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Are NFL First-Round Rookie QBs Undervalued by the Betting Market?


Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Baker Mayfield

  • Rookie first-round QBs have gone 11-4 ATS in their first three starts over the past two seasons.
  • History says that will regress. Since the 2003 draft class, first-round rookie QBs have gone 52-45-2 ATS in their first three games, good for a 53.6% win rate.
  • Despite the lack of NFL data on rookie QBs, the betting market has seemingly properly priced them into the spread.

Last year’s first-round crop of quarterbacks dominated early against the spread: Mitchell Trubisky and Deshaun Watson each went 3-0 ATS in their first three games. Patrick Mahomes started just one game last year, but he covered the spread in that one.

The year before, Carson Wentz also went a perfect 3-0 ATS, and Denver QB Paxton Lynch split his two starts. Jared Goff went 0-3 ATS, but it’s tempting to blame nearly all of his flaws that year on Jeff Fisher. (The Rams won their first game of 2017 by 37 points, and overall went 9-7 ATS.) Even with Goff’s poor start, rookie first-round QBs have gone 11-4 ATS in their first three starts over the past two seasons.

That got me thinking: Are first-round rookie QBs undervalued by the betting market early on in their first season? They are difficult to predict considering the lack of NFL data on them and the importance of the QB position. If there’s a blind spot, this might be it. Thankfully, this question can be easily answered with our Bet Labs database.

I went back to the 2003 draft and tracked how all first-round QBs have done in the first three starts of their first season. I didn’t include guys such as Aaron Rodgers, who famously didn’t play as a rookie. Overall, those rookies have gone 52-45-2 ATS, good for a 53.6% win rate. Here’s the table of those QBs:

Overall, it seems the betting market is decent at predicting the value of first-round rookie QBs. They’ve had perhaps unsustainable success recently, but it’s unlikely there’s a huge edge in this year’s rookie crop, which includes a whopping five first-round QBs in Baker Mayfield (Cleveland), Sam Darnold (New York Jets), Josh Allen (Buffalo), Josh Rosen (Arizona) and Lamar Jackson (Baltimore). Many of them could start early in the season, and while they could certainly cover their spreads for a variety of reasons, don’t bet on that happening simply because the betting market hasn’t properly priced them in.

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