NFL

After the NFL Draft: Early Thoughts on Bets for Next Season

Bet against the Bengals? Too early on the Texans? Looking at the NFL season ahead now that the draft is over.

May 2, 2024

The dust has settled on the 2024 NFL Draft, and although we are months away from the NFL season, now is the time where you start framing the transactions into a betting conversation. Hope springs eternal for each team, but which ones made moves that show you a stark difference from where they were at the end of last season? These insights could shape futures wagers — but they’re also worth considering for bets in the first month of the season.

Bet Against the Bengals

The AFC North continues to be one of the toughest divisions in the league, and the coming season should be no different. However, if you had to pick the weakest link, who would it be? Based on the current betting market, NFL simulations, and overall consensus, the majority of analytics have the Ravens winning the division, the Bengals grabbing a Wild Card spot and the Browns and Steelers being close, but not in the playoffs. I would challenge this notion based on the teams as a whole.

The Bengals will get Joe Burrow back, who has dragged an incomplete team to the Super Bowl before, and I don’t doubt that he will do it again. However, you have Tee Higgins and Trey Henderson requesting trades after they were unable to secure a long-term deal. The defense was ranked 21st in points allowed last season, and they spent half of their 10 draft picks on offense, including their top pick on a (very good) OL in Amarius Mims, and two picks on tight ends — after securing Mike Gesicki in free agency.

So, who would I pick over the Bengals? Well, either, or both the Browns and Steelers. The Browns had one of the best defenses in the league last season, and if QB Deshaun Watson improves, their roster is ready to contend. They made the playoffs last season after starting five different quarterbacks last season, and a completely healthy Browns team matched up with a completely healthy Bengals team in Week One, and the Browns dominated.

The Steelers have a better shot than the Bengals, too. They spent much of their draft beefing up their offensive line with OT Troy Fautanu in the first round, and C Zach Frazier in the second round. The O-line was their most glaring weakness last season, but they also lacked firepower on offense as a whole. After bringing in QBs Russell Wilson and Justin Fields to compete for the starting role, they also added national champion WR Roman Wilson, who should fit beautifully into their offensive scheme.

Caleb Williams or J.J. McCarthy — Who’s in a Better Situation?

Of course, Caleb Williams is one of the most sought-after prospects to hit the NFL Draft in a decade, but right out of the gate, who is set up to succeed? The general consensus says that Williams is more set up to succeed than any other QB in this class. But I think the topic is up for debate.

The Minnesota Vikings traded up to the 10th pick for Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy. Minnesota was contending for a Wild Card spot late into last season, and was considered to have a playoff-ready roster with Kirk Cousins under center before his injury.

Now, they’ve improved the run game by replacing Alexander Mattison with Aaron Jones. The Vikings defense ranked 13th by the end of last year compared to Chicago’s 20th-ranked unit. And everyone wants to buy into the Bears’ remodeled receiver room with DJ Moore, Keenan Allen, and  9th overall pick Rome Adunze, but you can make an argument that Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison are better than all three of them. 

So who is more set up for success in a weak NFC? Caleb Williams and the Bears? Or J.J. McCarthy and the Vikings? I think we need to let a few games play out before we are certain.

Are the Texans a Serious Contender?

The Texans beat the Browns in the Wild Card round behind Rookie of the Year C.J. Stroud last season. And many are picking them to be the new team to challenge the Kansas City Chiefs for a spot at the top of the AFC. But the numbers tell a slightly different story with Houston.

The Texans had the 12th-ranked offense and the 14th-ranked defense last season. Granted, they were starting a rookie QB, but they also benefited from the second-easiest schedule in the league last season. This was because they faced their own easy division with the deteriorating Tennessee Titans, and the Indianapolis Colts who nearly stole the division with a backup under center. On top of that, they matched up against the lowly NFC South, the Cardinals, and the Jets — with the latter two teams both missing their intended starters.

The Texans also spent most of last season squeaking out wins in one-score games due to their struggles in the red zone. They won 7 of their 10 one-score games, dropping three to the last ranked Panthers, Buccaneers, and Falcons. They were also largely ineffective running the ball for a majority of the season. Their draft class won’t do much to remedy these issues, outside of some much needed O-line and secondary help. With the Colts returning their first-round QB, and the Jaguars fortifying their offense, the AFC South could be up for grabs.

Sam Bloomquist
Sam Bloomquist is Tipico's Social Media Manager.
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