David PurdumESPN staff writer5 minutes of reading
A quote from Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading at Caesars Sportsbook, perhaps best sums up how bookmakers view taking bets on the NFL draft.
“It’s not whether you’re going to win or lose,” Pullen said. “That’s how much you’re going to lose.”
The draft begins Thursday, but betting on the top picks has been going on for months. The odds can change dramatically with a single tweet or release of the latest mock draft. In some cases, they already have. A month ago, Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud was the consensus favorite for the top pick. As of this week, Stroud isn’t even the favorite for the No. 1 pick.
ESPN’s sports betting team will cover the odds with information from bookies and bettors this week in this updated file. Bookmark it and follow.
Famous bets: NFL draft
Odds to be #1 in the NFL draft [via Caesars Sportsbook]
Bryce Young (-1600)
CJ Stroud (+900)
The favorite in the top seven picks, according to Caesars Sportsbook
Q&A with Mojo lead college football analyst Travis May
On Oct. 14, Mojo, an online sports trading platform in New York, opened a marketplace for the future NFL careers of college football’s top quarterback prospects. Travis May, Mojo’s head of college football, was responsible for the IPOs of Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, Anthony Richardson and Hendon Hooker. Since then, May has formed career projections for more than 100 NFL draft prospects based on the following stats: yards, first downs, touchdowns, plays of 40+ yards, turnovers and sacks. Stock prices represent players’ statistical achievements throughout their NFL careers.
May recently sat down with ESPN about his process, his predictions and the players who have garnered the most attention from bettors.
Q: What was your approach in creating an IPO for more than 100 NFL draft prospects?
Can: It starts with determining whether they actually possess a set of skills and traits. From there, you build off of what they’ve already done on the field, and there are different predictive metrics for each individual position when it comes to predicting their future in the NFL, even before we know where they’ll land in terms of draft capital. Using various predictive models, you can predict 40-50% of the future variation in their NFL production. I’m just putting some of the right pieces together. Start there, follow what the market is telling you and constantly move prices based on that. I was firm on many prices and the market disagreed with me on many others.
Q: Which players does the market disagree with you on?
Can: Early on, the market was incredibly bullish for Stanford’s Tanner McKee. That’s no longer the case as people realize he’s probably going to be a fifth or sixth round pick at best at this point. I think a lot of times the public is led by mock drafts that people put out in October and November. They’ll take a mock draft and believe it’s gospel, and so they’ll drop a significant chunk of change on a player they don’t really know anything about, but someone said they were good. This is funny. There are some really confident, bullish approaches against several players. Anthony Richardson was definitely the biggest player in the market. His last fall didn’t go great, but he still claimed and ended up in the top 10 projection. [Editor’s note: Richardson’s opening price was $7.06 on Oct. 14. On Sunday, his price was sitting around $30, with 95% of the positions opened on Richardson now closed].
Q: Do you remember the thinking behind Richardson’s opening price in October?
Can: It’s not necessarily about predicting the exact statistical distributions, but more about the number of games [they’ll play in their career] when you project that far. At the time, he was slated for about a season and a half of full starting action. So, hinting that he may have to sit if he is an early pick,
Q: Bryce Young is trading around $44. What does that price reflect in terms of his career projections?
Can: The average for him would be six or seven plus seasons where he would be a quality starting quarterback. That’s an average that’s pretty favorable for any prospect because you’re building in his entire rookie contract plus a fifth-year option and two more years after that. He can play a lot longer than that, but that’s just the average score. Looking at his career value, he’s already marked higher than the majority of NFL starters, the majority of active NFL players. So the market is quite bullish on it. I mean, he’s a bit below Kyler Murray’s career cost, even though Murray has already accumulated a lot of value.
Q: It sounds like you have some early action. Does it increase as the project approaches?
Can: It has increased significantly. This week in particular was our biggest yet in the college market. [Last] Monday, morning alone, matched every single day we had, even in season. It’s fun when there’s a new round of mock drafts, especially if it’s from a big name, we’ll see a huge influx of new trades.
It’s funny, I can tell what our users are reading based on who they buy. You learn a lot about the people who invest in the market.
Q: It sounds intense. How closely are you paying attention to the draft right now? Are you totally engrossed?
Can: I know the exact 19 players taken in 95% of mid-March mock drafts.
Q: Is it grind or fun?
Can: It’s so fun because I used to build predictive models for fantasy football stuff and predictions for college football and daily fantasy football. It’s just massive data projects that I’ve already done before and now I can do it full time.