2018 NFL Draft Odds: Will QBs go Early and Often?

  • More than 300 prospects have converged upon Indianapolis for the annual NFL Scouting Combine.
  • Either Josh Rosen or Josh Allen will likely be taken first over all.
  • Three of the top four picks will likely be quarterbacks.

The NFL Combine is underway this week in Indianapolis and everyone (or nearly everyone) in the football world will descend on Lucas Oil to criticize a bunch of young men’s ability to run around cones. Somehow, this a crucial part of the draft process, as a good 40-time can rocket a player up draft boards, while an inability to do bench reps can cost a lot of potential earnings.

To the Mike Mayock’s of the world, this is the biggest event left on the calendar before the big day (April 26). But for those wanting to bet on the draft this year, things like the beginning of free agency in a few weeks will do much more to move the needle. Before either of those things are completed though, we figured we’d set some early odds on how we see this year’s first round shaking out. (Spoiler alert; quarterbacks are a big storyline.)

Odds to be selected first overall

  • Josh Rosen, QB: 9/5
  • Josh Allen, QB: 5/2
  • Sam Darnold, QB: 3/1
  • Saquon Barkley, RB: 7/1
  • Baker Mayfield, QB: 10/1
  • Bradley Chubb, DE: 20/1
  • FIELD: 25/1

Typically, there’s only one or two players with a realistic shot of going first overall in a given year. But when the Cleveland Browns hold the number one pick, anything is possible. Even worse, they actually have two first round picks within just a few spots, with the second at fourth overall. That only increases the potential that they make an insane move rather than the obvious one. When Cleveland held two first round picks in the past, they acquired such franchise altering combos as Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden or the even shorter lived Johnny Manziel and Justin Gilbert.

If we ignore all evidence to the contrary and assume the Browns will draft like a normal team, then this pick will come down to one of three QBs. And despite current bookmakers favoring Darnold, it feels like it will be one of the Josh’s. With Darnold opting to not throw at the combine, and as the youngest QB of the bunch, he’s the prime candidate to be picked apart in the insanely long lead up to the draft.

Rosen fills the roll of favorite, because he’s been hit with the most stereotypical analysis of a number one pick. From his mechanics, to running a pro style offense at UCLA, to just the way he looks, he’s been slotted for this pick since high school. Reaching past him for Allen, the big arm out of Wyoming, is so a move that would bite the Browns in the ass. There’s also a chance they go after Mayfield, but the last time Cleveland went after a a QB with “character issues,” well, he became the butt of a joke I made just two paragraphs ago.

Of course, if the Browns love all three QB prospects equally, they could wait until four and be guaranteed to land at least one. The top ranked prospects elsewhere don’t really line up with Cleveland’s biggest needs, but when you just finished the last two seasons a combined 1-31, where couldn’t you use help?

Over/Under QBs taken in the top 5: 2.5

The Browns (probably) won’t take two quarterbacks, so OVER takers are expecting three of four picks to be signal callers. We’ll have a better idea of how this prop will play once March 14th gets here. Kirk Cousins has been thinking about free agency for years, so he should sign somewhere rather quickly. If that new home is Denver, it removes their need for a QB and the UNDER becomes the probable candidate, with only a trade up from another needy team an aid to the OVER. Considering the Jets are lurking at sixth, perhaps a team like Buffalo or Arizona trades a massive haul to jump in the top five, but until we see how those teams approach free agency, we won’t know if that’s a realistic play.

Over/Under QBs taken in top 10: 3.5

Again, there’s a ton of variables here. One is, will Baker Mayfield do anything really stupid between now and then to hurt his draft stock? (If I was setting odds for that, they’d be an embarrassingly high 2/1.) Another team might also need to trade into the top 10, since  the teams slotted 7 through 10 have no current need for a QB.

Over/Under QBs taken in first round: 5

Baker Mayfield, probably apologizing for something. (Photo credit: Bobak Ha’Eri (Wikipedia) CC License)

There’s six QBs pegged as potential first round talents, but after a certain point, isn’t it kind of a waste to use a first rounder on a guy who is sixth at his position? Nobody falls in love with the sixth QB off the board. Still, the way the draft shakes out could dictate grabbing a guy like Mason Rudolph or Lamar Jackson late in the opening round. Before free agency, I counted six teams that need a starter (Browns, Cardinals, Bills, Jets, Vikings, Broncos) and a few more that could use a backup/QB of the future (Giants, Steelers, Dolphins, Patriots, and Saints). Depending on how many of those roles are filled out in March, maybe this draft will join the 1983 Draft as the only one to have six quarterbacks go in the first round?

Over/Under where first WR is selected: 15.5

Folks are not high on this year’s crop of wide receivers, which really hurts pass catcher-needy teams because free agency is pretty bare too. Even with a lack of available talent potentially driving up the market for a Calvin Ridley or Cortland Sutton, midway through the first is still a good place to draw the betting line.

Over/Under where first OL is selected: 6.5

The Buccaneers won’t allow a top talent like Quenton Nelson to slip by them at seven, so this becomes a question of whether a team in front of them acquires a QB worth protecting. Will a broken Andrew Luck demand more blocking help from the Colts as a condition of his return? Will the Browns get tackle help to protect a rookie QB? Do the Jets or Broncos have a very rich passer that needs a cheap offensive lineman?

Odds to be first defensive player taken

  • Bradley Chubb, DE: 4/5
  • Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB: 6/5
  • Tremaine Edwards, LB: 25/1
  • Joshua Jackson, CB: 33/1
  • Roquan Smith, LB: 50/1
  • FIELD: 50/1

This is really a two-horse race; I just included the other three to be nice. Not only are Chubb and Fitzpatrick the top two prospects by a wide margin, but they play the most important roles in this pass happy era of the NFL. In the last five drafts the first defensive player off the board has been a dominant pass rusher. However, Fitzpatrick’s ability to shutdown opponents lining up anywhere in the secondary, as well as his playmaking ability, may be enough to leapfrog Chubb this year.

Boris

Hockey may be a wildly unpopular sport in the U.S., but where no one is paying attention, there's a ton of value for Boris to mine. An avid NHL fan of over 20 years, Malloy made his first bet against a friend during the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals (going against Ray Bourque) and has been hooked ever since. He has yet to pay off that debt of $2, but he's made plenty back since. In between worrying about the league's next lockout, he regularly contributes to MTS and is also fluent in football, basketball, baseball and French (sort of).