It won’t be a surprise party if five quarterbacks get called within the first 10 picks of the NFL draft Thursday night. Still, unexpected twists and turns always happen, and if a quarterback starts to fall, do not be stunned if it’s Justin Fields.
With numerous sources reporting the 49ers are targeting Mac Jones or Trey Lance at No. 3, it’s becoming more likely than not that Fields is tumbling. Where does the former Ohio State star fit, and how low could he go?
Two weeks ago, a media-generated buzz shifted the betting market amid rumors Fields was San Francisco’s probable pick. But it now seems apparent that was all unsubstantiated hype, and the buzzkill has flipped the market again. On the DraftKings odds board, Alabama’s Jones is the -300 favorite to go third, followed by North Dakota State’s Lance at 5-2 and Fields at 5-1.
VSiN analyst Michael Lombardi, a former NFL general manager with legitimate inside sources, called the Fields-to-49ers hype a “joke” as it was happening.
“Fields is slipping in the league, not in the media,” Lombardi said.
Fields might not be the most intriguing quarterback prospect in this loaded draft, but he’s the most interesting man in the draft betting world this week. A prop on Fields has attracted an avalanche of one-way action. Circa Sports opened Fields’ draft position at 3.5, with the Over priced at -185. As of Tuesday, the number had moved to 7.5 at -115 each way.
In early January, Fields outplayed Trevor Lawrence in the Buckeyes’ 49-28 blowout of Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. After Fields passed for 385 yards and six touchdowns in the playoff semifinal, you would have bet on his draft stock rising.
But after Lawrence goes No. 1 to the Jaguars and Brigham Young’s Zach Wilson goes No. 2 to the Jets, the expectation is Jones or Lance will go next while Fields is left to pack a parachute.
“I think it really starts at No. 4,” Lombardi said. “Atlanta is trying to drive interest into thinking a quarterback is going to go there.”
The Falcons should probably look to the future, turn the page and select Fields fourth. Matt Ryan turns 36 next month and can see the end of the road. Fields is a dual-threat playmaker with an accurate, strong arm. He grew up in Georgia and would be a popular pick as the face of the franchise.
Instead the Falcons, as Lombardi said, are trying to create trade interest. Peering through the smoke screens, it appears Atlanta is not inclined to take a quarterback and would prefer to trade down or pick tight end Kyle Pitts of Florida.
“Outside of Mac Jones at No. 3, a lot of bets from 4 to 10 are going to hinge on what Atlanta does,” Las Vegas handicapper Brad Powers said. “If you are going by the best available player at that point and it’s clearly a team need, Pitts makes a lot of sense to me.”
Trades are tough to predict, so I’m not projecting trades in a mock draft. Based on the most reliable information available, I’m mocking Pitts to the Falcons at No. 4, betting his draft position Under 5.5 and hoping for the best.
The next players to go figure to be Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell and LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, but this is when the draft could get wild and crazy. Bets could take a turn for the worse, and mock drafts could get twisted and go ugly.
“I don’t see how the Bengals don’t take Sewell (at No. 5), but that’s anybody’s guess,” Lombardi said.
After the Dolphins pick sixth, the next three teams — the Lions, Panthers and Broncos — are wild cards. Each team should have some interest in a quarterback, whether it’s Fields, Lance or both still on the board. Or maybe Jones is the QB who slips.
Will a quarterback fall all the way to the Patriots at No. 15? At some point, it makes sense for Jimmy Garoppolo to find his way back to New England from San Francisco.
“I don’t see New England trading up to get a quarterback, and I’ve said that all along,” Lombardi said. “People had the Patriots loving Justin Fields, but a month ago I killed that one and I slapped that rumor around. That just doesn’t fit.”
I bet Fields’ draft position Over 3.5 three times — at prices of -155, -185 and -210 — for my biggest play. My second-biggest bet is Over 4.5 wide receivers in the first round at -200, a price that has ballooned to -300 and higher. My second and final mock draft projects six wideouts to go in the first 32 picks.
Powers said he bet Over 0.5 running backs in the first round at -205 with the opinion that Alabama’s Najee Harris or Clemson’s Travis Etienne will be selected.
“Nothing is guaranteed, but I think it’s more likely that six (wide receivers) are drafted than four,” Powers said. “I think the expectation is Pittsburgh would be the first team to even consider taking a running back at No. 24, but those two prospects are too good that some team is going to take them in the last six or seven picks.
“Just generally speaking, don’t be afraid to lay the juice when it comes to the NFL draft. Usually some bigger favorites can be the way to go in this type of market.”
It’s not my style to recommend laying big moneyline prices, either, but the draft is a different animal as an information-based bull market. The truth is the bettors have a track record of beating the bookmakers on the draft.
This is an intensely analyzed draft, partly due to increased wagering action nationwide and also because of the high-profile quarterbacks who will impact the NFL for many years to come.