National Football League
Sportsbooks brace for NFL Draft betting: 'It’s an impossible task'
National Football League

Sportsbooks brace for NFL Draft betting: 'It’s an impossible task'

Updated Apr. 22, 2024 1:38 p.m. ET

For sportsbook operators, NFL Draft odds rank right up there with root canals. That’s because, unlike week-to-week betting on NFL games, the draft odds market is dominated by sharp bettors.

To put it succinctly, Bookmakers often take a bath on the NFL Draft. 

Derek Stevens has seen it firsthand as he oversees Circa Sports, which operates in several states as part of Stevens’ gaming portfolio.

"I have emotions on both ends of the spectrum. No. 1, as a football fan, I absolutely love the NFL Draft," Stevens said. "But more recently, since we’ve gotten into the sports betting arena, I’ve come to dread it."


Stevens and Circa Sports risk manager Dylan Sullivan help dive into NFL Draft odds ahead of Thursday night’s first-round festivities.

An Impossible Task

In an NFL game, no matter the circumstances prior to kickoff, the outcome is still decided on the field. Underdogs can overcome. A team missing a key player still has a chance to win.

But with the NFL Draft, there’s no game to play. Rather, it’s a duel for information between bookmakers and bettors. 

And the bettors — predominantly professionals — have been winning that duel for several years.

"There’s so much information," Stevens said. "It’s an impossible task for our risk room to be successful at it. There are such wild odds swings."

Jayden or Drake?

A perfect example of those wild odds swings is the first prop bet listed on Circa’s NFL Draft odds board: Between Jayden Daniels and Drake Maye, which player will be taken first?

The prop is basically a bet on who will go No. 2 overall in the NFL Draft. It’s a foregone conclusion that USC QB Caleb Williams will go No. 1 to the Chicago Bears. It’s so foregone, in fact, that Circa Sports doesn’t even have a No. 1 overall pick prop bet on the board.

LSU standout Daniels opened as a healthy -350 favorite, with North Carolina’s Maye a +275 underdog. Sharp money zeroed in on Maye to the point where both quarterbacks were -115. 

Since then, there’s been a modest rebound, with Daniels a -150 favorite as of Sunday afternoon.

Dozens more NFL Draft prop bets on Circa’s board are seeing similar volatility, demonstrating the degree of difficulty for oddsmakers.

"On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 10," Sullivan said, though he’s not conceding in the battle to beat the bettors. "My goal is to win. It is not an easy goal."

The Maye/Daniels prop should be decided by the Washington Commanders, who have the No. 2 overall pick. Unless, of course, there’s a trade, which would be an information wild card that could shake up the odds in the NFL Draft.

Michigan Man

The draft stock of Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy has drawn plenty of betting buzz. 

On April 15, when Circa Sports put up a host of NFL Draft prop odds, McCarthy’s Over/Under draft position of 5.5 saw significant movement in both directions within literally just a few minutes.

Under 5.5 — meaning McCarthy would be selected among the first five picks — opened as a -120 favorite, with Over 5.5 at -110. Under quickly shot to a -160 favorite, but almost as quickly, the Under price rubber-banded back to -120.

Then it shot back up to -160 again, with all those moves taking place within 20 minutes or so. 

As of Sunday afternoon, with the Draft four days out, Under 5.5 is -130 and Over 5.5 is even money (+100).

"There’s been lots of action on both sides," Sullivan said.

Other notable movers at Circa Sports:

Bo Nix & Brock Bowers in Joel Klatt’s mock draft 3.0

Scanning the Board

It’s not just the biggest names drawing dollars in the NFL Draft odds market. Sharp bettors are hardwired to seek value up and down the board.

Certainly, high-profile QBs such as Williams, Daniels, Maye and McCarthy suck up a lot of oxygen. But potential mid-/late-round picks also get attention in Over/Under draft position markets.

"Michael Pratt has bounced around between 130.5 and 165.5. That’s the biggest mover by number of positions," Sullivan said of the market for the Tulane quarterback.

As of Sunday afternoon, Pratt’s Over/Under was 137.5, with Under a -130 favorite and Over at even money (+100).

On the Clock

State by state, there are often different regulations in the NFL Draft odds market. Nevada has perhaps the most unique requirement from state gaming officials, and it’s not popular with bettors.

"In Nevada, we have to take the odds down 24 hours before the Draft starts," Stevens said, speaking to props that involve specific players. "But in Colorado and Illinois, we’ll pull them at 4 p.m. Central Time Thursday."

That means those offerings are on the board right up until the first round begins.

On the flip side, several states don’t allow any betting on the NFL Draft, including:

  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virginia
  • Connecticut
  • Kentucky

Still, upwards of 20 states allow NFL Draft betting, with guardrails in place, because it is such a sharp market.

"The betting limits are a little bit lower, because it is so information-based," Stevens said, while noting those limits don’t harm the event’s popularity. "The interest level in the Draft by football fans is exceptionally large."

Patrick Everson is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and senior reporter for He is a distinguished journalist in the national sports betting space. He’s based in Las Vegas, where he enjoys golfing in 110-degree heat. Follow him on Twitter: @PatrickE_Vegas.


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