Early Leans on NFL Draft Props: Lamar Jackson’s Stock Has Nowhere to Go But Up
Photo Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Combine season is officially over, which means our next marquee NFL event is the draft. We still have a while until April 26, but books have been kind enough to release some prop bets to help us degenerates bide our time. Let’s take a look at its offseason props and determine if there’s any value to be had.
Baker Mayfield Draft Position: Over (-165) vs. Under (+125) pick 5.5
Mayfield didn’t exactly ace his combine tests, but he also didn’t appear to hurt his stock during interviews or throwing. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo has reported there’s a “very strong buzz Cleveland likes Mayfield a lot,” so he could be in play for the No. 4 pick — and maybe the No. 1 pick. Even if the Browns go in a different direction, the top five still consists of quarterback-needy teams in the Giants and Broncos. Any team inside the top five that doesn’t want a quarterback could of course choose to trade back, as the 49ers, Titans and Browns have done in the past two drafts.
There doesn’t appear to be a consensus No. 1 quarterback at this time, but recent history suggests that Mayfield is positioned well. The last seven Heisman-winning quarterbacks have all been drafted in the first round, with Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota going inside the top two.
My lean: It only takes one team to fall in love with Mayfield, and recent drafts have taught us that teams aren’t afraid to pay up and take the signal-caller of their choice. I like the under (+125). Mayfield is a consensus top-three quarterback, and three teams picking in the top five need quarterbacks. Mayfield is second in our post-combine quarterback rankings.
For more, see Mayfield’s player profile.
Lamar Jackson Draft Position: Over (+135) vs. Under (-175) pick 32.5
There was criticism surrounding Jackson’s performance throwing the ball at the combine, and he chose not to participate in athleticism testing. With hardly anything to discuss in regard to one of the draft’s most “polarizing” prospects, the discussion again turned to the ridiculous notion that Jackson should consider a switch to wide receiver. It’s unclear whether Jackson is in the same tier as Mayfield and the other top quarterbacks in the class, but Adam Schefter reported that the youngest player ever to win the Heisman is rated as the No. 2 quarterback by at least one team.
Deshaun Watson faced arm strength questions after last year’s combine, and Sam Darnold has received criticism for choosing not to throw at this year’s event. The offseason is always a roller coaster for draft prospects. Luckily for Jackson’s stock, he still possesses one of the highest ceilings in the class, and he hasn’t even shown off his athleticism yet.
My lean: We already knew throwing wasn’t Jackson’s strength, and his stock hasn’t had the chance to rise with a potentially mind-blowing pro day performance. Jackson is a special athlete regardless of how polished you feel he is as a passer, and special athletes typically are selected in the first round of the NFL draft. I like the under (-175). Jackson went off the board at No. 31 in our pre-combine mock draft.
For more, see Jackson’s player profile.
Shaquem Griffin Draft Position: Over (+110) vs. Under (-150) pick 110.5
Griffin’s incredible combine featured the fastest 40-yard dash by a linebacker since 2003, along with 20 reps on bench press. You may have heard that he has only one hand, but that didn’t stop Griffin from earning AAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2016. His brother Shaquill Griffin was a third-round pick for the Seahawks last year.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein projects Griffin to go in Round 5 or 6, which is consistent with reports from MMQB reporters. His lack of a hand is a very real concern if teams decide that he can’t play three downs. Griffin’s athleticism and motor will undoubtedly be put to great use in specific defensive packages and on special teams, but it’s unclear how high teams will be willing to draft someone if they don’t feel he can play more than 50% of the snaps per game.
My lean: Griffin’s stock has reached an all-time high after his performance in Indianapolis, and he’s still widely considered to be a fringe fourth-round pick. I like the over (+110). No. 110 is the 14th pick in the fourth round, and there’s potential for Griffin’s hype to die off in the next seven weeks.
Who Will Be Drafted First? Sam Darnold (+140) vs. Josh Allen (+225) vs. Baker Mayfield (+300) vs. Josh Rosen (+333)
Allen did the most to boost his stock last weekend thanks to a great performance throwing the ball and in other tests. While Mayfield’s aforementioned outing wasn’t the event’s greatest performance, Darnold and Rosen didn’t seemingly do much to boost their stock either. Darnold was the only quarterback not to throw, although he’ll get a chance to do so at USC’s pro day. In a quarterback class loaded with underclassmen who have declared early, Darnold is the best. While Darnold and Allen are clearly the front-runners, they’re moving in opposite directions after the combine. In January, Rosen was the favorite to be the first quarterback drafted at -120.
My lean: Darnold seems like the guy the Browns would be best off taking at No. 1, but is that also why John Dorsey might draft Allen instead? Allen’s status as the group’s best athlete with the biggest arm helps his chances for a continued rise during a period in which no actual football is being played. Given that he seemingly has the highest ceiling, I like Allen +225.
Who Will Be Drafted First Overall? Saquon Barkley (+170) vs. Sam Darnold (+240) vs. Josh Allen (+400) vs. Baker Mayfield (+550) vs. Josh Rosen (+700) vs. Field (+1500)
Still, the order of favorites remains the same, as Barkley’s combine performance has him reportedly in position to be the first running back selected No. 1 since Penn State’s Ki-Jana Carter in 1995. His all-around dominance and ability to play three downs at a high level make Barkley worthy of carrying the draft’s championship belt, but it’s up to Dorsey and the Browns to make that a reality. He’s first in our post-combine running back rankings.
My lean: It seems far-fetched for a team to draft a running back first in the draft when the man running the organization has stated that the team’s top priority this offseason is finding a quarterback. Even if reports of A.J. McCarron potentially coming to Cleveland are true, that wouldn’t preclude the Browns from drafting their quarterback of the future. Since I like Allen +225 in the quarterback-only prop, I like getting even more value with Allen +400 for No. 1 overall.
For more, see Barkley’s player profile.
Which Team Will Kirk Cousins Be on for Week 1 2018 NFL Season: Vikings (-250) vs. Broncos (+400) vs. Jets (+333) vs. Cardinals (+1500)
Multiple reports have indicated that there’s plenty of mutual interest between Cousins and the Vikings. It certainly seems like the best on-field fit for all parties involved. Meanwhile, the Jets are reportedly prepared to back up the truck, and John Elway is likely to give Cousins the 2012 Peyton Manning treatment as he attempts to transform himself into the NFL’s version of Pat Riley. The Vikings and Jets are each among the league’s top-10 teams in available cap space, while the Broncos and Cardinals rank 19th and 21st, respectively.
My lean: Cap space is an issue, but it can be created if Cousins wants to make Denver or Arizona his new home. Still, the chance to play inside a dome for at least nine games per season with two of the league’s better receivers seems like too much to pass up. Vikings -250.
Photo Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports