How to Bet the First Round of the 2021 NFL Draft
After a long hiatus from football and reading probably 10,000 mock drafts, we’re just about 36 hours from the most magical time of the NFL offseason…the draft. It’s time for over-reactions, franchise saviors, and last-second trades that alter teams’ fortunes for years. It’s also time to make a shitload of money and piss off your bookie.
Here’s how you should be betting on Thursday night.
How to Bet the 2021 NFL Draft
Bets to Avoid
There's a ton of things you can bet come Thursday, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Here are a few quick guidelines for bets you should stay away from to help you narrow it down.
- Anything Outside of the Top 5
- There are a variety of bets you can make for specific players and their draft position (i.e. Patrick Surtain II over/under 11.5) that might seem tempting, but you will want to steer clear of them. Why? There’s just too much that can happen with trades and teams making surprise picks that shift the entire course of the draft.
- Bets Before Draft Time
- Similar concept, but wait to place your bets until as late as possible. There are still a ton of teams looking to trade up and back in the draft. And there will be a flurry of action right until it starts. One big trade can throw everything off and ruin your deeply-researched bets.
- Any Bet in the Top 3
- At the moment, it seems to be a virtual lock that the top 3 picks will be Trevor Lawrence (-10000!), Zach Wilson (-5000), and Mac Jones (-400). These bets are just not worth the horrible odds. Just silly to waste money on this.
Smart Money 2021 NFL Draft Bets
First 5 Picks in Exact Order
The first 3 picks are pretty much locked in stone, which means that the real money opportunities come with the first 5 picks in exact order. Here’s a quick glance at the odds below (courtesy of PointsBet):
I like the first option a lot (Lawrence to JAX, Wilson to NYJ, Jones to SF, Pitts to ATL, and Chase to CIN) since I think Atlanta will have a tough time passing up on the most talented offensive weapon in the draft (Pitts) and the Bengals will jump at pairing Burrow with his favorite offensive weapon from LSU (Chase). At the same time, I could also see Atlanta drafting a QB to develop for a year under Ryan, which is why I’m leaning towards option 3 at +600 odds.
The good news is, the concept of hedging exists, so I’ll be putting two units on option 1 and one on option 3 just to cover my bases here. At these odds, I’ll max out at 4 units if option 3 hits and tack on an additional unit if option 1 hits.
Another option is to bet on the number of players that will be drafted for each position. Here are two bets I like:
The amount of running backs drafted in the first round has been slowly declining for the past few years. For the last two years, just one RB has been drafted in the first round. (Clyde Edwards-Helaire went to the Chiefs in 2020, and Josh Jacobs went to the Raiders in 2019). And I expect that trend to continue in the 2021 NFL Draft. There are some teams with RB needs in the back half of the draft (NYJ at 23, PIT at 24, and TB at 32) that could scoop up either Travis Etienne or Najee Harris. But I’d bet on most teams waiting until the second round to get their back of the future.
Right now, there are 5 QBs that could easily go in the top 10, especially if a team like New England or Washington makes a move to trade up – Lawrence, Wilson, Jones, Lance, and Fields. Don’t be surprised if some of the second-round talents like David Mills or Kyle Trask sneak into the end of the first round, as QB-desperate teams like Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Washington may reach for their guy.
Players By Conference
Another smart way to make money is by focusing on the number of players drafted from a certain conference. This is a fun way to keep your bet alive for the entire round, even after your team has drafted or your other bets have failed. The bet I like for tomorrow is for the ACC, which is loaded with talent.
Right now, there are at least 8 players from the ACC that I’ve seen go in the first round of mock drafts:
Lawrence, Phillips, Darrisaw, and Farley are pretty much locks, which means you need just two of the remaining four guys to go in the first round to hit at +106 odds. If a team stretches for an RB in the first round or is looking for edge rushers, then you should be safe with this one.
Happy betting tomorrow! Even if your team makes a horrible pick, there’s always the chance your bets will hit and you can hedge your happiness with some money in your betting balance for this weekend.
- Trevor Lawrence, Clemson Tigers QB
- Jaelan Phillips, Miami Hurricanes DE
- Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech Hokies OL
- Travis Etienne, Clemson Tigers RB
- Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech Hokies CB
- Gregory Rousseau, Miami Hurricanes DE
- Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State Seminoles CB
- Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame Fighting Irish DE