How to Win Betting NFL Player Props (Fantasy Football)
Betting on the NFL in terms of spreads and totals is generally a difficult task for most fantasy players. The lines are efficient, move quickly and quite simply, there isn’t as much of an edge for the average sports better. Fortunately, betting on NFL player props is a way to beat the market and help us earn a little extra cash this NFL season. We’re very excited to add NFL Player Props to our DFS Pass product, which is an exclusive part of the Ultimate Draft Kit+.
We’ll have a weekly props article out every Wednesday then updated any time we add a prop until the games kick off on Sunday and Monday night. Kyle and I will also be discussing a few props on the DFS Podcast each week, but the vast majority of our plays will be in the DFS Pass.
If you’ve played DFS before, you’re already ahead of the curve. I’ve said before many times DFS and fantasy players might actually have a better pulse on the props market than the actual sportsbooks. Why? Beating NFL player props is all about understanding player usage, roles, offensive line play, defensive matchups, head coaching decisions, etc. Sound familiar? We use this same information to help us guide our decision making process when setting DFS lineups every week. As a result, betting NFL player props is a good way for fantasy gamers to dip their toes the water when it comes to sports betting.
Winning in the NFL player prop market is more than just leans and takes. Simply stating “I like this player this week” or “I don’t like this matchup for this RB this week” isn’t enough. We have to use the market and projections to help guide and have a sound strategy. Here’s how to beat NFL player props.
1. Have money on multiple sportsbooks
If you’re somewhat serious about making a profit betting on NFL player props, it’s important to line shop and always find the best line with the best odds. It sounds simple, but it’s the easiest way novice bettors can limit the amount of money they lose when a bet doesn’t hit.
Unlike NFL sides and totals, the prop market is generally more inefficient, meaning we may find different lines for rushing yards and receiving yards across multiple books. Let’s take Week 1 for example on Ceasars Sportsbook with the NFL season kicking off with Rams vs. Bills. As of this writing, they’re offering a Stefon Diggs 66.5 Receiving Yards prop. Meanwhile, on Underdog Pick ‘Em, Diggs’ prop is at 79.5 receiving yards, and on PrizePicks, it’s at 67.5 yards. If you like the over on this line, it doesn’t make sense to bet it on Underdog or PrizePicks when we have a higher likelihood of winning the bet on Ceasars.
It’s of course very simple to do this across many platforms (DraftKings, FanDuel, Barstool, BetMGM, etc.), and depending on state regulations, you may be able to get action on upwards of 10 books. The more lines we have access to, the more likely we are to find an inefficiency in the market, leading us to a better win rate across an entire season.
2. Understand player props does not equal DFS performance
We’ve already established there’s a close relationship between DFS analysis and player prop analysis, but one of the biggest mistakes I see is folks marrying the two concepts too closely. In other words, just because we take an over on a player prop may not necessarily mean that player is a good DFS play. Similarly, an under on a prop doesn’t mean that player shouldn’t be played in DFS. How can this be?
A few episodes ago, Kyle recommended taking an under on George Kittle‘s 60.5 receiving yards prop over on PrizePicks. His rationale for this take is that the 49ers are a full TD favorites, leading the Niners to potentially go more run heavy assuming they’re playing with a lead against the Bears. In addition, we’ve seen the floor on Kittle plenty of times throughout his career. Kyle notes that in his career, when he catches 5 or less passes, he averages just 32 receiving yards. Now, he’s dealing with an unknown QB in Trey Lance.
However, on the other side of the coin, we’ve also seen an insane ceiling from Kittle where he can post 25+ fantasy points in any given week. But the key to understanding this concept is that this doesn’t happen that often. When it does, however, we get an outsized return on our investment of playing Kittle DFS. In DFS, it’s all about chasing ceiling performances due to the top heavy payout structure on most platforms and being okay with being wrong. In player prop betting, however, we’re looking more for median outcomes or what’s most likely to occur. In DFS we’re okay with the floor of Kittle, knowing that when he hits, he hits in a massive way.
3. Try to bet lines as soon as they are posted.
When you arrive at a party, it’s cool to be fashionably late. When you’re betting anything, especially NFL player props, you want to be the first one there. Opening lines (aka the lines that are first posted on a book) are the easiest to beat. It’s much easier to identify a line we want to bet before others get to it and it becomes efficient. Let’s look at an example to understand this concept.
Let’s say for example a prop opens for Week 1 for Joe Mixon at 90.5 rushing yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Let’s pretend the market is in on the over and by the time you have time to check out props for the week, it’s two days later and the prop is now at 97.5 yards. You like it. You want the over. He finishes with 94 yards…and you lose…but could have one if you got the opening line.
While these markets are a bit more inefficient, the lines will move if enough money is wagered on them. It’s important not to chase line movement if it gets to a number where there is no longer an edge. Seven yards doesn’t seem like a lot in betting terms, but this specific example shows how easily a bet can turn into a losing wager.
4. Be ready to bet unders.
As human beings and DFS players, we love to be for things to happen. It’s natural to hope for things to happen, especially if we benefit. “I need just one more TD to win $1,000 in DFS!” or “If Derrick Henry has just six more rushing yards, I’ll hit the 100-yard bonus on DraftKings.” We can all relate to this as fantasy players. No one likes to be the guy or girl at a party cheering for an incompletion or a fumble where your RB gets pulled off the field.
But here’s the thing…chaos happens in the NFL and there’s a ton of volatility in this sport. In season long player props, Unders historically hit at over a 60% clip. While the edge isn’t quite as strong for weekly player props, unders still hit at a higher rate than overs.
The reason for that also more outs to an under cashing than an over. Injuries happen in the NFL. Coaches make questionable decisions. Quarterbacks need their WR to run the correct route to create separation and catch the football. Running backs need offensive lineman to make the correct block. Etc., etc. etc. You get the point. It’s not that we won’t be betting overs, but we’ll likely be betting more unders than overs given the higher hit rate.
5. Know how to decipher news and reports.
Grinding the news can help us…it can also hurt us. On Sunday mornings, there’s often a flurry of news reports about different teams and players. Sometimes we’ll hear “Running back X is expected to see 15-20 carries.” Or “Wide receiver X is going to be full go today off his injury.”
If we take those reports as facts rather than a possibility, we could get burned, especially if the “news” is more coach speak than anything. It’s all too familiar if you’ve been playing fantasy long enough. Rather than just making decisions off one headline. We need to be more mindful of the quality of the information we consume and lean into projections whenever possible. Kyle wrote a great article a few weeks ago about sifting through news for season long leagues. A lot of the concepts he lays out in his article apply here.
6. Be mindful of odds.
Another obvious one. We discussed in detail above how important it is to find the best number when it comes to a prop. What I’m referring to here is more of the receiving yards line or rushing yards line, but that doesn’t mean the best odds aren’t just as (if not more) important.
Let’s say for example two books are offering a 20.5 rushing yards prop for Patrick Mahomes. You want to take the over. One book has (-125). The other has (-115) odds. For those who are new to this, these lines basically refer to the likelihood that an event will happen. Take this example below.
For the -125 bet, if you bet $125, you’ll win $100. For the -115 bet, if you bet $115, you’ll win $100. If the bet wins, it doesn’t really matter what the line was because you win the same amount of money. But, if the bet loses, that’s where this comes into play.
Mahomes finishes with 18 rushing yards. Your bet doesn’t cash. Would you rather lose $125 or $115? Obviously, we want to lose less, and in sports betting, we obviously won’t win every bet. Managing those losses by shopping for the best odds is crucial to being a successful prop bettor.
There’s obviously a lot more that goes into being a profitable sports bettor for the NFL props market, but using these guidelines is a great place to start. Be sure to tune into the DFS Podcast all year and check out our weekly props in the DFS Pass.