When I present my NFL pre-draft analysis, I always go out of my way to let everyone know that it is hardly an authoritative exposition on the subject. In last night’s first round, teams traded a lot of their future for QBs that I did not even mention and the first offensive lineman taken – Garrett Bolles (Utah) – was someone I had to have seen because I thought one of his teammates on the OL was worth mentioning as a 3rd or 4th round pick. Shows what I know …
At the same time, the Bears and the Chiefs had better be right on the QBs they traded up to get. Both teams paid a steep price; the Bears gave up a third round pick and next year’s first round pick to the Niners just to move up one slot in this year’s draft to take Mitch Trubisky. My guess is that both teams will be drafting pretty high next year meaning that the Niners will have two early picks in the first round next year. Trubisky had better be good…
The Chiefs paid a similar price to jump up a bunch of spots to grab Patrick Mahomes II. The Chiefs have a solid roster so most of the analysts think this is a developmental situation for Mahomes and the Chiefs. However, the Chiefs will not be part of the first round of the draft next year as a result of this trade. Mahomes had better develop…
As has been the case for the last 30+ years, ESPN covered the draft last night. ESPN has been in the news for its internal convulsions over the past week or two; the “Four-Letter Network” has gone through a pogrom and many of its visible on-air talents/reporters were let go earlier this week. The total reduction in force for the network was 100 people and it comes at a time when ESPN is seeing a reduction in revenues generated by subscription fees paid by cable operators and an increase in costs generated by rising TV rights fees charged by leagues.
This is not a new situation for ESPN. Just a couple of years ago, they parted company with more than 100 employees – including 3 “big-ticket items” in Colin Cowherd, Keith Olbermann and Bill Simmons. Chris Berman’s swan song was the end of the NFL season and Tom Jackson retired just before the NFL season started last year.
ESPN seems to be in an analogous situation to the newspapers in the country. There is news/entertainment out there to be delivered but the mode of delivery seems to be changing underneath both ESPN and newspapers. This shift is going to have an effect on media companies, journalists, fans AND on the players/owners. ESPN and the other “broadcast partners” of the NFL are the ones that pay the freight allowing the NFL salary cap to reside in the neighborhood of $160M per team.
For more detail on who will no longer be with ESPN, you can check out this report in the South Florida Business Journal.
While ESPN and other news/sports outlets are managing a “revenue-squeeze” there is a sector of the sports economy that is growing nicely. The various league commissioners and the ostrich-like NCAA do not want to hear it, but sports wagering is booming. Just to give you an idea of the changes ongoing there, various sportsbooks posted proposition bets on the outcome of the NFL Draft last night. Here is an example:
- Number of QBs taken in the first round. Over/Under 3.5
- If you had the UNDER, you won…
The handle for that sort of wagering was not huge but it does represent new areas of proposition betting related to the sports world and people are participating. Growth in this industry sector is not driven by new sorts of prop bets; there is what the Wall St. analysts call “secular growth”. People are simply betting more. And there is data from this year’s March Madness to support that statement.
Based on data from the Nevada Gaming Control Board, March Madness had a record handle in 2017. People – punters as they are called in the UK – pushed $429.5M through the betting windows on games and propositions in the state of Nevada for the 67-games in the tournament. Not too surprisingly, with the handle at a record high, the profits for the sportsbooks were also at a record high – $41.28M.
This is not a trivial amount of growth. Consider this data for the March Madness total handle:
- March 2015: $264.2M
- March 2016: $295.4M
- March 2017: $300.6M
These data represent a 14% growth rate over the past two years. The folks who seeking to “grow the brand” for the various sports leagues and the folks at NCAA Hqs who need the influx of revenue from the TV rights to March Madness to pay the bills need to look at the this sort of data and realize that this is what will keep fans interested enough to pay attention to whatever media coverage is provided so that revenues to the sports entities is maintained.
One other comparison is interesting here. If you look at the total handle for basketball (college and professional) in the Nevada sportsbooks this year, here are the numbers:
- Feb 2017: $212.8M
- Mar 2017: $439.5M
In March, college basketball stages all of its conference tournaments and then March Madness. It does not take a Newtonian intellect to conclude that betting on tournament games for college basketball is a very popular pastime in the US.
For more details, check out this report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:
“The first ESPN Football Power Index for 2017 gives the Nebraska football team 0.0 chance of winning the Big Ten. You think that’s bad? The odds of Rutgers winning the Big Ten are less than Pauly Shore becoming the first man to walk on Mars.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………