Givin Props: NFL Season-Long RB Props

Running back Derrick Henry #22 of the Tennessee Titans looks back after scoring the game winning touchdown in overtime against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on November 22, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Image Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images

Each week, BetPrep’s Player Prop Guru and NBC Sports Betting Analyst Brad Feinberg discusses how the site’s historical data shaped his picks with Michael Salfino of The Athletic and FiveThirtyEight. Here are some highlights from the latest episode of the Givin’ Props Podcast.

Let’s talk about running back props, season long props; this, trust me, is also going to serve as a pretty good fantasy football primer, too. First, to summarize, we’re leaning towards the under-side on these props, because about 64% of the time, if you just bet the under, you’re going to win. And that’s because these props are designed pretty much for a full season worth of action. And as we know, in the NFL, a full season of action is not likely. 

Brad: It would be nice, everyone played all 17 games. Because of that, the unders are always going to win more than the overs.

Derrick Henry, under 1,600.5 yards. Do you ever remember a rushing yardage prop this high?

I do not. He needs to average 94 yards a game, to hit this and 94 is a crazy number. Plus offensive coordinator Arthur Smith is lost to Atlanta. Maybe they go a little bit more towards the passing because they actually have a new toy, in Julio Jones. In today’s NFL, 94 yards a game rushing is so hard, and I’m going to fade anyone in the world to do that even if I knew he was going to play 17 games.

Guess how many running backs got 94-plus yards a game for 16 games three seasons in a row as Henry would have to do to win this prop?

I’d have said no one.

There’s one. But you’ll never guess in a million years.

Give it to me.

Tiki Barber of the New York Giants, 2004 to 2006. He’ll also have to be the 21st RB in NFL history to get 300-plus rushes at least three-straight years. So our next one is Miles Sanders under 1,000.5 rushing yards.

I actually really like Sanders. I’m doing this for a couple reasons. In two years — and he’s played well both years — 818 yards and 867; so he has gone under both years. Eagles beat writers have reported that they expect it to be pretty close to an equal timeshare with Boston Scott, who like Sanders also has run very well, though not as well. He averaged 4.7 yards to carry on on 80 rushes vs. 5.3 for Sanders. I think that the Eagles see Sanders as more of a 12-carry-a-game guy. I’m not trying to say what’s right and what’s wrong. If I was Philadelphia, I would give Sanders the ball and make him my workhorse. But I don’t see him averaging around 59 yards a game to hit that number,

Now we have D’Andre Swift under 8.5 rushing touchdowns. It’s really hard to score a half a rushing touchdown per game when and we talked about this on the given futures podcast this week, where the Lions are going to only be favored in just one game.

Exactly what I think. It’s just a big number; it’s not an easy number for a guy to get to where I think that the offense is weak plus Jamaal Williams is there and he is probably going to steal some rushing TDs — at least 30% of them conservatively. Maybe they get 12 rushing TDs. Then Williams would steal about four of them.

RBs last year in losses, by the way, a rushing TD every 33 attempts. And you’re not getting 33 attempts in losses. 

We see this the same way; that this number is just too high.

Next: Christian McCaffrey minus-160 to beat Saquon Barkley in total yards from scrimmage.

Let’s suppose Barkley was not coming off a serious injury: I would still like this. I think McCaffrey wins this bet at least eight out of 13 times, the minus-160 area. But Barkley is already hurt, coming off his major knee injury, and I don’t see him starting the season with a crazy workload. There are even reports he may not play at all to start the season. Now McCaffrey could, god forbid, tear his ACL Week 1 but Barkley IS hurt right now. I’d make McCaffrey 3-to-1 to win this bet.

The next one we have is Jonathan Taylor minus-240 to have more rushing yards than Melvin Gordon.

I feel embarrassed even to be doing this, like stealing candy from a baby. I feel with this bet like I’m Shaquille O’Neal playing against a newborn in one-on-one basketball. I think it’s probably minus-400 to minus-500 because these things do happen. But if both these guys play full seasons it would be Buster Douglas-beating-Mike Tyson-level shock if I lost with Taylor.

The Broncos traded up to the 34th pick for Javonte Williams so you would expect Williams to get at least 50% of Denver carries. 

This one I think falls in that category where it’s just pretty obvious this bet’s going to win.

Joe Mixon plus-160 to beast Aaron Jones in rushing yards.

I always say I bet numbers, not players. I have nothing against Aaron Jones. He’s one of the best players in all football. I think he’s incredible. But look at the over/unders for both these players, Aaron Jones is over/under is anywhere between 1,000 and 1,050. Joe Mixon’s over/under is anywhere from 1,050 to 1,150. So I’m getting the guy that has a slightly higher over and you’re going to give me plus-160? Again, gun to my head. I’m going to take Joe Mixon straight up because I do think (Jones’s backup) A.J. Dillon is a real player that’s going to get real carries. And I think that Mixon is going to get virtually all the carries for the Bengals. I think a fair number would have been Mixon minus-125, Jones plus-105.

I think you have like 47 Najee Harris props coming up, but I like I like this one the best. Is this a misprint? He’s plus-150 against Josh Jacobs in rushing yards?

Both these guys are over/under right around 1,000 yards. So again, you’re giving me plus-150 on something that should be minus-110 on each side. The Raiders gave Kenyan Drake about $10 million so I think Drake is going to get some run. Pittsburgh is going to rely on Harris a lot. I think he’s going to get all the run he can handle plus I think he’s a bull. I actually think Harris will be a tremendous player this year.

It’s also a free bet against the Raiders. Jacobs had one of the most extreme wins/losses splits in rushing in the league. His 50 yards a game was 17th and his yards per carry in losses was 49th. Do you think it’s likely that the Raiders have a losing season?

I think it’s likely but again I’m not as down on them as some of the market. But I can’t get myself to think that they’re going to have a winning record.

So now for Brad’s Pizza Bets — big payoffs for a little money that you would otherwise spend on a pizza. So if you lose, and you probably will, it’s no big deal. But if you win, well, it’s a lot of pizza.

I put in bets all the time that I think are going to lose. People could say, “Feinberg, Najee Harris didn’t lead the league in rushing touchdowns: You’re an idiot.” But if a bet is 100-to-1 and I think it should be 50-to-1, I’m betting it every time. It’s going to allow me to at least double my money, eventually. When the Steelers this year are inside the five yard line, I expect them to feed the ball to Harris. I really believe his over/under for rushing TDs should be as high as anyone’s.

I think a way to look at this bet is to lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns, you almost certainly have to play on a winning team. So that automatically eliminates half the field right? Then you need to be the short yardage guy for sure. And probably the bell cow for sure. Because when there’s an eight-yard touchdown run, you want that to be your guy’s, too. So there really are only seven or eight guys who can possibly do this — and Harris is one of them. 

I agree 100%.

So the next one, we’re going to New England and we have Damian Harris at 100-to-1 to lead the NFL in rushing TDs. This seems to be kind of a bet against Cam Newton starting for much of the season, too. 

Belichick is actually complimenting Harris. When do you remember that happening? He graded as Pro Football Focus’ second-best running back last year. So I also have him at 100-to-1 to lead the NFL in rushing yards. And by the way, I like Najee Harris at 50-1 to lead the NFL in rushing yards. Of course, they both can’t.

Well, they could tie! 

I really think that Harris has a chance. This could be a rushing-dominant team no matter who the QB is.

And Cam is more of a goal-line/short-yardage runner now, not an open field runner. 

I totally agree. They could try to win with that and defense. I can see Damian Harris getting 20 carries a game, really. I honestly believe he’s going to finish in the top 10 in the NFL in rushing yards. I know that’s a crazy comment. I’m a big underdog with that comment, I get that. But at 100-to-1 odds, I’m going to take my chances that maybe he stays healthy for 17 games. And let’s suppose with six weeks to go, you know, he’s one of three guys who have separated themselves. Then you just bet on the other two guys knowing that you have that Harris ticket in your pocket. With the rushing TD bet, I do need Mac Jones to play a lot but that’s certainly possible.

Clyde Edwards-Hilaire is next at 100-to-1 for most rushing touchdowns. This is another back on a top offensive team that is expected to win most games and with no real competition for rushes and goal-line rushes. 

I can see a world where they do have success with him early. Where it’s easier to just give him the ball in close rather than risk an injury to Patrick Mahomes. And they keep punching it in with Edwards-Hilaire. You can have a lot of fun with these pizza bets even if you lose. When Jose Abreu came over from Cuba, he was 200-to-1 to lead MLB in homers and I took him for $15.  He was literally leading up until like mid-August. And that was fun even though I didn’t win it. And I’ve cashed a few of these 100-to-1 and 200-to-1 bets in my day. That’s even more fun!