Draft trends, plus props I'd like to see

By Matt Devine  () 

The handicapping landscape includes many types of bettors. Some people lean on analytics, some prefer trends, some rely on information and recent performance, and some even prefer buying picks. I tend to rely on a little of all of these (minus the 1-900 tout hotlines).
With the NFL draft just days away, I decided to look at first-round results from years past. At first it was an excuse to kill time while confined to home, but then the gears started to turn as I began noticing patterns. At that point it only made sense to try to look for trends to help break down some of the props being offered for this year’s draft. 
Over the last few weeks, VSiN’s cast and crew have done an incredible job sharing insight into a number of props. I hope the following trends and tables, based on first-round results dating back to and including the 2002 draft — the year the league expanded to 32 teams — can supplement that analysis and provide another unique tool for your handicapping arsenal.
Draft props and analysis
Below is a list of some of the common props I’ve seen spread across the betting markets and some trends that might help guide you to a wager in one direction or another. I’ve called out several other props on the following pages as well. Note that the analysis for each prop is 100% trend-based and does not take into consideration team needs, potential trades or other factors.
First overall selection
72.22% (13 of 18) of the time, this has been a QB.
Second overall selection
Quarterbacks and offensive tackles have been drafted 22.22% (4 of 18) of the time in this spot.
Third overall selection
A quarterback has been drafted 27.78% of the time (5 of 18) in this spot.
Exact outcome of first three overall picks
In the last 18 years, the following positions have been picked most often in the top three spots:
First pick: QB 72.22%
Second pick: QB and OT 22.22%
Third pick: QB 27.78%
Note, however, that none of the last 18 drafts have started QB-QB-QB or QB-OT-QB.
Giants’ first selection
Offensive tackles have been most common in the fourth spot (27.78%, 5 of 18).
Jets’ first selection
33.33% (6 of 18) of the time, a defensive back, including CB and S, has been drafted 11th overall.
Eagles’ first selection
The 21st selection has been the most unpredictable of the top 32. Centers, defensive backs and tight ends have been selected three times (16.67%), which is the most of all positions tracked. 
A couple of new ideas
When I first ventured into the world of sports handicapping in 2007, I was told: “The best props for the sportsbooks are those that are easiest to understand. If a bettor can easily comprehend the wager being offered, he or she is more likely to walk up to the counter.” At the time, I was still learning about the different types of props offered, and what the term “prop” actually meant. In the many years since, watching new props become available, not just for football but for many other sports, this sentiment continues to hold true.
With collegiate and professional sports shut down for the foreseeable future and so many of us looking for events to wager on, sportsbooks all over the country have stepped up to provide new opportunities to bet. This includes props being offered for this year’s NFL draft.
As I reviewed a number of props offered at different books, I thought of a couple that I hadn’t seen yet. These fall in line with “the easier, the better” idea shared with me 13 years ago. If they happen to pop up somewhere before the draft, I’ve provided some insight for each on the following pages.
Draft squares
Leading up to the 2020 Super Bowl, Circa wowed us with a cutting-edge prop offering in the form of a 100-square board with odds for every possible score combination for every quarter. I think it would be great to see a similar concept for the first round of the draft, allowing a bettor to wager on the player position that will get drafted for every pick. For example, Pick 12 might be listed as QB %plussign0, DB, +0, DT %plussignP0, WR %plussign00, and so on.
Offense vs. defense
Similar to the draft-squares idea, an even easier betting opportunity would be a wager on whether each first-round selection will be an offensive or defensive player. For example, Pick 5 might be listed as Offense -120, Defense %plussign0.
The draft gets crazy every year. Here’s hoping sportsbooks follow suit, continue with the creativity and get a little weird with draft props for all of us. Enjoy the draft, and good luck with your wagers!
Tom - The following is text scattered around tables on the pages following the above text. I’ll send you these pages as PDFs as well so you can see what I’m talking about.
The total number of quarterbacks to be drafted in the first round is set at 4.5. Only once (2018) have more than four QBs been drafted.
The Over/Under for offensive linemen at many shops is 6.5. Five drafts in the last 18 years (2008, ’11, ’13, ’15 and ’16) have featured more than six centers, guards and offensive tackles picked in the first round.
A running back has been selected in the first round in 16 of the last 18 drafts, with none in 2013 or ’14. The total for RBs is set at 0.5.
An average of 7.2 defensive linemen (defensive ends and defensive tackles) have been drafted in the first round every year. Many books have set this draft’s total at 4.5. In only three drafts (2004, ’14 and ’15) have fewer than four defensive linemen been drafted.
The number of wide receivers to be drafted in the first round is set at 5.5. This total has been topped once since 2010 with six in 2015.
More wide receivers (66) than quarterbacks (54) have been drafted in the first round.
In only five years has a player from every position listed above been drafted (2005, ’06, ’10, ’18 and ’19).
To the right is a list of my 2020 top-10 draft picks. My top 10 takes into consideration nothing but historical draft trends from the first round of the last 18 drafts dating back to and including 2002, specifically those trends that have played out on the tables on this page and the next two pages.
Word to the wise: For those of you in draft pools or contests that require you to correctly pick the first “x” number of selections, please also take into consideration team needs as well as mock drafts and insights from VSiN experts.
Example to help define the chart above: A linebacker has been drafted more than any other position with the ninth pick of the first round (5 of 18, 15.63%) since 2002. No center, defensive end, guard, quarterback or tight end has been drafted with the ninth selection.
No defensive back or safety has been drafted with one of the first three picks.
A defensive back or safety has been drafted 44.44% of the time (8 of 18) in the 27th slot of the draft. Only a quarterback, as the first pick, has been drafted more times (13 of 18, 72.22%) in a specific spot.
Of the 21 tight ends who have been selected in the first round, 16 have gone with the 19th pick or later.
Not a single draft spot in the first round has had every position drafted, and that will not change after this year’s draft.
No offensive tackle has been drafted with the 18th, 27th or 30th pick.
Of the 12 centers who have been drafted in the first round, eight have come between Picks 18-20.
At least 16 defensive players have been drafted in the first round in eight of the last 10 drafts. The first-round total is set at 15.5 at many books.
The offensive player total is set at 16.5. Only twice since 2010, in 2015 and ’18, have 17 or more offensive players been drafted.
The first selection has been the most popular spot for an offensive player to be drafted (15 of 18, 83.33%). The 14th pick has been most popular for the defense (14 of 18, 77.78%).
Through the first four picks, 72 in total, 51 have been offensive players (70.83%).
Colleges (listed above) with back-to-back selections in the first round include:
- 2017 (Alabama): Marlon Humphrey (16th), Jonathan Allen (17th)
- 2016 (Ohio State): Joey Bosa (third), Ezekiel Elliott (fourth)
- 2013 (Alabama): Dee Milliner (ninth), Chance Warmack (10th), D.J. Fluker (11th)
- 2010 (Oklahoma): Gerald McCoy (third), Trent Williams (fourth)
- 2004 (Ohio State): Chris Gamble (28th), Michael Jenkins (29th)
In a heads-up match between Alabama and LSU, the Crimson Tide have had more players selected than the Tigers in 10 straight first rounds of the draft from 2010-19. Before 2009, when each team had a single player drafted, LSU went five consecutive years with more first-round picks than Alabama (zero players drafted between 2002-08).
Alabama’s team total is set at 5.5 at most books. Note that it has never had more than four first-round draft picks.
LSU’s number is set at 5.5 as well. The Tigers have reached four picks in the first round only once, in 2007.
Clemson’s total is 2.5 at most books around the country. It has surpassed two only once, in 2019.
Ohio State’s total is set at 2.5. The Buckeyes have had more than two players drafted in the first round only twice in the last 13 years, in 2016 and ’17.

To see related charts and graphics, go to vsin.com

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