2020 NFL Draft a Glimmer of Hope For Sports Fans

The past month has been a barren wasteland for sports fans across the globe. The coronavirus has brought the sports world to a screeching halt, with leagues major and minor forced to cancel games and entire seasons in order to practice social distancing and prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

But through it all, one league has managed to keep a flicker of hope alive. The National Football League has been the one major sports entity that has been able to function since the sports shutdown began in mid-March.

First, it was free agency, with the bombshell move by Tom Brady from the New England Patriots to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, giving sports fans plenty to chew on -- even if their water-cooler discussions at the office were now taking place on Skype and Zoom.

This week, the NFL takes fan participation to its highest level since the outbreak. For three days beginning Thursday night, the league will hold its annual player draft, and fans across the globe will revel in the return -- even if just for a moment -- of sports normalcy.

But not only will fans be watching the event live on NFL Network, ESPN and ABC, beginning with Thursday's round one. The NFL draft provides the first major opportunity for bettors to get back into serious action, with online sportsbooks across the globe offering odds and props of all kinds related to the selection of players in this annual rite of football passage.

The draft itself will be unlike any other in league history. Instead of a grand gathering in Las Vegas, as was the original plan before the coronavirus threw the world into turmoil, each team will make their selections from their home turfs across the country on Zoom, with commissioner Roger Goodell announcing the selections quite literally from his basement.

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who led the Tigers to the national championship and captured the Heisman Trophy, is expected to go No. 1 to the Cincinnati Bengals, but that is about all that seems a sure thing on draft night, which makes the betting component of this draft all the more compelling.

And sports betting sites are up to the challenge of providing casual fans and hardcore bettors alike with a long-awaited sports experience. Already, this year's draft will be the most wagered upon draft in NFL history.

DraftKings, which operates its own sportsbook out of New Jersey, has already exceeded its volume of bets from last year's draft. FanDuel expects to do 10 times the amount of betting traffic as compared to the 2019 event. Some bookmakers are comparing this year's draft, in terms of betting volume, to that of a regular season Monday Night game, with five- and six-figure wagers and an overall take in the tens of millions.

Wagering on the NFL Draft was first sanctioned in Nevada in 2017, with middling results. But that has all changed in 2020 with the COVID-19 shutdown of all major sports across the globe. While some entities have returned to the field, like the Bundesliga in Germany and the Taiwan Baseball League, an event like the NFL draft is the highest-profile sporting event to take place since the last NBA and NCAA basketball games on March 11.

Perhaps the most interesting wager for Thursday's first round swirls around the draft slot for former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who would have been a no-brainer top selection before sustaining a serious hip injury late last season.

Before the injury, Tagovailoa's odds of being the second quarterback taken behind Burrow was -500, meaning you'd have to bet $500 just to win $100. The second quarterback drafted has been one of the most popular draft props this year, and heavy action on Oregon's Justin Herbert has changed the odds and pushed him into a tie with Tagovailoa. Both players are listed at -121.

Among other popular prop bet offerings include the over/under on the number of quarterbacks taken in the first round (4.5) and the position of the "Mr. Irrelevant" final pick on Saturday, with wide receiver/tight end the favorite. There are even odds on whether the basement-dwelling Goodell will wear a suit to open the virtual draft.

Comments and Conversation

April 26, 2020

Anthony Brancato:

All this and the 17-game schedule too, starting in 2021 - and I’ve got the perfect “theme song” for that: The Andrea True Connection’s “More, more, more - how do you like it, how do you like it!”

In the meantime, in between time, Roger Goodell’s “fireside chat” was fun.

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