You might think that betting on the NFL begins when foot gets put to pigskin on the opening weekend of the regular season and ends with the Super Bowl. That’s not the case. When the NFL season comes to a close, the front offices of the league’s 32 franchises go into overdrive to prepare for the NFL Draft.
From the college all-star games in January to the NFL Combine in February to private workouts in front of NFL team bigwigs, it’s an intense few months for the prospects, NFL front offices and scouting departments alike. And it’s such a big deal now that it has evolved into both a major TV event and a major betting event. A wide range of futures bets and prop bets are on the board for the upcoming 2021 NFL draft with even more betting lines spread given the current global sports situation.
Want to bet on the total number of defensive linemen drafted in the first round? How about the exact outcome of the first three overall picks? We break down your best 2021 NFL Draft betting opportunities right here.
The 2021 NFL draft is scheduled for April 29 – May 1, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. ESPN, ABC and the NFL Network share draft coverage across networks. ESPN Deportes provides draft coverage in Spanish.
The first round of the draft is in primetime (8 PM-11:30 PM ET) on the first day.
On the following night (Friday) the second and third rounds are completed (starting at 7 PM Friday). The draft wraps up on the final day with rounds 4-7 starting at 12 PM ET.
You can join in and bet on the draft by opening an account at any regulated online sportsbook in the US.
Both DraftKings and FanDuel have added aggressively to their NFL Draft lines and props to go along with their current sign-up bonus packages. Don’t sleep on the wide variety of lines other outlets in legal US betting states are offering, too. That includes BetMGM, PointsBet, and Fox Bet.
Looking at the DraftKings NFL draft menu, here are the special/props/lines on the board right now:
Click the link below to create a new account and take advantage:
Over on FanDuel, you’re looking at a comparable range of draft specials, including:
A nice extra touch on FanDuel is a match bet option with odds on head-to-head matchups of players based on who will be drafted first.
For prospects who have worked their tails off for years and years to achieve their ultimate dream, the NFL Draft serves as the end point of one journey and the beginning of a whole new one.
Some players may seem destined to make it to the NFL throughout their high school and college careers, while others continue to evolve into pro-ready prospects that teams are willing to take a chance on. Beyond working a gruelling schedule of practices, games, and training for years, the players also have to endure an intense run-up to the draft.
From the NFL Scouting Combine to private workouts, personal interviews and evaluations, as well as an intense amount of media scrutiny, the ones who make the cut have been put through their paces tenfold in the months leading up to the draft. Analysis of the draft and its prospects is a cottage industry in and of itself, so those who look to be NFL-ready will become household names as the process moves along.
Here are some of the names for whom there’s a strong consensus on their prospects to make it to the NFL.
From betting on which team drafts Justin Fields to how many players the SEC will have drafted in the first round, your NFL Draft bets will be bets based on “+” and “-“ numbers.
If you bet on a prop that came in at, say, -250, it means you sided with a favorite and needed to lay $250 for a return of $100. At the other end of the spectrum, a $100 wager at +250 would net a gain of $250 should that underdog find a way.
A perfect example of this would be to take a look at the “First Overall Pick” prop.
Trevor Lawrence is a gargantuan favorite to have the Jacksonville Jaguars call his name as the first pick in the draft. So, a large investment would net a tiny profit if it truly came to pass. But if you wanted to spice things up a bit and throw some beer money on Justin Fields instead, you’d make a much higher rate of return
Betting underdogs without a doubt ups the ante quite a bit; but remember, they’re called underdogs for a reason.
Those two examples up above represent one of the two types of NFL futures bets that can be made on the draft. Those are:
Betting on a Single Result — i.e. it either happens or doesn’t. Should you bet at DraftKings Sportsbook on the New Orleans Saints drafting a specific player, you would need that player to have his name called by the Saints at some point in the draft to cash that ticket.
Betting on Above or Below — The other type of bet offered is identical to an NFL over/under, where you bet on the combined score of the game in hopes of it exceeding or falling below said number.
For example, a player could have an O/U of 12.5 for the Draft. You can bet on whether he goes off the board higher (over) or lower (under).
If things fall the right way, you can obviously make some good cash betting on the NFL draft. Here’s one simple tip to improve your chances:
1. Pinpoint teams with specific needs and look for value on the betting board
In order to make sure all that hard work pays off, all you have to do is listen. Make it a point to read up on every team to get an idea of the types of players being targeted heading into day one.
Also dig into the coaching archives for as many interviews as possible to help set up the blueprint for your assault on the NFL draft. For example, if a team possessed one of the worst offensive lines in the league a season ago, expect the GM to look to insert a hog into his front wall in hopes of keeping the QB upright with more regularity.
While quarterbacks are selected first often, the other positions on the field receive plenty of interest as well. For example, an exceptionally strong offensive tackle or pass rusher is often a highly desired commodity.
Many teams will simply draft based on need, while others will adhere to a principle of taking the best player available regardless of position when it’s their time to pick. During the draft itself, there are often several trades as teams jockey to be in a position to get the players they want.
For the top pick in the draft, certain positions have more value than others. Nevertheless, the overall talent of the player available is naturally a huge part of the equation.
Here are the positions that have been chosen first in the NFL Draft, along with the number of times it has happened:
The value attached to position levels has also changed over the years. For example, a running back hasn’t been selected first overall since 1995. Over the past 10 years, it has been a quarterback at the top spot seven times, a defensive end twice and an offensive tackle once.
Similar to the NFL, college football can be cyclical. Specific programs will have great runs for several years before tailing off. That said, certain colleges consistently produce a large number of professional players.
For the history of the NFL Draft, here are the schools with the most draft choices, listed by the number of players selected:
As for the top choice each year, some players have gone No. 1 from a wide range of schools. That includes some smaller programs that are not necessarily among the heavyweights in college football. Here are the schools with the most top draft choices:
Nine schools have had the first overall selection twice, and another 33 had the top choice once.
The 2020 NFL Draft was held virtually last year. The Cincinnati Bengals held the first overall selection in Round One and unsurprisingly selected LSU QB Joe Burrow.
Here are the rest of the Top 10 choices from the 2020 NFL Draft, including the team they were selected by, their position and where they went to school:
Being the top choice in the NFL Draft is a huge accomplishment. More than 200 players are drafted each year, but only one of them can be first overall. The player who reaches this milestone has proven to be an exceptional prospect from a massive pool of players.
While there are lots of players who are drafted each year, there are hundreds more that won’t be selected. Many will be signed by teams as undrafted free agents. However, others could go on to pursue careers in alternative football leagues or see their time as football players come to an end.
Over the last 10 years of the NFL Draft, there have naturally been some hits and misses. Here are the players who have been chosen first overall in each of those years:
As you can see, quarterbacks are a hot commodity at the NFL Draft. Teams that receive the first overall selection will look that way if they are in the market for a franchise signal-caller, as these opportunities don’t come along every day.
Several of these No. 1 overall selections have gone on to have stable careers, although the jury is still out on those who have been the top choice in recent years.
To qualify for the NFL Draft, prospects must be out of high school for three years. The overwhelming majority of players selected will have attended and played at the collegiate level in the United States. Many will come from the top levels of the sport, but others from the lower levels of NCAA football will also be selected.
In addition to players from the US college ranks, there are sometimes players selected who have played their college ball in Canada or internationally. Although not as common, there may also be players selected from the minor leagues of football, such as the Arena Football League or the Canadian Football League.
Draft order is determined by the way teams finish in the previous season. As laid out, the goal is that the team with the worst record during the regular season receives the first pick in the first round, and so on down the board. That means that the winner of the Super Bowl will have the final selection in the round at pick number 32.
Naturally, there are teams that will finish with the exact same record. Tiebreakers come into play to determine the order of selection, starting with strength of schedule. In this case, the team with the lower strength of schedule – meaning that their opponents have racked up fewer wins during the season – gets the nod over others with the same record.
Other tiebreakers will be applied as needed from that point, including head-to-head records and performance in division or conference play. Essentially, it’s the same set of tiebreakers which helps to sort out playoff positions, albeit in opposite fashion. While many ties can be broken quickly, others will need to go down the list and consider things such as net points and touchdowns.
If the tie still can’t be broken, then a coin flip would be used to determine order. At the end of the day, the 20 teams who didn’t qualify for the postseason will be picking from one to 20 in order from worst and upwards. The 12 teams which qualified for the postseason will receive picks 21 through 32, ranked according to finish and other tiebreakers.
While that’s how the draft order is intended to go, trades will shake things up. NFL Draft picks are assets, and teams will use them accordingly. They can be traded for players or other picks, all with an eye towards the overall improvement of the team.
These trades can be made in season before the trade deadline as well as in the offseason. At the draft itself, it’s not uncommon to see a whole host of trades which make the actual draft order an ongoing work in progress. Teams aren’t shy about moving up or down as needed to be in a position to select the player they have their sights set on.
The order of the NFL Draft is determined by how the team performs in the previous year.
Basically, the worst teams in the league receive the early choices, and it gradually slides down the scale so that the best teams in the league are selecting at the end of the round.
In theory, that means the team with the worst record will receive the top selection, while the winner of the Super Bowl will be the last team to pick in Round One. However, the order can change as trades occur.
Draft picks are considered to be capital or assets. Teams can swap picks for other picks or players. As a result, the actual order in the rounds can be jumbled from its original intent of worst to best.
The advent and evolution of free agency have changed the landscape, but the NFL Draft remains a primary way for teams to replenish talent.
As in the early days, those who draft consistently well tend to build stronger teams. The franchises that have a poor track record at the draft can suffer through a period of malaise until things turn around.
From its introduction in 1936 through 1964, the NFL Draft was held in a number of different cities, all of which also served as home base for one of the league’s franchises. In 1965, the draft set up shop in New York City. The Big Apple would serve as the host city each and every year through 2014.
The league decided to open things up to allow other cities a chance to get in on the fun. Potential host cities go through a bid process, just like they would if they were interested in hosting a Super Bowl.
Prior to the league deciding to shake things up, the draft had evolved from its humble roots into the most highly-anticipated event of the NFL offseason.
Interest has only intensified since the draft took its act on the road. Here’s where the NFL Draft has put down roots in recent years.
The 2020 NFL Draft was scheduled to take place in Las Vegas. While each of the host cities in recent years have done an outstanding job, this one was being circled as potentially the biggest event yet. The Oakland Raiders just so happen to be scheduled to relocate to Las Vegas this year, so football fever was expected to be in full swing in Sin City.
Cleveland is up to bat to play host for the 2021 NFL Draft.
The first NFL Draft was held in 1936 in Philadelphia at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Attendees in the meeting room would find 90 names written on the blackboard for them to choose. All told, 81 players were selected that day, but only 24 of them would go on to play professionally in the NFL.
In the early days, scouting wasn’t a huge component of NFL front offices. That changed gradually through the years, and the growth of scouting departments increased measurably as the NFL continued to grow.
Since the draft was the primary way for teams to bring in new talent, clubs that drafted successfully were able to build powerhouse teams. Naturally, it was the opposite for those that swung and missed at the annual event.
It didn’t take too long for the correlation to be drawn from strong drafting to a solid base being in place for the teams to build on. Fast-forward to today; scouting departments are considered to be one of the essential parts of the organization.
The structure of the draft has changed through the years as well.
For example, there used to be more than a dozen rounds in which teams would select players. In the 1970s, the number of rounds was reduced to 12. Today, there are only seven rounds.
Coverage of and general interest in the NFL Draft has also changed immensely through the years. Several decades ago, the only way to keep up with what happened in the NFL was through the newspapers or sports updates on the evening news.
When ESPN was getting off the ground in the early 1980s, the upstart network began broadcasting the draft. Let’s say that was a wise decision.
Interest in the NFL Draft quickly spiked, and it has only continued to grow through the years. The NFL Draft is now a made-for-TV event that is highly sought after by host cities.