LAS VEGAS — After weeks of lies, rumors and speculation, the truth is about to be revealed Thursday, when the blanks are filled in on 32 picks in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The most valuable pick, at least to bettors and bookmakers, will be Tua Tagovailoa.
Each pick will either decide a prop bet or play a part in a prop decision. Where Tagovailoa will be picked is the biggest question of the draft, and big money will be riding on the answer.
The Alabama quarterback’s anticipated fall — or surprise rise — could create a domino effect of unpredictable picks in the top half of the first round, possibly leading to random betting outcomes and wrecked mock drafts.
“This thing is going to be crazy,” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said. “There are a lot of uncertainties … The bookmakers and the bettors are in the same shoes. Everybody has got the same information.
“Tua’s props are drawing the most interest, there’s no doubt about it. I have a hard time believing Tua is going to fall out of the top 10.”
Tagovailoa’s draft position has been hammered Over the total of 3.5, driving the price to -320 on him going fourth or later. The Dolphins, who hold the No. 5 pick, have been linked to Tagovailoa since early last season. But draft betting is driven by information, and the latest wave of anti-Tua action is a public reaction to media reports that several NFL teams are increasingly concerned with Tagovailoa’s recovery from ankle and hip injuries.
The common perception is Tagovailoa is slipping while Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert is climbing. Sharp money is starting to show in favor of Herbert, whose draft position prop is 5.5. But is the Dolphins’ sudden disinterest in Tagovailoa a true lie?
“He’s not a lock to be a great player in that league,” Bogdanovich said. “He played on the most talented team in America, so maybe he looked better than he really is. If I’m Miami, I’m not trading any picks.”
The most likely trade partner for Miami would be Detroit at No. 3. The Dolphins could opt to deal their No. 5 pick and a second-rounder to move up two spots to get a quarterback. Presuming the Bengals pick LSU’s Joe Burrow at No. 1 and the Redskins grab Ohio State defensive end Chase Young next, the intrigue will truly begin with the Lions in the third spot.
The Dolphins are sandwiched by the Giants (No. 4) and Chargers (No. 6). Giants GM Dave Gettleman is not in the market for a quarterback and will listen to trade offers. The Chargers might want to leapfrog Miami to secure a quarterback or simply stay put.
“If I’m the Lions, I’m on that telephone right now and I’m going to see who’s going to give me the most,” said Brent Musburger, VSiN’s lead host and managing editor. “Is it going to be the Dolphins or is it going to be the Chargers? Let them get into the bidding for Tua or perhaps Herbert.”
Michael Lombardi, a VSiN analyst and former NFL executive, said Detroit should trade down. In that case, smart money would be on Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah going Over his draft position of 4.5. Okudah could go as high as third to the Lions but seems more likely to fall two spots or more.
“Okudah really does nothing for me,” Lombardi said. “I’ve never seen a secondary carry a team to the Super Bowl.”
How about a linebacker who can be an edge rusher and also play safety? Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons (draft position 6.5) could go third to the Lions, seventh to the Panthers or get picked somewhere in between. The same goes for Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown, who looks like a good bet to get picked before his draft position of 8.5.
“If the Giants don’t get Simmons early, maybe he slips and goes seventh or higher,” Bogdanovich said. “The trades are the wild card because you could see some trades that switch things around.”
William Hill has posted more than 100 draft props, and one of the most popular is the number of wide receivers picked in the first round. Betting the Over side of 5.5 opened -130 and the price has been raised to -210. Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and LSU’s Justin Jefferson are considered locks to go in the first, and several mocks project six receivers.
“I’m sticking at 5.5, and I’m being hard-headed about it,” Bogdanovich said. “I just don’t know if that sixth receiver will show up.”
That’s one of many decisions bettors and bookmakers will be sweating out. With no other major events on the sports calendar, draft prop betting has become a mini-Super Bowl in April.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will announce the first-round picks from his basement during the virtual draft format. There will be no bear hugs with players, no boos from fans and, worst of all, no party in Las Vegas.
But you can bet the TV ratings and wagering action will be strong.
“It’s going to be very, very big,” Bogdanovich said. “It’s nothing like it would have been if the draft was in Las Vegas and 800,000 people were here. It would have been awesome to find out. But it’s the only game in town, and people are starving for something to do.”