Freedman: Bet on Daniel Jones Not to Start as a Rookie

Freedman: Bet on Daniel Jones Not to Start as a Rookie article feature image
Credit:

Credit: Sarah Stier-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Daniel Jones

  • The New York Giants selected quarterback Daniel Jones No. 6 overall in the 2019 NFL draft.
  • Matthew Freedman breaks down Jones' prop for games started as a rookie, which has an over/under of 3.5.

In the 2019 NFL draft, the New York Giants selected Duke quarterback Daniel Jones with the No. 6 overall pick.

As a prospect, he was most comparable to Bills quarterback Josh Allen — except with less speed, size, arm strength, rushing ability and passing aggressiveness.

Let’s aside the fact that the Giants almost certainly reached in selecting Jones with a top-10 pick. They seem to like him a lot.

Check. Out. Those. Dimes.

Normally when a team invests a first-round pick in a quarterback, it wants him to start as a rookie — but the Giants also have two-time Super Bowl-winning and likely Hall-of-Fame quarterback Eli Manning on the roster.

And the head coach and general manager before Pat Shurmur and Dave Gettleman basically got fired because they embarrassingly botched an attempt to move Manning to the bench at the end of the 2017 season.

How many games are we likely to see Jones start in 2019?

How Many 2019 Regular Season Games Will Daniel Jones Start?

  • Over 3.5: -110
  • Under 3.5: -110

This prop is available at PointsBet, and I love the under.

But I’ll admit that it’s easy to see how Jones could start more than 3.5 games. Over the past 20 years, the average first-round quarterback has started 8.6 games as a rookie.

The Giants could be bad in 2019: They went 5-11 last year and 3-13 the year before that. If they have another losing season, they might give Jones a handful of starts at the end of the campaign, just so they can evaluate him and get him some NFL experience.

Daniel Jones Wants to Learn From Eli Manning

But it’s far likelier that Jones will start fewer than 3.5 games, because he’s not a typical first-round quarterback: He has an established starter ahead of him.

Anecdotally, it seems that Jones is comfortable with the idea of sitting on the bench as a rookie and learning from Eli.

Jones attended the Manning passing camps and had the same college head coach as Eli. He knows Manning. In part, the Giants drafted Jones because he’s a non-threatening successor.

Jones looks like the type of heir who will wait for the king to die before taking his throne. I don’t see Jones pushing for starts, even in a losing season.

The Giants Want Daniel Jones on the Bench

And the Giants have been going out of their way for months to create the expectation that Manning will start for the vast majority of 2019.

At the combine in February, Gettleman noted the success the Kansas City Chiefs have had with quarterback Patrick Mahomes, whom they sat as a rookie in 2017.

Shortly after trading away star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., owner John Mara said that he thinks Manning can still be successful if they “surround him with the right people.”

At the owners meeting in March, Gettleman said that Eli “had a heck of a year” and “can still make all the NFL throws.” And Mara left open the possibility that Manning could be on the team in 2020.

A couple of weeks before the draft, Gettleman said that the Giants “went into last year thinking that Eli had plenty left, and he proved it.”

And shortly after selecting Eli’s successor, Gettleman said that maybe the team would sit Jones for three years, just as the Green Bay Packers sat quarterback Aaron Rodgers after drafting him in 2004.

Plans can always change, but right now it’s clear the Giants intend to sit Jones for his rookie season.

Rookie Quarterbacks Tend to Sit Behind Established Starters

Even though first-round quarterbacks have historically seen significant action as rookies, the sample is heavily skewed.

Over the past two decades, rookie quarterbacks to start in Week 1 have had a median of 16 starts. But unless Eli suffers an injury in the preseason, Jones won’t start in Week 1, and the quarterbacks who haven’t opened their careers atop the depth chart have had a median of just six starts as rookies.

There’s a clear distinction between guys who start right away and those who don’t.

And this split is even more pronounced when we look at rookies drafted by teams that already have starting quarterbacks with multiple years of organizational tenure.

While Mahomes and Rodgers are the most notable examples of first-round quarterbacks to sit behind established veterans, there have been 10 rookies to do so in recent memory.

And these guys have historically been glued to the bench.

  • Mean games started as rookies: 2.8
  • Median games started as rookies: 0.5

Joe Flacco had 154 starts in 10 years with the Baltimore Ravens when they drafted Lamar Jackson at the end of Round 1 in 2018. If not for a midseason injury, Jackson might never have started last year.

The only reason Mahomes got a start in 2017 was because starter Alex Smith rested in Week 17.

Despite giving the Denver Broncos mediocre quarterback play (5.1 adjusted yards per attempt), Jake Plummer kept Jay Cutler on the bench for all but the final five games of 2006.

Brett Favre made Rodgers an afterthought in 2005. (And 2006. And 2007.)

After two years of starting for the San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills, Drew Brees and Drew Bledsoe held rookies Philip Rivers and J.P. Losman to zero starts in 2004.

After the Cincinnati Bengals drafted Carson Palmer No. 1 overall, they sat him behind Jon Kitna for all of 2003.

That same year, Byron Leftwich opened the season behind longtime Jacksonville Jaguars starter Mark Brunell. When the veteran struggled early in the season, Leftwich was given the No. 1 job and made 13 starts. Leftwich is the only rookie quarterback in this subset to start at least half a season.

In 2001, No. 1 overall pick Michael Vick opened the year behind Chris Chandler, who had been selected to the Pro Bowl for the Atlanta Falcons in back-to-back seasons just a few years prior in 1997-98. Vick started just two games as a rookie.

And in 2000, the New York Jets selected Chad Pennington in the first round. He sat behind the venerable Vinny Testaverde for the first two years of his career.

Of these 10 first-round quarterbacks, only three started more than 3.5 games as rookies.

At -110, Jones has a 52.4% implied probability of hitting the under, but I think his true odds are closer to 65%.

I’d bet the under all the way to -150.

The Pick: Under 3.5 (-110)


For daily player props, follow me in The Action Network app.

Matthew Freedman is the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs. He has a dog and sometimes a British accent. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he’s known only as The Labyrinthian.