Sportsbooks see big betting interest in NFL draft

With games on hold, the NFL draft is taking center stage at sportsbooks around the nation, and betting interest is booming ahead of Thursday's first round.

Increased offerings from sportsbooks and the growth of the U.S. betting market, on top of limited live sports due to the coronavirus pandemic, are fueling what will be the most heavily bet NFL draft ever.

"We'll do probably more than 10 [times] what we did last year [on the draft]," John Sheeran, director of trading for FanDuel, told ESPN.

Bookmakers are offering hundreds of proposition bets on everything from the first pick to the last. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow and Ohio State defensive end Chase Young are big favorites to go first and second, respectively. FanDuel has Burrow's odds of being the No. 1 overall pick at -100,000, meaning you'd need to risk $100,000 to win $100 on the Heisman Trophy winner going first. No bets of that size have been reported.

The over/under on the number of quarterbacks taken in the first round is sitting at 4.5, with the vigorish heavily tilted to the under. Wide receiver/tight end is the favorite to be the position of Mr. Irrelevant, the player selected with the final pick. In the unregulated offshore sportsbook world, you'll even find odds on whether NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will wear a suit to open the virtual draft.

DraftKings said its New Jersey sportsbook surpassed last year's betting handle on the draft with a week to go. Sportsbook PointsBet compared the amount wagered on the draft to how much is bet on a Monday Night Football game. Nationwide, tens of millions of dollars are wagered on a typical high-profile NFL game, with five- and six-figure bets common.

The bets on the draft aren't nearly as large, but there are lots of them, and they often come in waves, triggered by the latest breaking report or mock draft. It's then on the oddsmakers to decide what's true and what's not.

"It's really, really tricky to decipher what is actually information that you can use to make your line more accurate," Sheeran said. "It's almost impossible to keep on top of all of it. In the instance where we miss key information leaking out, you will invariably find a stream, a waterfall effect of bets that are coming through at that moment of time.

"It won't be difficult for bettors to find opportunities to get a good bet on that will end up having a lot of positive value," Sheeran added.

U.S. sportsbooks are still relatively new to taking bets on the draft. Nevada bookmakers weren't allowed to take action on the draft until 2017, and they haven't exactly enjoyed the results.

"Generally speaking, you don't take one square dollar [on draft props]," Jeff Davis, director of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, said. "And you get absolutely throttled."

The draft will be conducted remotely beginning Thursday and broadcast on ESPN, ABC and NFL Network. The second and third rounds will take place Friday, with the remaining rounds Saturday.