Upside Justifies Investment in Quarterback Draft Prop

Rainman M.

Thursday, March 22, 2018 3:59 PM UTC

Thursday, Mar. 22, 2018 3:59 PM UTC

The NFL draft begins April 26, and this year’s edition could see more quarterbacks taken early than last year’s. The Browns have the No. 1 pick and likely will determine which one is selected first. Wyoming's Josh Allen looks promising.

NFL: 'First QB Drafted' PropFree NFL Pick: Josh Allen +280Best Line Offered: Bovada Prop Odds

Sam Darnold, Southern Cal: Even

Josh Allen, Wyoming: +280

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma: +350

Josh Rosen, UCLA: +350

Process of Elimination

If deciding which quarterback will get drafted first was simply a matter of picking the one with the best career statistics, we would all be billionaires. But NFL teams aren't interested in rewarding a player because he played well in some college games; they want a quarterback who will succeed at the next level.

So I am eliminating Mayfield as a possibility because scouts tend to obsess over the "looks" of a quarterback, and the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner is too short to have the classic look of an NFL-ready quarterback. His reputation -- created by his history of embarrassing on- and off-the-field incidents -- can only hurt his draft stock.

So that leaves three candidates: Allen, Darnold and Rosen. I like Darnold more than Rosen.

For starters, Rosen has explicitly said he does not want to play in Cleveland, but Darnold is willing.

For all of Rosen’s reliability as a passer, he has been more mistake-prone on the road. In 2017, he threw eight interceptions on the road and only two at home. Half of an NFL team's games are on the road. Will Rosen be able to avoid turning the ball over too frequently in those eight games?

Another factor is experience. Teams aren’t looking to draft a player based on how he will perform in one season. They are looking for a long-term solution, which the Browns are desperate for at quarterback because it is hard to win (the Browns went 0-16 in 2017) when your quarterback completes only 53 percent of his passes and has 28 turnovers. So Rosen is more polished and more likely to succeed than Darnold in 2018. But he also has had more opportunities to become polished because he has thrown 324 more collegiate passes than Darnold. Darnold is really young; he played only two seasons at USC. Recently acquired veteran Tyrod Taylor would presumably start for the Browns while Darnold takes the time to develop.

The final factor is the "it" factor. Teams are not simply looking for solid mechanics and decision-making skills because those can be improved. Mechanics and decision-making aren’t inherent qualities such as height and speed. Green Bay superstar Aaron Rodgers is a classic example of a quarterback who altered his mechanics, now holding his ball much lower in order to generate a smoother arm motion. Peyton Manning, another legend, is famous for improving his decision-making in order to throw vastly fewer interceptions. While the Browns can assume they can polish the young Darnold, they will already have a playmaker who -- against UCLA, for instance -- displayed a ridiculous ability to make throws into tight windows while escaping the pocket. When he does leave the pocket, he is more likely to create a larger gain. This mobility is an important asset to a Cleveland quarterback because the Browns’ pass protection ranked in the bottom 10 last season. It also adds more excitement to a team that sorely lacks playmakers.

Rosen is more NFL-ready, sure, but Darnold possesses more upside. He’s a better long-term investment for the Browns (or any other team).

Finally, I like Allen even more than Darnold because he possesses even more upside. Yes, his statistics look terrible for a potential top pick. But one can easily chalk that up to the poor protection from his offensive line, and the drops and poor route-running of poor wide receivers. In sum, he was a one-man show. Allen had the strongest NFL Scouting Combine of the bunch, achieving a 4.75 40-yard dash, showing off his arm strength in throwing drills and his leg strength in jumps (legs are important for both running and passing), and displaying his athleticism in the cone drill. More than the other prospects, he looks the part of a successful NFL quarterback with his build and, with his physical tools, acts the part as well. And with our NFL picks we get him at an underdog price on the NFL odds board.

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