NFL Player Props – Bet on these rookies


I’m something of a rookie optimist: Each year, I just look at these young guys entering the NFL, and I can’t help but imagine them tearing up the league.

But I come by my optimism honestly: In fantasy, high-performing rookies are often league winners who emerge seemingly out of nowhere to outperform their average draft positions in dramatic fashion. Note: This is where I nonchalantly plug our ADP tool, because I’m a company man.

And in sports betting, many rookies — at least in my opinion — tend to have season-long props that are too low, as linemakers discount or underestimate the immediate impact these first-year players will have on their offensive systems.

In my first piece for FTNBets, I highlighted five of my favorite player bets and gave some details as to my approach on season-long props. Here’s specifically what I wrote:

I bet unders almost exclusively. 

Sportsbooks tend to set lines for players near the top of their ranges of outcomes, and that means that almost everything needs to go right for a player for his season-long overs to hit: He needs to stay healthy, he needs to receive expected volume, and he needs to play efficiently (or at least not inefficiently).

And for most players, the odds are that not everything will go according to plan over the course of the season — and that creates value on unders.

Why do sportsbooks tend to set their lines high? 

They’re simply not good at setting season-long player props, in part because they don’t care to invest the time and effort required to do them better. For books, props are glorified marketing tools. It’s more important for them to focus on sides and totals, and so they set rough prop lines and then put limits on them to mitigate their likely losses.

Also, from a sports psychology perspective, casual bettors are inclined to put most of their action on overs, as they’re likelier to bet on players they like than against players they dislike, which means that books are incentivized to shade their lines high.

So unless I absolutely love a player’s projections, I usually bet unders.

I stand by that — but rookies are the primary exception. If I’m betting a season-long rookie prop, I’m likely on the over. And if I’m betting a season-long over, the guy is probably a rookie. 

So let’s look at the 2021 rookies and identify some of the exploitable season-long opportunities in the prop market right now.

As you do your own research, use our Prop Shop tool to find more bettable rookie props, and also check out the FTN Bet Tracker to see all the other bets I’ve already made for the upcoming NFL season, including a side or total for every Week 1 game

Trevor Lawrence Betting Props

Over 4,025.5 passing yards, (-110, BetMGM)

Trevor Lawrence is slated to start the entire season, and he has underappreciated pass-catching options around him with wide receivers D.J. Chark, Laviska Shenault and Marvin Jones and running back Travis Etienne.

One of the greatest quarterback prospects of all time, Lawrence was the no-doubt No. 1 pick in the draft, and the history of quarterbacks selected No. 1 to start in Week 1 over the past decade bodes well for him.

Out of the five quarterbacks, Murray is the least like the other four, so his relative underperformance is not too alarming, and Burrow almost certainly would have gone well over the 4,025.5-yard mark if not for his injury.

As a cohort, these five rookies averaged 255.1 yards passing per game, which comes out to 4,209.1 yards across 16.5 games (a fair games projection for a Week 1 quarterback in a 17-game season).

The Jaguars will likely underwhelm as a team this year. On DraftKings Sportsbook, they have +10000 odds to win the Super Bowl and a regular season win total of just 6.5. They will likely trail for much of the season, and Lawrence should find himself dropping back frequently with a pass-leaning game script.

Unless he suffers a serious injury, Lawrence is likely to hit the over.

In our official 2021 FTN NFL player projections, we have him projected for 4,108 yards passing.

And I honestly haven’t seen one analyst whose projections I hold in high regard have Lawrence slated for fewer than 4,025.5 yards. The over feels like a smash.

Zach Wilson Betting Props

Over 3.775.5 passing yards (-110, BetMGM)

Shortly after the NFL draft, Eliot Crist recommended the Zach Wilson passing yardage over in his article on rookie season-long props to bet.

Since I’m a lazy plagiarist, I’m just going to insert here what Eliot wrote back in May:

Only one quarterback in the NFL who played 16 games last year failed to eclipse 3,800 passing yards, and that was Baker Mayfield. Mayfield played with a dominant offensive line on a run-first team while having one of the league’s better defenses. Zach Wilson won’t have that luxury, as the Jets finished 26th in scoring defense and allowed the fourth-most passing yards per game against. While they did add more ammo up front, they still have one of the league’s worst secondaries, and with a win total of just 6, expect them to be playing from behind a lot. If Wilson can stay healthy and play all 17 games, he should go over this number with ease, needing to average just 223 passing yards per game to eclipse it.

Even if we look at first-round rookie quarterbacks not selected No. 1, the recent history is promising. Wilson isn’t guaranteed to start all 17 games, but he seems likely to start most if not all the Jets games this year, and over the past half decade the two first-round quarterbacks not selected No. 1 to start 15-plus games have both gone over 3,775.5 yards.

I don’t think Wilson is a great quarterback. Fortunately, he doesn’t need to be to hit the over.

Najee Harris Betting Props

Over 975.5 rushing yards (-110, FOX Bet)

I’ve already invested in Najee Harris by betting over 1,350.5 yards rushing and receiving, but I’m willing to place more action on the first-year dominator.

This line isn’t egregious, but I haven’t seen one sharp industry projection to the under, and I expect Harris to get something akin to the 2014-17 Le’Veon Bell and 2018 James Conner treatment.

NFL guru Brett Whitefield of FTN Data has the Steelers ranked with the No. 32 offensive line entering the season … so, you know, that’s not great.

Even so, the Steelers just selected the 230-pound bruiser in Round 1. They’re going to give him his carries. I love the over.

Michael Carter Betting Props

Over 575.5 rushing yards (-110, BetMGM)

Michael Carter is one of Derek Brown’s favorite breakout running backs for this season.

Under offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, the Jets are likely to utilize a Shanahan-style zone-blocking run scheme, and that should suit Carter well.

Carter has little competition on the depth chart (Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson and La’Mical Perine), and he was just selected by the new regime.

For a guy likely to be involved in Week 1 and possessing the potential to be the lead back for at least half the season, 575.5 yards is a low mark.

DeVonta Smith Betting Props

Over 749.5 receiving yards (-115, BetMGM)

The 2020 Heisman Trophy winner was selected No. 10 overall, he should have some residual chemistry with quarterback Jalen Hurts from their time together at Alabama, and the Eagles have an unimpressive collection of receiving talent behind him.

Translation: DeVonta Smith could crush in 2021. I think this line should be at least 100 yards higher.

Rondale Moore Betting Props

Over 550.5 receiving yards (-110, BetMGM)

Last month, this line was 500.5. I wish I had bet it then, but I still believe there’s plenty of value in this line now.

Before the draft, Rondale Moore was Ray Garvin’s favorite player in the 2021 class, and he was also mine.

At Purdue, Moore was a consensus All-American as an 18-year-old true freshman breakout with 114-1,258-12 receiving and 21-213-2 rushing, and in his pro day he exhibited elite athleticism with a 4.30-second 40-yard dash.

Moore’s a yards-after-catch playmaker, and he could be used frequently on touch passes and quick completions in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. After DeAndre Hopkins, the Cardinals have wide receivers A.J. Green and Christian Kirk — but I’m willing to bet that Moore’s talent forces him into the starting lineup sooner rather than later.

Kadarius Toney Betting Props

Under 524.5 receiving yards (-140, BetMGM)

Kadarius Toney is the exception to my exception on rookie overs. I first mentioned him a couple of weeks ago when this line was available at -115: I hope you grabbed it then.

But even though it has moved to -140, I still very much like the under for all the reasons I’ve previously detailed. Toney didn’t break out until his final year of collegiate eligibility, which is a big knock against him, and he will likely trail wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Sterling Shepard, running back Saquon Barkley, and tight end Evan Engram — and maybe even a couple other players — in targets.

Kyle Pitts Betting Props

Over 774.5 receiving yards (-115, BetMGM)

Although Kyle Pitts finished No. 4 in this Twitter poll …

… he’s the No. 1 tight end in my 2021 NFL dynasty rankings.

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: Pitts enters the NFL with the most elite combination of draft capital, college production and physical dominance we’ve ever seen at the position.

With wide receiver Julio Jones gone, Pitts should have enhanced target volume this season, and head coach Arthur Smith runs a tight end-friendly offense.

But really, I’m betting the over almost as a matter of principle. I’m betting on Pitts’ talent.

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