They say Vegas knows all when it comes to sports betting, as indicated by their often unsettlingly-accurate odds they post for outcomes.
And while that may seem like the case, the ultimate goal of Vegas oddsetters isn’t to predict outcomes, but to predict behavior of their betters. The best case scenario for Vegas is to set a line where half of the bettors pick one side and half pick the other.
But when there’s a significant shift in a betting line, that could mean one of two things. One, it could be there is new information out there to suggest a change is necessary. Or two, there has been a heavy influx of voting on one side of the line.
Well, we saw that significant shift in line on Thursday when it comes to the NFL Draft and Ohio State cornerback prospect Jeff Okudah. Currently, Vegas has Okudah’s over/under slot in the draft at Pick 4.5, meaning you can bet whether he’ll be picked before Pick 5 (“Under 4.5 pick”) or after Pick 4 (“Over 4.5 pick”).
Like most over/under odds, the payout typically starts equal on both sides. Typically the line is set around -110, which indicates a wager of $110 would pay out a profit of $100 for a correct bet. However, according to Eliot Crist, formerly of PFF, the “Over 4.5 pick” line suddenly saw a dramatic shift on Thursday:
Whoa. The over 4.5 on Jeffrey Okudah has shot up to -152 on DK sportsbook.— Eliot Crist (@EliotCrist) April 9, 2020
Looking at the DK sportsbook now, that line seems to have cooled down a bit to -134 at the time of writing.
So what does that actually mean? Well, moving from -110 to -152 means that the payout is worse for betting that line, suggesting there has been more action on that side of the bet.
As it pertains to the NFL Draft, this seems to suggest that the belief is the Lions—who remain the heavy favorite to take Okudah—will be trading out of the third overall pick and back to, at least, pick five.
But the main question here is: what caused the change in behavior in bettors? Are there some Vegas insiders that have sources in the NFL and are pouring money on the over? Maybe. But this seems more like a simple reaction to what NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported just three hours prior to Crist’s tweet:
One team to watch during the NFL Draft is the #Lions: At No. 3, I’m told they’ve had discussions with teams about potentially moving back from their slot and that teams wanting to move up have been receptive. As it maps out possibilities, Detroit is always an intriguing team.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 9, 2020
If the Lions do trade down, that likely means another quarterback will be drafted third overall, leaving just the Giants—who just spent $45 million on free agent cornerback James Bradberry—to take Okudah before hitting the over. In other words, if the Lions trade out, there’s a pretty darn good chance no one takes Okudah until five, at the earliest.
So this reaction isn’t really surprising, but it is notable. If the public starts believing the Lions will trade down, how does that affect what general managers are thinking?