement. Or Ridder could outperform expectations, leading to a potential $100,000 payout for the sharp bettor.
“I live and breathe this s**t,” Brian exclaimed. “I love football. I love sports.”