‘Dancing With The Stars’ Season 28: Handicapping the Field

by James Murphy in Entertainment  / August 25, 2019

  • This is the 28th season for ABC’s reality show.
  • Radio personality Bobby Bones was the Season 27 winner.
  • Season 28 of ‘DWTS’ will premiere on September 16, 2019

It’s tough handicapping the DWTS field before the season begins. Contestants that you think will struggle turn out to perform well such as Season 24’s runner up, David Ross. Contestants that should be in contention until the end flame out early as Olympic gymnast Simone Biles did in Season 24. The show’s judges have a tendency to reward improvement from week to week rather than determine their scores with some objective criteria of dancing ability. In other words, the best dancer going in to the show doesn’t often win. On the other hand, it does happen–in Season 25, Jordan Fisher was the best dancer going into the show and went on to beat out Lindsey Stirling and Frankie Muniz who were easily the ‘most improved’ over the course of the season. If you’re interested in my opening odds for DWTS Season 28 you’ll find them at this link:

‘DANCING WITH THE STARS’ SEASON 28 ODDS

So here’s the Season 28 field in alphabetical order along with my opening odds and analysis:

HANDICAPPING THE FIELD–‘DANCING WITH THE STARS’ SEASON 28

LAUREN ALAINA (+700) : The pop culture world circa 2019 is completely different than it used to be. More specifically, just because you’ve ‘never heard of someone’ doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t have a massive fanbase. A lot of people had ‘never heard of’ Lindsey Stirling before Season 25 but she turned out to have 12 million YouTube followers that were passionate and highly engaged. Alaina might not be a household name at this juncture but she’s an up and coming country star who was the 10th season runner up on American Idol. One of her songs has over 100 million plays on Spotify and she’s already had a few #1 songs. Then again, general popularity seldom trumps a lower level of fame with a highly passionate fanbase (qv: Lindsey Stirling). Christie Brinkley and Mary Wilson might have the highest level of actual fame of anyone in this field but they don’t have a passionate, narrowly focused fanbase that will vote for them and promote them on social media. Not sure that Alaina does either but of anyone in the current group she’s the closest thing to it.

The corollary to the ‘focused fame’ theory is that it just might not matter. I’ve never been 100% convinced that the ‘voting system’ on this and any number of other reality shows isn’t a complete ‘work’ anyway. While we’re at it, I’m not convinced that the whole thing isn’t a complete ‘work’ and there’s been plenty of news stories that have come out over the past decade lend support to this concept. Alaina has a lot of upside–she’s a performer and they along with professional athletes historically have done the best. She’s 24 years old and that puts her in the perfect age range. She has the advantage of having ‘previous reality TV experience on American Idol. She’s not my top choice (or even in my top tier) but she’s solidly in the top half of the field.

CHRISTIE BRINKLEY (+2500) : I won’t waste any time explaining who Christie Brinkley is. She might be the most ‘conventionally famous’ celebrity in the field and there have been plenty of effusive media reports that she’s the one to beat in Season 28. I disagree. First of all, she’s 65 years old. She sure has hell doesn’t look it–she looks amazing–but at 65 she’s 15 years older than the previous oldest female winner (Jennifer Gray was 50 when she won in Season 11). She’ll look great on camera but I’m not sure if she’s up to the grueling regimen of training–not because of her age, but because nothing in her career has really prepared for it. That’s one of my theories on why NFL players have historically done so well on DWTS (more about that when we get to Ray Lewis)–they’re used to intense training in a short timeframe during training camp.

ALLY BROOKE (+300) : Is my opening favorite to win Season 28. Brooke was a member of the popular (now defunct) girl group Fifth Harmony and although she isn’t a trained dancer she is an experienced performer and that translates well to the DWTS format. In fact, she’s now the second member of her former group to participate on DWTS–Normani Kordei was a finalist in Season 24. Simply put, she fits the profile of quite a few previous winners. She’s finishing her debut solo album and there would be a lot of upside for her personally to win or finish high.

HANNAH BROWN (+1500) : Hannah Brown was the protagonist on Season 15 of the Bachelorette and you can read much more about her in my preview of that show:

‘THE BACHELORETTE’ SEASON 15 PREVIEW

Not sure why DTWS had interest in Brown who holds the dubious distinction of being arguably the most annoying reality TV contestant in history. Saying ‘y’all’ and ‘ROLL TIDE’ constantly does not make up for a complete lack of personality. The only reason that Brown isn’t ranked lower on my odds list is that she’s not outside of the age range like Brinkley, Flannery and Wilson, she’s not a former Trump administration member and she’s not Lamar Odom. She’ll be a quick elimination and might be the first one out.

KARAMO BROWN (+450): Karamo Brown is my co-second favorite and he checks a lot of boxes. He’s likable as hell and comes off as a generally good dude. He came off like a reasonable and intelligent adult after the perpetually offended zeitgeist tried to create a phony ‘controversy’ about former Trump press secretary Sean Spicer’s presence in the field. He also seems genuinely excited about the opportunity to compete on the show and that counts for a lot. I’ll be very surprised if he’s not a finalist. He’s as engaging and charismatic as the aforementioned Hannah Brown is annoying.

KATE FLANNERY (+2500): Flannery is a very experienced actress and performer. She’s perfectly likable and I expect her to give a good account but it’s hard to see her winning. She’s 55 years old which makes her 5 years older than the previous oldest female winner. She won’t be the first one out but I don’t see her going too deep into the season.

RAY LEWIS (+450): The only reason that I didn’t make Ray Lewis the favorite is I’m not 100% sure about his commitment to the DWTS process. He’s done commentary work for ESPN and Fox Sports 1 though I’m not sure what he has coming up for this season. If he does have a gig with the NFL season set to begin he could be distracted. If he’s focused and wants to win he’ll be handful. Throughout the run of DWTS NFL players have dominated. Jerry Rice was the runner up in Season 2, Emmitt Smith won Season 3 and overall NFL players have four wins, 7 top two finishes and 10 top three finishes. There’s any number of reasons that NFL players have done so well–they’ve got athleticism, they’re ‘coachable’ and they’re used to intense periods of preparation (eg: training camp). Lewis was, of course, as good as any NFL linebacker to ever play the game and at age 44 looks like he could still play on Sundays. If Lewis is ‘all in’, he could very well win this thing.

KEL MITCHELL (+700): Kel Mitchell could be this year’s ‘ringer’ a la Jordan Fisher in Season 25. He’s done all sorts of things in entertainment–acting, comedy, music, singing, rapping and even some dancing. Every time I read up on him I second guess not making him one of the co-second favorites but I don’t think he’s got as many ‘plusses’ as some of the other contestants. He sure doesn’t have a lot of ‘minuses’ though and at age 41 could quickly shoot to the top of the contestant roster.

LAMAR ODOM (+2500): There’s not a more intriguing contestant in the field than Lamar Odom. So where do you start with Lamar? Excellent pro hoops player with a pair of NBA Championship rings with the Lakers. Had drug and alcohol problems throughout his career along with a tendency to not take his training seriously. Despite a solid NBA career is likely better known among the general public for his marriage to Khloe Kardashian. Found unconscious in a Nevada brothel in 2015 and for awhile it looked as if that would be the end of the road for Lamar. At one point became comatose and was placed on life support. He regained consciousness and has reportedly overcome his cocaine addiction. Given his longtime aversion to training hard to see him doing well. Tried a comeback in China in 2018 but wasn’t in good enough shape. Struggled during a one game run in the Big3 3 on 3 hoops league before being deactivated for the rest of the season. Somewhere in Lamar’s body there’s a world class athlete, however, so if he decided to focus on his DWTS run and worked hard on training and preparation he could be a factor. Has a lot of charm and I’ve always found him to be a surprisingly intelligent guy. He’s just 39 but he’s packed a lot of hard living into those years. Biggest concern is conditioning–if you’re not in good enough shape to play in the Big3 doubtful you’re in good enough shape to learn how to dance. Based on that, can’t see him hanging around for too long. Will probably last a few weeks. Should he decide to take it seriously and get in shape has massive upside potential.

SEAN SPICER (+5000): Doubtful that former Trump Press Secretary Spicer will do well in the competition but the phony ‘controversy’ over his participation is pathetic. A number of partisan media shills have seethed that Spicer ‘made repeated false claims to the American public.’ You know who else has made ‘repeated false claims to the American public’? Everyone who has ever served as a White House press secretary. Will probably last a few weeks.

JAMES VAN DER BEEK (+450): Experienced actor best known for his work on the WB series Dawson’s Creek. Has done a smattering of Broadway along with some singing. He’s 42 years old and a generally likable guy. Could be this season’s Frankie Muniz.

MARY WILSON (+5000): Christie Brinkley might have the most mainstream conventional fame of anyone in the field but Mary Wilson falls into the ‘legit legend’ category. Founding member of a little musical act called ‘The Supremes’ that had 12 #1 singles back when that meant something, once rivaled The Beatles in worldwide popularity and was one of the pioneering African-American R&B acts to find crossover success. They basically trod the path for several generations to come. Two of their songs–Stop! In the Name of Love and You Can’t Hurry Love— are among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. In the process, they sold over 25 million records worldwide. Unfortunately, DWTS hasn’t been kind to legit legends. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, for example, is as legendary as they come and only lasted two weeks on DWTS Season 26. Wilson is 75 which puts her at 25 years older than the oldest female winner in the show’s history. Realistically, doesn’t have a chance to win but her legendary status means she won’t be the first one out. Still has the pipes–if a singing competition were to break out on the DWTS set the rest of field wouldn’t stand a chance.

James Murphy

James Murphy is a preeminent authority on the international gambling industry and has made frequent appearances in the mainstream media including the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Forbes, Entertainment Weekly, CNBC and NPR. He has previously worked as a radio and podcasting host where he broadcast to an international audience that depended on his expertise and advice. Murphy also serves as an odds making consultant for sports and ‘non-sport novelty bets’ covering the entertainment industry, politics, technology, financial markets and just about everything else.

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