Football is all the way back! In a few days, the Lions and Chiefs will kick off the 2023 NFL season. At PlayerProfiler, we have spent an offseason projecting player performance from every team for the upcoming season. Now, it is time to put some money where our mouths are. These are the NFL Best Bets for season-long futures and player props, including a longshot, for you to place before Thursday night’s kickoff.
Continue to manage your bankroll all season long and stick to wager size recommendations. We will be uploading betting and pick ‘em content all season long in the form of articles, podcasts, and streams. However, it starts here.
Futures Prop Bets
For each bet below, we have noted a wager recommendation and the best price available on a major sportsbook as of Friday, September 1. Remember that a unit usually represents approximately 1-percent of your gambling bankroll.
1 unit: Darren Waller OVER 4.5 receiving TDs (+105, DraftKings)
This line is the ultimate unnecessary discount. The 30-year-old tight end Darren Waller was brought to the New York Giants to improve a passing game that was already solid last season. The Giants have gone all-in to help their franchise quarterback Daniel Jones. Last season, Jones ranked No. 1 among all quarterbacks in true completion percentage, No. 5 in accuracy rating, No. 3 in red zone completion percentage, and No. 8 in true passer rating in 2022.
In two seasons playing more than 11 games in his career, Waller caught three touchdowns (in 2019) and nine touchdowns (in 2020). Over the last couple of years, he has dealt with injuries. However, we should also consider Waller had very little motivation to suit up for a Raiders franchise that was clearly on pace for a dead end. Now, he gets one of the most competitive environments in the league. Additionally, he is the clear No. 1-option for Jones and his passing attack.
Even as recently as last season, Waller was a dynamic playmaker. Waller ranked No. 2 in yards per reception and No. 10 in red zone target share among tight ends. Waller did this while sharing a field with elite wideout Davante Adams. If he can even just replicate that level of production and play a majority of the season, five touchdowns is far from a tough ask. Especially since this is an offense that got three touchdowns from their tight ends last year. As a result, the Giants should be more pass-heavy and more efficient this year.
PlayerProfiler’s seasonal projections have Waller listed at 5.8 receiving touchdowns. This makes this bet at plus-money a bargain.
1 unit: Josh Jacobs UNDER 1049.5 rushing yards (-120, DraftKings)
Unders on season-long player props are about as sweaty as it can get in sports betting. However, we don’t discriminate when it comes to finding value, and there is plenty of it with fading Josh Jacobs this season. Although Jacobs has played at least 15 regular season games in three straight seasons and cleared this line in three of his four seasons in the NFL, he now has some wear and tear on his body after posting a career-high 340 rush attempts and leading the league in touches last season. That, in itself, is the biggest reason to bet against him this year.
Fantasy finishes by RBs who led the #NFL in touches the previous year (PPG | TOT):
2015 DeMarco Murray RB14 | RB17
2016 Adrian Peterson N/A | RB118 (hurt in Week 3)
2017 David Johnson N/A | RB113 (hurt in Week 1)
2018 Le'Veon Bell N/A | N/A (contract)
2019 Ezekiel Elliott RB4 |… pic.twitter.com/xSpHWwZSAf
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) August 20, 2023
Over the last eight seasons, only two running backs to lead the NFL in touches the previous season have played a full season the next year. Of those two running backs, only one (Ezekiel Elliott, 2019) cleared the 1,050-rushing-yard plateau.
It would be a statistical anomaly if we got 17 regular season games out of Jacobs this year. To make things worse, he might not even have the efficiency or the offensive situation to flirt with this number. Last year, he ranked No. 13 among running backs in yards created per touch and No. 31 in breakaway run rate.
Now, with the Las Vegas offense looking very different at quarterback, and in the pass-catching room, opposing defenses will have no issue loading boxes against Josh Jacobs and forcing the ball into the hands of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The Raiders, who are projected for just 6.5 wins, will also likely be forced to pass more solely from being in negative gamescripts most of the season. Every snap that ends in a pass is one opportunity missed for Jacobs to add to his rushing yard tally and another reason to fade the rushing crown of 2022.
1 unit: Christian Watson OVER 5.5 receiving TDs (+106, FanDuel)
This line is outright disrespectful to the skillset of the Packers’ lead pass-catcher, Christian Watson. In his rookie season, Watson played in just 14 games and had a snap share of at least 70-percent in just six games. During that time, he still drew 14 red zone targets and scored nine touchdowns. The naive thought process would be to think that the quarterback change from Aaron Rodgers to Jordan Love and some negative regression in the touchdown conversion rate could cause Watson’s touchdown numbers to suffer. However, a closer look shows that Watson’s skillset is built to score touchdowns in the NFL. Additionally, the quarterback change might not hurt him at all given that Rodgers was not very good in 2022.
Previously discussed in our team betting article, Rodgers was inefficient last season. There is a reason Green Bay used a first-round pick for Jordan Love. He is almost certainly good enough to run an NFL offense. With a full offseason under his belt preparing to be the starter, Watson’s second year should be a showcase of why he ranked above his draft class’s best wide receiver prospects, per the Breakout Finder.
Watson ranked No. 2 in his class in athleticism score, in the 95th-percentile or better in speed score, burst score, and catch radius, and in the 90th percentile in college dominator. In his rookie season, he ranked No. 7 among all NFL wide receivers in true catch rate and No. 22 in red zone targets despite his injury-related playing time limits.
Top-7 rookie wide receiver yards per route run leaders (minimum 50 targets) since 2011:
1. Odell Beckham
2. AJ Brown
3. Justin Jefferson
4. Ja'Marr Chase
5. Chris Olave
6. Tyreek Hill
7. Christian Watson
— JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) January 30, 2023
Players of Watson’s caliber don’t come around very often in the NFL. His elite efficiency as a rookie was no fluke. He continues to be built as the prototypical red zone target, and it is why PlayerProfiler’s seasonal projections have him listed at 7.0 receiving touchdowns, making this bet a steal at cost.
1 unit: David Montgomery OVER 5.5 rushing TDs (+105, DraftKings)
The feel-good Detroit Lions nearly made the playoffs last season and now they bring back most of their core. Their defense is still not fantastic, and that will force them into high tempo on offense behind quarterback Jared Goff. The loss of wide receiver Jameson Williams for at least the first six games of the season also means more responsibility on lead wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown. It also means more volume for the dynamic backfield of first-round draft pick Jahmyr Gibbs and free agency acquisition David Montgomery.
Additionally, it is not set in stone how the Lions will utilize their adjusted set of weapons. It is a great bet at this price to assume Montgomery will be an active weapon near the goal-line. Last year, playing alongside rushing quarterback Justin Fields, Montgomery recorded 12 games with multiple red zone carries and averaged one carry per game inside the 10-yard-line. Now, he takes over a role occupied by Jamaal Williams. Last season, Williams ranked No. 2 among NFL running backs in red zone touches and total touchdowns. Additionally, Williams ranked No. 1 in carries inside the 5-yard-line.
Interesting from Lions OC Ben Johnson on rookie RB Jahmyr Gibbs: "We might use Gibbs in some ways that people don’t quite think we might."
— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) September 2, 2023
There have already been hints thrown around that the role of Gibbs may be atypical from the usual pure running back. This could open up offensive sets that feature Montgomery and Gibbs on the field at the same time with Montgomery lining up in the backfield. Even without the over-speculation, PlayerProfiler’s seasonal projections have Montgomery listed at 8.5 rushing touchdowns. This makes this Vegas line look like a blunder.
1 unit: Ezekiel Elliott OVER 4.5 rushing TDs (+100, DraftKings)
Fantasy gamers over the last several years have often unified with one common motto: “Do not trust Bill Belichick’s backfields.” That is probably why the public might be scared to take this ugly-looking prop. Everybody wants the superior Patriots running back, Rhamondre Stevenson, to thrive. However, the truth is that Belichick was never getting through this offseason without adding a grinder back as part of a true committee in the New England backfield.
Elliott has been a poster child for availability in the NFL over the course of his career. Now for the first time ever, the pressure is off for him to be the lead. Instead, his inefficiencies as a runner at age 28 will not matter if he can just fall into the end zone a few times. Last year, the Patriots rushed for just 12 touchdowns. However, improvements to the coaching staff and Mac Jones‘ health should have them in a position to be more efficient as an offense. This should open up opportunities for both Stevenson and Elliott to produce if need be.
Elliott has never rushed for fewer than six touchdowns in his career. This is his role now. It is a prime reason that PlayerProfiler’s seasonal projections list him at 6.0 rushing touchdowns. This makes the over the clear correct side of the market.
0.25 unit longshot: Amon-Ra St. Brown most regular season total receptions (+1200, FanDuel)
This is just a quick math game. Four players have shorter odds to win the reception crown this year than the Lions’ No. 1 wideout.
The favorite is Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who is far from healthy right now and may miss Week 1 and possibly more games right off the bat. Next in line we have wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase. Jefferson is the NFL’s reigning reception leader. However, Minnesota upgraded their offense last season, and there are more competition for targets. Chase also has to contend with target competition, led by another great wideout, Tee Higgins. Additionally, the Bengals are one of the best teams in the AFC and may not need to be pass-heavy for 17 games.
Next up in the odds is future Hall of Fame tight end Travis Kelce. Over the last 36 seasons, only one player to lead the NFL in receptions was not a wide receiver (tight end Tony Gonzalez, 2004). Although Kelce is a viable candidate to break a historical streak, it’s not worth dabbling on him at this chalky price.
Amon-Ra St. Brown is, however, worth the 7.7-percent implied probability for this crown. The Sun God checks all the boxes for consistent volume. As explained above, the Lions will have to be pass-heavy with their compromised defense. Additionally, there simply aren’t too many proven pass-catchers on this team. The Detroit depth chart at wide receiver is a cliff that falls off from St. Brown to Marvin Jones, who enters his age-33 season.
Although Sam LaPorta profiles as a player that can be very successful in this league, you cannot assume a rookie tight end is ever going to take away a bulk of targets from a superstar wide receiver. In 2022, following the trade of tight end T.J. Hockenson, St. Brown played in 10 games. In that span, he drew at least eight targets in nine games. Additionally, he ranked second in the league in receptions (only behind Jefferson).
If St. Brown cannot stay healthy for a full season, this bet is likely dead. However, if he can play 17 games, he sure reads as a profile eerily similar to 2021 Cooper Kupp.