Givin Props: NFL Season-Long WR And TE Props

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) celebrates after scoring against the Green Bay Packers during the first half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
Image Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

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 continue our props position reviews with WRs and TEs. But first why don’t we explain again to the listeners why you have such a decided lean on the under side for these season-long props?

Brad: Props are based on a 17-game football season. And that sounds great that a guy averages, say, half a touchdown a game: 17 games boom 8.5 TDs. Very simple, right? Not so simple because most players do not play a full season. This is the NFL. I’m always looking for an under because it’s always priced as if no one’s ever going to get hurt. That’d be an ideal world. That’d be terrific if that was the case. But we know that’s not the case.

Adam Thielen is coming off a 14-TD season. He’s actually one of three wide receivers coming off a touchdown season of at least 14 receiving touchdowns in 2020, which is an extreme outlier given there have only been 22 this century, previously. 

Brad: He’s a really good player. But f two years ago there was one wide receiver with double-digit TDs. Thielen last year was an outlier for himself, too. He’s gone over six touchdowns one other time previously. He’s 31 this year. I’m going all-in like in poker that this was a career year. And by the way, he’s played basically a full season every year except once in 2019.

And the other thing that I think is attractive about this bet is that even the people who are on the other side of this would stipulate that Thielen is not the best receiver on his team.

Brad: Yes, 100% Justin Jefferson’s the main guy there. The data shows me the number should be around seven TDs.

It’s so funny that you say that, because here’s what the analytics that I dug up say: The 22 guys who previously had at least 14 touchdowns in a season this century averaged 7.5 the next year.

Brad: And that to me is still a good number. It’s not even insulting. It’s a nice number

Of the 22, nine had nine TDs or more the next year — 41%.

Brad: It will take 10 for me to lose the bet. And I’m like, “Okay, this guy gets 10 touchdowns and ‘ll take my medicine and move on.”

Sometimes you come up with these props that seem like somebody’s asleep at the switch. Blake Jarwin is not even starting and coming off an ACL injury. And you’re under 525.5 receiving yards. 

Brad: Dalton Schultz actually really had a heck of a year last year and is a much better blocker. For a star tight end like a Travis Kelce, 30 yards a game is child’s play. But for most others, that’s the normal season. If you play every game, you don’t miss a snap, they get to maybe 30 yards a game. Jarwin in his two healthy years went well under playing with Jason Witten and I expect a similar kind of thing in 2021 with Schultz. I think this number is ridiculous. I would have this line, no joke, 200 yards lower.

Speaking of Kelce, you like under 10.5 receiving touchdowns.

Brad: He’s an amazing player but there are certain tight ends who are more red zone guys. Kelce has not been a big TD scorer.

He doesn’t get those sneaky touchdowns where he’s wide open, because the defense is like, “Oh, we better double-cover Kelce or he’s going to score here near the end zone. 

Brad: Exactly. He’s averaged about seven touchdowns a year in his career. It’s a really strong number. But it’s not 10.5. Now, by the way, listen to this: 16, 16, 16, 15, 16, 16, 15 games played. You can’t say, “Oh, Brad. You know what he’s, he’s been going under, but he’s missed time.”

Additionally, that’s a lot of years. People don’t realize Kelce is only five months younger than Rob Gronkowski.

Brad: I did not know that myself. That’s a good one.

Kelce is one touchdown, every 13.7 catches prior to 2020 just to put a finer point on it. And then you say, “Well, okay, but then Patrick Mahomes came on s o what’s his average with Mahomes?” Well, the two years prior to 2020, when he played a touchdown every 13.3 catches, barely any different. Last year, it was one every 9.5 and that’s off a career best 105 catches.The average for the TE position is a TD catch every 11.7 catches, so Kelce is mostly well below average scoring TDs on a per-catch basis. 

Brad: I think this is really just a strong play. These numbers are high because it’s more fun to root for the player than to root against them. I get that. And I take advantage of that.

The next one, we have Debo Samuel, a player who actually led the NFL and average separation last year, under 950.5 yards. 

Brad: There are  certain players I just really like when I watch them play. Samuel is at the top of the list, one of my favorite players to watch. But George Kittle is the top guy there. And Brandon Aiyuk is ahead of him in the pecking order, too. Plus Samuel is probably more prone to injury given how hard he plays. And listen, this is a running kind of team.

They may throw like 22 passes a game if/when Trey Lance starts.

Brad: I’m with you. So I’ll dare him to get 951 yards and beat me. That’s a really, really big number. There’s only so much to go around. Even if Samuel plays 17 games, I fully expect to win this. And I don’t think he’ll play 17. So this is just given to me out of the generosity of the sportsbooks.

We finally have an over! Mark Andrews over 6.5 receiving touchdowns.

Brad: I like this the least. Because it’s over. But I wanted to give one over so I stretched myself. Andrews unlike Kelce IS a red zone guy. He is a decent long shot to lead the league in receiving touchdowns.

He’s averaged a touchdown every 7.2 catches. Remember, we just said the generic eight ends is 11.7. He’s 7.2.

Brad: Yeah, he’s 50-1 to lead the NFL in receiving touchdowns. So instead of going to a movie tonight, put $20 down on that.

Now we have two “versus” props. The first is Denver’s Courtland Sutton +160 to beat Kenny Golladay of the Giants in receiving yards. 

Brad: Where do I start? Golladay the last three years he’s actually averaged around 69 yards a game playing with Matthew Stafford and in a dome. He’s going with a much worse passing quarterback. I don’t expect him to get 69 yards a game. Now, Cortland Sutton’s in his last healthy season averaged 70 yards. I would probably have had Sutton minus-125. So I’m just taking plus-160 when it should be at best a coin flip. If you want to give me plus-160 on flipping heads and tails, let’s do it. And I’ll keep doing it until you cry, “Uncle!”

Even more mysterious to me is Dallas’ CeeDee Lamb being +160 to beat Keenan Allen (Chargers) in receiving yards. 

Brad: To me this is just absolutely a wonderful wonderful bet. Who has a higher over under between these two guys right now? It’s actually Lamb (1,125 yards). Allen is 100 yards less. So why am I getting plus-160 head-to-head? Allen averaged 71 yards a game last year at a meager 9.9 yards per catch. He’s also had injury issues in his career. Lamb as a rookie and mostly with backup QBs averaged  58 yards. But I don’t look at the 58 yards. I look at the five games he played with Dak when he averaged 87 yards per game. I sleep like a baby If I lose this bet. Remember: process over results.