Raider Bets: 2021 Award Predictions

Spoiler alert: I’m not betting any of these.

Probably not the best lede for a gambling column, but it’s honest. And, more importantly, even without betting it, the awards market is worth perusing. It’s a fun and revealing look at where players rank among their peers and what Vegas sportsbooks expect from these players for the 2021 season.

And those expectations are quite low:

With implied odds ranging between being born with 11 fingers and being selected to “Come on Down” on the “Price is Right,” I won’t be pulling out my wallet for any of these. But there are a few bets worth considering.

Darren Waller to Win Offensive Player of the Year | +7000 | PointsBet

No tight end has ever won this award. That tidbit is priced into the market, as PointsBet lists Darren Waller as the 44th most likely player to win the award, sandwiched between teammates Josh Jacobs (35th most likely) and Derek Carr (65th most likely). Waller is a better bet than both and he’s overall undervalued in two ways:

  1. By Position: Tight Ends Travis Kelce and George Kittle are tied for 11th most likely to win this award (+2000, 4.8% implied probability). Almost every sane, non-homer football analyst places Waller in the same tier as those two, so it’s strange to see Kelce and Kittle listed as almost four times more likely to win this award.
  2. Overall Ranking: Take a look at some of the players Waller is listed behind or tied with: Chris Carson, Taysom Hill, Najee Harris and Leonard Fournette. Call me crazy, but I believe Waller has a better shot than a rookie RB, a backup QB or league-average RBs.

I’ve almost talked myself into this one. Maybe after a drink or two, I’ll throw a five-spot at it, which would pay out $355. But, for now, in the sober light of morning I’ll err on side of caution.

Nate Hobbs to win Defensive Rookie of the Year | +8000 | PointsBet

Seeing fifth-round pick Nate Hobbs on this list would have been a shock in April. In September, it’s a totally different story. In the time since he was drafted, Hobbs has likely won a starting job and graded as the preseason’s top non-first-round defender, according to Pro Football Focus.

Even when lumped in with first-round picks, Hobbs shines. With a minimum of 40 snaps, here were the rookie defenders with a PFF grade of 90 or better this preseason:

  1. Michah Parsons: 91.0
  2. Nate Hobbs: 90.7
  3. Patrick Surtain: 90.5

That’s it, that’s the list. Michah Parsons is the favorite to win this award and Patrick Surtain is 6th. Hobbs, meanwhile, is 37th and therefore a value.

What works against Hobbs, however, is his position. Cornerbacks rarely win this award. This millennium, only Marcus Peters and Marshon Lattimore have walked away with the trophy. If a corner bucks that trend, Hobbs is a great bet to be that corner. But that’s one big “if” and therefore a wager I’ll avoid.

While I won’t be betting this, it does appear that the Raiders hit a jackpot of their own when they selected Hobbs in the fifth round.

Jon Gruden to win Coach of the Year | +5500 | FanDuel

This is another award where a Raider is undervalued. Of the 32 NFL head coaches, Jon Gruden (or John Gruden as FanDuel lists him) is listed as the 29th most likely coach to win this award. 

Gruden’s low ranking speaks to one thing: low expectations. Only six teams have a lower win total than the Raiders and, on FanDuel, only the Lions and Texans have longer odds to win their division

For an award like this, low expectations are a good thing, as it’s easier to exceed expectations when they’re low. And there are two indicators that’s what the 2021 Raiders might do:

  1. The sportsbooks are carrying a big liability on the Raiders. For example, the Raiders are BetMGM’s largest division-market liability at “mid six figures.” The implication being lots of money has been wagered on the Raiders exceeding expectations, with a good chunk of those wagers likely coming from sharps, not fans. 
  2. There’s a reason sharps would bet on the Raiders. A quick glance at PFF’s betting projections demonstrates this:

Do I think the Raiders will win the division? No. Do I think that the markets have underrated their chances for the 2021 season, thus making them a value bet? Emphatically yes.

That said, there are safer and better ways to bet on the Raiders exceeding expectations than a bet on a sportswriter popularity contest, which is what Coach of the Year amounts to. Winning the division, making the playoffs and going over their win total are great values, as well, and those markets are determined on the field.

If the Raiders achieve any of those, it will be in large part due to Gruden. So maybe this one gets a tipsy $5 to win $280, along with the Darren Waller bet, but for now let’s hold steady on our previous Raider futures:

  • Raiders over 7 wins (-110): 1 unit
  • Raiders to finish 2nd in AFC West (+550): 0.5 unit
  • Raiders over 404.5 Points (-110): 0.5 unit
  • Derek Carr over 4050.5 passing yards (-115): 1 unit
  • Henry Ruggs over 699.5 yards receiving (-120): 1 unit
  • John Brown under 600.5 yards receiving (-130): 1 unit
  • John Brown under 620.5 yards receiving (-130): 1 unit

And, with that, we’ve wrapped up our futures bets series. Next week, we’ll be on to Baltimore, with plenty of sides, totals and prop bets.

Twitter: @TravisGilkeson