2017 NFL Trade Deadline: Betting Implications

Kelvin Benjamin receiving praise from Cam Newton (By Keith Allison (Flickr) CC License)

Every year at the NFL trade deadline, everyone be all like: “There’s an NFL trade deadline? I didn’t even know midseason trades were allowed …”

But this year everyone be all …

NFL fans would have celebrated if one household name was moved at the deadline. Instead, everyone’s in a frenzy as multiple moves were made featuring some of the league’s hottest commodities. It’s a dynamic that football fans are unfamiliar with. It stood in stark contrast to deadlines past, and I think I speak for everyone when I say, I freaking loved it!

One of the obvious outcomes of the 2017 deadline is that a pointless three-hour special entitled, “2018 NFL Trade Deadline Coverage Extravaganza” is an inevitable part of our future, not all of the moves made today have such clear implications. Once you’ve calmed down with a cold shower, allow us to detail the betting ramifications that can be drawn from each major trade made in the last week.

Marcell Dareus to the Jaguars

The 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars defense has resembled the 2016 Broncos: historically good against the pass (161.7 yards per game), but cannot stop the run (allowing 5.2 YPC). Though their top-ranked pass defense has the Jags sixth in total defense and first in points allowed, Tom Coughlin knows it takes a solid run defense to win in December and January. So he went out and acquired one of the most talented interior defenders in Marcell Dareus, who had become quite disgruntled in Buffalo.

Dareus was handed a four-game suspension by the NFL last season for marijuana-use, and was previously handed a one-game suspension in 2015 for the same thing. The former third-overall pick was also sent home this preseason for violating a team rule. Before all his off-field issues, Dareus was a two-time Pro Bowl tackle, and a First-Team All-Pro in 2014 thanks to his ten sacks that season. At a still-young 27, there is no doubt the talent is still there, and the Jaguars are hoping a fresh start can help extract it.

Marcel Dareus having a laugh with an official (By Keith Allison (Flickr) CC License)

While the sacks are the sexy stat that will be seen by the masses in this trade, Jacksonville is actually more keen on acquiring Dareus’ run-stuffing abilities. In 2014, the monstrous defensive tackle had the highest run-defense grade of any interior defender, according to PFF. Dareus will likely receive the bulk of the snaps opposite Malik Jackson in the middle of the Jaguars’ defense, adding to an already scary defensive front.

Betting Advice: Looking at the AFC South, no team instills a ton of confidence. The Texans’ defense has not looked good without JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus, and Jeremy Lane doesn’t seem like the answer; the Titans’ defense hasn’t improved much from last season, and their ground game is not as dominant either; as for the Colts, it’s becoming more and more likely that Andrew Luck will not play a snap this season. However, I also understand how difficult it is to put your faith in a team with Blake Bortles under center.

Only two teams present any value here: the Texans and Jaguars. The Titans are at +150 on Bet 365, which is too steep, and the Colts (+8000) don’t have a shot without Luck. Jacksonville’s dominant defense and light schedule make them enticing at +162, but the Texans (+220) are getting the best quarterback-play in the league right now and are the best value to win the South.

Duane Brown to the Seahawks

When you think of the most glaring holes on all NFL rosters, a few come to mind: the Giants’ left tackle, the Broncos’ QB, the Browns’ … umm … pick one. The Seahawks’ left tackle spot may have been the most glaring up until Tuesday, when they acquired three-time Pro Bowler Duane Brown from Houston.

The 32-year-old just ended his seven-week holdout with the Texans, returning in Week 8 and suiting up against what would soon become his new team. Brown may no longer be an elite left tackle, but he certainly is a massive upgrade over Rees Odhiambo, who was the lowest-graded left tackle in the NFL among players with at least 180 snaps, according to PFF.

Betting Advice: Without a doubt, adding Duane Brown helps Seattle up front. There’s just one problem: Brown can’t block five guys at once. The rest of Seattle’s offensive line is still horrible, outside of center Justin Britt, who is at least an average player at his position.

With that in mind, the Seahawks at -260 (on Bovada) to win the NFC West is not worth the risk, nor is their +450 line to win the NFC. Their defense isn’t dominant enough anymore and they’re not likely to obtain homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Eventually, their offensive line struggles will be exposed by the dominant fronts of the Eagles and Vikings, the acquisition of Brown notwithstanding.

Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers

The New England Patriots held onto Jimmy Garoppolo — the heir apparent to Tom Brady — just about as long as they could. The 25-year-old was set to become a free agent at the end of the season, putting the Patriots in a bind: move on from Brady or let Garoppolo walk for nothing. With Brady off to another great start in 2017, the defending Super Bowl champs opted to trade Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second-round pick in 2018.

This move suggests Kyle Shanahan is not in love with either Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen. With Garoppolo, Shanahan doesn’t have to go through most of the grooming process involved in preparing a rookie QB, since he’s already been through it with a great organization, while getting to learn from the best. It’s likely the 49ers already had discussions with Garoppolo’s agent prior to the trade, ensuring he would sign a long-term deal at the end of the season.

Betting Advice: It’s unreasonable to expect Garoppolo to start against the Cardinals this weekend, and Shanahan may not even be ready to throw his new franchise QB into the fire come Week 10 against the Giants. Our first glimpse of Jimmy G as a Niner may come after the team’s Week 11 bye, when they host Seattle in Week 12.

In two starts for the Patriots last season, Garoppolo looked very good, recording two wins with a 119.0 passer rating before getting hurt. Though it is difficult to trust a player leaving the Pats’ system — don’t forget the high expectations that the likes of Matt Cassel and Brian Hoyer failed to meet — keep in mind that Garoppolo will be working with one of the best offensive minds in the league in San Francisco. Expect the 49ers to play Seattle tight, potentially presenting value as big Week 12 underdogs.

Jay Ajayi to the Eagles

In one of the more shocking moves of the NFL trade deadline, the Miami Dolphins sent Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles for a fourth-round pick in 2018. We knew second-year head coach Adam Gase was fed up with the offense, which ranks last in both total offense and points, but moving Ajayi was not believed to be anywhere near the top of his to-do list.

Coming off a breakout 2016 season in which he rushed for nearly 1,300 yards and averaged 4.9 yards per carry, Ajayi was struggling to get much going this year, averaging a pitiful 3.4 YPC. The 24-year-old cannot be blamed for the regression, at least not entirely. Not only is Miami’s offensive line struggling in pass protection, it’s allowing the running backs to regularly get hit before reaching the line of scrimmage. However, cutting Ja’Wuan James doesn’t exactly grab the attention of the room the same way trading Ajayi does.

LeGarrette Blount has been efficient carrying the rock for the Eagles this season — averaging 4.7 YPC — but the team sees him more as a goal-line/late-game pounder. The addition of Ajayi gives Philly a complete back who will also be a factor in the passing game.

Betting Advice: If you haven’t already jumped on the Eagles to win the NFC East (-1000 on Bovada) or represent the NFC in Super Bowl LII (+250), it’s too late now. But there is still some value on betting Carson Wentz to win NFL MVP at +225. Tom Brady remains the favorite at +200, but Wentz leads the league in touchdown passes and his Eagles have the best record in the league. That’s a recipe for winning NFL MVP. The addition of Ajayi shouldn’t scare you away. Maintaining a strong running game is paramount to the success of both the Eagles, as a team, and Wentz’s personally. If they become one-dimensional, defenses will be able to key on the passing game and the QB’s numbers will suffer.

Kelvin Benjamin to the Bills

If the Dolphins getting rid of Jay Ajayi was shocking to you, then the Panthers trading away Kelvin Benjamin (for a third and seventh-round pick) receives the “mind-boggling” tag. The 26-year-old hauled in 1,008 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in his rookie season, before missing all of 2015 with a torn ACL. He bounced back nicely in 2016 with 941 yards and seven TDs. Benjamin was off to a bit of a slow start in 2017 — 475 receiving yards, two TDs — but that’s more a product of Carolina’s (ineffective) focus on the ground game (11th in rushing attempts).

The Panthers obviously did not believe Benjamin was vital to their playoff-hopes this season, and did not want to pay the fifth-year, $8.4 million option they decided to pick up.

Kelvin Benjamin running a route against the Packers (By Keith Allison (Flickr) CC License)

After trading Sammy Watkins to the Rams in the offseason, the Bills needed a WR to step up and make some plays. Instead, running back LeSean McCoy leads the team in catches (38), tight end Charles Clay leads the team in receiving yards (258) despite missing the last two games, and no wide receiver on the roster has more than 15 receptions. In spite of ranking 15th in points scored, the Bills have been extremely one dimensional offensively. They have attempted the second-fewest passes in the NFL and have the fourth-fewest passing yards. The addition of Kelvin Benjamin provides QB Tyrod Taylor with a big-bodied, play-making receiver he can rely upon, which will take some of the pressure of McCoy and the ground game.

Betting Advice: Do not go overboard here: the Bills, who are +650 on Bet 365, are not about to dethrone the Patriots. And I’m also not prepared to bet Buffalo to end the longest active playoff drought in professional sports (18 years). Though they are sitting pretty right now at 5-2, they still play the Saints at home, the Chiefs and Chargers on the road, and have two games against the Patriots.