Tuesday, February 19, 2013
This year's combine feels a little more important than in year's past. Maybe it's the amusing Leon Sandcastle stuff, even if it has already gone a little too far, that has the masses excited to watch large men run and jump and lift in their underwear, or maybe it's the fact that there isn't a clear No. 1 pick and it feels like the combine might clear things up for the draft nuts out there. Whatever it is, it's become a popular enough event that it warrants prop bets, and for that, we are eternally grateful.
We just wanted to take a quick look at the basic combine props offered and compare the values set to the historical data available at the event. While technological advances mean that players will continue to get stronger, run faster, jump higher, etc., we prefer to rely on historical data to see just how many players have hit the totals for the workout's key events.
Let's start with the 40-yard dash, arguably the most talked about event thanks in part to the increasingly horrible Rich Eisen and his annual tradition of running in a full suit (Which you can also wager on, but for us it isn't worth having to watch that segment on NFL Network. That said, we'd take the over on that one if we had a serious gambling problem).
Best 40-yard dash time by any player at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine
OVER (-130)/UNDER (-110) 4.30 seconds
Since the NFL began televising the combine each year, they've kept pretty extensive data on the previous combine results dating back to 2006, which were using extensively here. In the 40, we can see that the 4.30 second mark has been exceeded three times in the last seven years, with Chris Johnson's 2008 time of 4.24 remaining the gold standard.
Jacoby Ford (2010) and DeMarcus Van Dyke (2011), whoever the hell that is, clocked in under 4.30 in consecutive years, but Josh Robinson's 4.33 was the fastest time at least year's combine.
Like many of our Super Bowl prop bets, we're operating under a basic assumption about prop bettors: they like to see good things happen (much more true for a larger event like the Super Bowl, which brings out more casual bettors). So in the case these benchmark combine props, we think most of the action will ultimately wind up on the side of under--though the current vig doesn't reflect as much.
Pessimists that we are, we tend to lean over on this one.
Most bench presses by any player at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine
OVER (even)/UNDER (-140) 44 reps
We can see here that the bench press kings have emerged in recent years, and while it's true that only two players have exceeded 44 reps, this is our most optimistic outlook. Stephen Paea lifted a ridiculous 49 reps in 2011 a year after Mitch Petrus' 45 in 2010, while Dontari Poe would have pushed on this one with 44 reps last year.
The eye-opening number that most are trying to reach is 40, so we're depending on someone to squeeze out at least four more reps after reaching what is probably their stated goal, but we think it's doable. In this case, a push is an acceptable outcome for us, and we think a likely one at that. With so many quality offensive and defensive linemen vying for draft position, we'll take a gamble on the over for even odds.
Highest vertical jump by any player at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine
OVER (even)/UNDER (-140) 43.5
In the vertical jump, the last of the Big 3 events, the results since 2006 read a lot like the bench press: one outlier (Donald Washington's 45 inches in 2009) and only one other player exceeding the over/under (A.J. Jefferson's 44 inch vert in 2010). Then we have a few who have a couple who have reached 43.5, including Kashif Moore in 2012.
We're not expecting anyone to join the prestigious 44+ club this season, and we don't have a whole lot of evidence to support that hunch. Then again, we don't have a whole lot of evidence to support our previous two prop bet leans.
It's not the most scientific approach to rely solely on historical data and a very basic working knowledge of this year's participants, but the data should be part of the equation when determining which way to go on some of the combine's more popular events and prop bets.
Just take the tiny sample of historical data for what it's worth: a tiny sample of historical data. As the old adage goes, those who don't know history are bound to lose money on future prop bets.