The NFL draft takes place Thursday night with betting allowed on it in some states but not Pennsylvania, where a range of wagers is nonetheless possible on the upcoming NFL season.
Neighboring New Jersey is one of the jurisdictions where sportsbooks are offering options such as whether the Eagles will take an offensive or defensive player with their first pick (-140 for offense at BetMGM), or which position need the Steelers will address with their No. 1 selection. (PointsBet says running back, making it -125.)
In Pennsylvania, state law dictates that sportsbook wagering must be tied to athletic competition taking place between teams or individuals. Thus, just as there was no recent Academy Awards betting in the state (which New Jersey also allowed), you won’t find anything tied to the NFL draft by the state’s dozen online sportsbooks.
But with NFL football the No. 1 source of revenue for the U.S. sports betting industry, the operators don’t want to let betting opportunities on it languish through the spring. When each team’s schedule for the season is released in May, sportsbooks will begin posting odds on games months in advance.
And for now, a full range of futures bets on performances by the Steelers and Eagles in 2021 are available, in addition to other betting opportunities for those willing to tie up funds for months. Just don’t expect to see a whole lot of optimism about how the Pennsylvania teams will do, although that can be a benefit to fans willing to back teams with their wallets — if their faith turns out to have been justified.
2021 odds reflect 2020 disappointments
Neither the Steelers nor the Eagles were happy with how their 2020 seasons ended.
Pittsburgh spent the first half of the season undefeated, only to limp into the playoffs and get upset by the Cleveland Browns. Some key players have retired or departed since then.
Philadelphia’s season, meanwhile, was a start-to-finish disaster. The team at one point was the favorite to win the NFL East, but its stumble to a 4-11-1 record resulted in a coaching change afterward. A change in quarterbacks had already come during the season, and Carson Wentz was traded afterward to the Indianapolis Colts.
The disappointments all across the state mean longer odds for the two teams to do well than was the case a year ago. Neither is favored to finish as one of the top two teams in its division. Neither is favored to make the playoffs.
As for winning the Super Bowl, well, both are longshots, one more than the other.
The Steelers’ odds are in the middle of the NFL pack, ranging from 28/1 at FOX Bet to 50/1 at BetMGM to be showering longtime coach Mike Tomlin with Gatorade at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Feb. 13, 2022. FanDuel has them at 36/1 and the many sites using Kambi odds (DraftKings, BetRivers, PlaySugarHouse, Unibet, Barstool, Parx, TwinSpires) post 33/1.
The Eagles, meanwhile, are ranked ahead of just a few teams. FanDuel would pay off the most on them at 85/1, while FOX Bet, Betfred, and the Kambi sites favor them the most at 70/1.
The clear Super Bowl favorites are the Kansas City Chiefs, who range from +450 at BetMGM to +550 at FOX Bet and Betfred. The defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers are next, priced at +750 by most sites but +800 by BetMGM.
No division titles foreseen either
Even though they won the AFC North last year, the Steelers are ranked just third for 2021, behind the Baltimore Ravens and the Browns. The best price for a Steelers backer is the +400 offered by FanDuel, BetMGM, and Betfred. (The Ravens are +110 to +115 to win the division.)
The Eagles’ odds place them last in the NFC East at every online site in the state except BetMGM, which puts Philadelphia third at +425 while making the New York Giants +500. The best price for an Eagles division title can be bet at +550 at FanDuel and Betfred. (The Dallas Cowboys are the division favorite, from -105 at FOX Bet to +140 at Betfred.)
A common futures bet is on teams’ season win totals, something requiring adjustment by the books this year due to addition of a 17th regular season contest.
The Steelers’ over/under on wins stands at 8.5 by the sites, with a slight variance on the vig involved but with all of those prices leaning toward the over as a favorite. Betting over 8.5 costs -120 at BetMGM and -125 at FOX Bet and Kambi sites.
Betting the Steelers to make the playoffs yields the best return at BetMGM, if they do so, with its +140 on the “yes” option.
The Eagles’ over/under is set by the sites at a modest 6.5 for the 17 games, with BetMGM again the best site currently to bet the over, at -130. For a bet on the Eagles to make the playoffs, BetMGM will return +280 if they succeed.
Alabama players could go to both PA teams
Even though you can’t bet on the draft in Pennsylvania, it can be interesting to know what the options are for bettors elsewhere (including any Pennsylvanians willing to cross state lines into New Jersey for a legal wager).
Mock drafts have widely made the Steelers likely to go first for a running back, especially Alabama star Najee Harris if he remains available to them with the 24th pick.
For “position of first player drafted” for the Steelers, BetMGM in New Jersey makes the most likely options: running back -150, offensive lineman +240, cornerback +800, linebacker +1800, and defensive lineman +2000.
The Eagles, who pick 12th, are widely deemed to be desiring a wide receiver or cornerback.
BetMGM sets the top position odds for their pick at: cornerback +140, wide receiver +140, offensive lineman +650, defensive lineman +900, linebacker +1200.
PointsBet even has an “Eagles Draft Special” naming the individual players that Philadelphia is most likely to take:
- South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn, +250
- Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith, +325
- Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II, +350
- Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, +450