Rookie Quarterbacks and NFL Betting Impact
by Trevor Whenham - 5/1/2012
After the NFL Draft last weekend we now know what we had suspected for a while — there is at least a solid chance that four rookie quarterbacks will start the first game of the season for their new teams this year. That’s noteworthy mostly because it has never happened before.
Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III would have to be hurt not to take the first snap. Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden have more to overcome, but are both well positioned to see the field early and often this year.
Whenever a high-profile rookie starts at quarterback he gets a lot of attention. The early success of guys like Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, and especially Cam Newton have only heightened expectations, and this year’s quarterback class has sent those expectations through the stratosphere.
But how can we reasonably expect each of the players to perform early on, and what impact will they have on how NFL handicappers should look at he new signal callers respective teams? Here are some initial thoughts on each case:
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
I think Luck is at least as good as people expect him to be. And I think he’ll have a terrible season.
The team around him is a total mess, and it was left to rot for years because Peyton Manning was good enough to win with a flawed squad. The structure is in place to fix the problems, but it won’t be easy.
Offensively there is a shortage of talent, and so much of the talent that is there has been in the league about as long as Luck has. Defensively the team is facing a tough transition to a 3-4 front, and they got almost no defensive help in the draft.
There will be growing pains, and a lot of losses this year.
The biggest mistake bettors could make is overreacting to the addition of Luck. It has been an open secret for months that Luck was the next starter in Indianapolis. I don’t remember any first overall pick with less drama surrounding it. Because of that Luck has been factored into all futures odds and early game NFL odds. Any shift in lines that happens now is just public overreaction.
Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
We haven’t known that Griffin would be in Washington for as long as we knew where Luck was going, but it was close.
I have some concerns about how smoothly a fairly conservative head coach can embrace a very progressive player, but Griffin is not a one-trick pony and he’ll be fine.
Griffin should have a better year than Luck — at least in the standings — because the team around him is much better. There is more for him to work with, and a defense he can trust more. Griffin will be the most successful of the young starters this year — not in the long term, but this year.
One controversy that strikes me as totally ridiculous is surrounding the selection of Kirk Cousins. They could arguably have found a better player in that spot, but Cousins is a very nice player, a strong leader, and a cheap option as a solid, reliable third-string QB. The guy is the real deal, and I like the pick as an insurance policy.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Let’s get the most important thing out of the way first and congratulate Tannehill on having the most attractive wife in the NFL. As for his playing career, I would bet that he won’t be the starter at the beginning of the season.
He has only played QB for two years, so his learning curve is going to be steep. He’s also facing a strong competition from Matt Moore — a guy who was 6-3 in his last nine games as starter last year.
I don’t see a strong need for the Dolphins to rush Tannehill. They aren’t going to be a very good team regardless of who is under center so they would be well served to protect their asset. The one big factor, though, is that Tannehill is very popular with the coaching staff and management of this team. He has been targeted as their selection for months, and they were confident enough in him to not seriously pursue Matt Flynn. That confidence could lead him to be started sooner than I would choose.
The Dolphins tried to suggest that there was uncertainty surrounding their pick right up to the end. I don’t think anyone bought it, though. Miami was the obvious destination for Tannehill for a long time. As a result he’s already likely been factored into futures and lines as well.
Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
I wouldn’t have bet that Weeden would have been an opening-day starter before he was picked. As soon as the Browns took him, though, stories surfaced that Colt McCoy was available for trade. That was a strong signal that the Browns were ready for a change. Couple that with the fact that you can’t really afford to be patient with a 28-year-old player and I would expect Weeden to start the year in charge.
The addition of Trent Richardson should take a lot of pressure off Weeden — both on the field and in the media. McCoy lacked nice targets last year, though, and a fourth-round receiver and a seventh round tight end didn’t dramatically improve things for Weeden on that front.
It’s hard to be too optimistic about Weeden and the Browns, but he’ll have the advantage of getting far less attention than the other three new faces.
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