2021 NFL Futures Value Picks
NFL

NFL Futures: A Buffet of Tasty Value

Though the player props for the season have yet to be released, a number of team-focused bets are available, as well as some Week 1 spreads we think it best to jump on early.

With the draft now nearly a month concluded, some teams greatly improved their rosters, most improved them slightly, while a few got substantially worse. Keeping that in mind, we’ve got a spread of picks for the season we feel should be savvy bets in Week 1 and beyond.

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Dak Prescott to win NFL Comeback Player of the Year +175

Dak Prescott went from being a guy who was legitimately just a guy in the perfect system for his talent to a guy who has evolved greatly as a passer. He’s underrated at this point.

Dak made serious strides last season and was on a pace for 6,000 yards passing before going down in Game 5. The Cowboys went hard on the defensive side of the ball in the draft, but we don’t expect their defense will be much improved simply due to a few rookies.

This defense will be bad again, which should mean plenty of shootouts and negative game scripts for Dak to be airing it out. If you look at the other top two candidates, Dak has the best path to this award. Saquan Barkley is one, but his offensive line still has some serious issues.

Barkley would need to be among the top rushing leaders in 2021 to even get consideration for this award. With his injury history and the line to consider, I’d venture to say the odds aren’t great.

Joe Burrow is the other top candidate. He has a receiving corps and backfield close to the talent level of the Cowboys, but Burrow is still less than a full season into his career.

We can’t expect Burrow to make a major stride in his development, or enough of one to eclipse Dak. Not only should Dak win this award, he should be in consideration for MVP if this season starts anywhere close to last season.

Los Angeles Rams to make playoffs -182

The Rams may just be back to their Super Bowl form from a few seasons ago. Todd Gurley is now long gone and so is Goff, but who cares? Goff was exposed behind sub-optimal pass protection, and the Rams have a nice mix of backs who can produce at rates similar to Gurley in his prime.

Last season, the Rams had the best defense in football and were just one decent quarterback away from making a deep playoff run. With the consistently underrated and underappreciated Matthew Stafford now behind center, the Rams should be able to replicate the kind of offensive success and efficiency they were experiencing just a few seasons ago.

Stafford is a major upgrade to Goff, so I find it very difficult to believe this Rams team will struggle to make the postseason in 2021.

Chicago Bears to win NFC North +425

The Bears were a decent team last season, until teams recognized they could stagnate the offense fairly easily. Much like the Rams, the Bears’ biggest issue last season was bad QB play. With the additions of Andy Dalton (free agency) and Justin Fields (draft), the offensive floor should already be considerably higher than a season ago.

Dalton has already proved — in Cincinnati — he can be a decent option with mediocre protection and okay skill position guys. Fields has shown he can be a force as a dual-threat QB. One of these two guys is going to take this advantageous situation and succeed.

Defensively, the Bears were a solid group in 2020, with numbers negatively skewed due to all the time the defense spent on the field. With Aaron Rodgers’ situation in Green Bay a question mark, and the Vikings being the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde team, the Bears should be contenders for the division title in 2021.

Had the odds been any worse than +325, I would stay away here, but there odds are too good for a talented team in a questionable division.

San Francisco 49ers to make playoffs -177

The 49ers are a lot like the Chargers in the sense that both teams have a lot of talent, but failed to stay remotely healthy in 2020. Nick Bosa was recently cleared for the season and despite the season-threatening injury to Jeff Wilson, the 49ers are still loaded in the backfield.

The draft brought the 49ers two more dynamic running backs and one extremely promising — albeit underdeveloped and inexperienced — QB in Trey Lance. Lance may be the long-term play for the 49ers’ future, but a healthy Jimmy Garappolo should at least equate to a decent, functioning offense.

Defensively, the 49ers have talent all over the field, and two of their division rivals — Cardinals and Seahawks — did very little to improve through the Draft. The 49ers will bring in the fresh legs of Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell as a nice Thunder and Lightning combo in the backfield.

They’ll also feature the best all-around tight-end in the league, George Kittle, with two of the best Yards After Catch (YAC) guys in the NFL (Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel). This offense will never reach the ceiling as a complete shallow to deep threat offense with Jimmy Garappolo at QB, but they could get there with Trey Lance.

Lance’s upside as a runner and talent on the deep ball will create even more space for this potent offense to attack. I doubt the 49ers make the move to Lance early in the season, but even mediocre play from either of these guys should result in a return to the postseason.

New England Patriots starting QB on opening day: Cam Newton -278

It’s not that I’m endorsing Cam Newton as much as I am endorsing the history of Bill Belichik taking it slow with rookies. Cam is reportedly in the best shape he’s been in for a few years, so seeing a healthy Cam not skipping one-hoppers on his throws may push the timeline further back on Mac Jones’ clock.

Mac Jones was great in his lone season as the Alabama starting QB, but he’s got a very different offensive setup in New England now. Not only does Mac Jones need to overcome the jump from college to the NFL, he has to earn the trust of the greatest coach of all-time (let’s be real).

Jones had Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith last season, plus an elite offensive line. This season, his line will be worse relative to the competition, and his best receiver will be (checks roster) Nelson Agholor.

That’s a daunting situation for anyone to come into, but perhaps more daunting in an organization with the high performance standards of the New England Patriots. This, to me, is the most certain I’ve been about a futures bet since the “Lakers to win the NBA Title +250” was an option in last season’s Nuggets playoff series.

Week 1 Matchup: Jaguars -2.5 at Texans

The important thing to take into account here is the fact the Texans may have the worst roster on paper we’ve seen since the 2008 Detroit Lions. I also venture to guess this game will be closer to Jaguars -6.5 when Deshaun Watson either gets suspended or remains out (trade demands). I don’t care if it’s Trevor Lawrence’s first game.

The Texans aren’t likely to have much of an idea of what they’ll need to do against the Rookie QB in his first start. Even though the Jaguars defense is bad, many Texans fans can’t even name four starters on the offense (including the QB).

I’m not saying this will be a bloodbath, but I am saying the Jaguars rushing attack proficiency is the one sure-thing in this matchup. Expect a 27-13 game (or something close to it) in favor of the Jaguars.

Week 1 Matchup: Ravens -4.5 at Raiders

2021 is going to be a rude awakening for Raiders fans. A few weeks ago, we picked the Raiders to not make the playoffs and we still feel great about it.

The Raiders’ offensive line is a shell of its former self, Derek Carr has proven to be too conservative as a passer, despite having a strong line over his career. The Raiders defense has made some improvements over the last couple seasons, but they have the unfortunate disadvantage of playing a Ravens offense which can slice up opposing defenses in a number of different ways.

If the Ravens want to try out a new offense featuring wrinkles of their 2020 team, the Raiders are the perfect candidate to go about things all wrong in their game prep. I can see this line moving another two points in favor of the Ravens by the day prior to kickoff. Expect a landslide Ravens victory on the road.

Be sure to check back in the coming weeks and months when the DraftKings Online Sportsbook releases the regular season player prop totals.

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