As the Miami Dolphins stumbled through the first two months of the 2019 season, the popular narrative was they were tanking to get Tua Tagovailoa with the top pick in the draft.
In that case, it was the worst tanking job in history. The Dolphins went from 0-7 to 5-11 and landed the fifth overall pick. The question now is: Will they trade up for Tua? Or will another team make a big deal to move up for the former Alabama quarterback?
Joe Burrow, who led Louisiana State to the national championship, is the prohibitive favorite to go No. 1 to Cincinnati. The draft’s real drama will start with the second pick, which belongs to Washington, the wild-card team in the top 10.
When handicapping most NFL games, you start at quarterback. The same goes for most drafts. The number of QBs to go in the first round is almost always the most popular prop bet.
“The reality of it is, I think we’re going to get four quarterbacks drafted in the first round,” said Michael Lombardi, a VSiN analyst and former NFL executive.
A month ago, the number was up for debate: Would it be three or four? Sunset Station sportsbook director Chuck Esposito opened the prop Feb. 12 and set the line on first-round quarterbacks at 3.5 (Over + 140). The debate now: Will it be four or five?
After Burrow and Tagovailoa, Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Utah State’s Jordan Love are widely considered locks to go in the first round. Love’s stock started soaring in late February at the scouting combine.
“We were seeing considerable Over money, and then everything you were hearing and reading was they were falling all over Jordan Love and making comparisons to Patrick Mahomes,” Esposito said. “Love’s a potential top-10 pick. We had to move it at that point.”
Station Casinos adjusted the quarterback prop number to four (Over -150). Betting Over four appears to be a free shot because at worst the wager should push. DraftKings sportsbook has the line posted at 4.5 (Under -400/Over + 300).
Mahomes was the 10th overall pick by Kansas City in the 2017 draft, which produced three first-round quarterbacks. Chicago traded up to get Mitchell Trubisky at No. 2, and Houston picked Deshaun Watson 12th. Five QBs went in 2018’s first round — Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson. Three quarterbacks — Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins — went in last year’s first round.
Jacob Eason, who started his college career at Georgia and finished at Washington, is a long shot to go late in the first round. Georgia’s Jake Fromm and Jalen Hurts, who started at Alabama and transferred to Oklahoma, are projected as middle-round picks.
“Love keeps moving up the board,” Lombardi said. “Could Eason go in the bottom of the first round? That wouldn’t shock me.”
So the best bet is Over four first-round quarterbacks at -150. The worst-case scenario seems to be a refund.
The decisions coming from some veteran free-agent quarterbacks will determine which teams are in the QB market in the first round. New England needs an addition after Tom Brady’s announcement that he’s leaving the Patriots after 20 years. Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers previously parted ways. Others on the move could be Teddy Bridgewater, Andy Dalton and Cam Newton.
The draft, originally scheduled for April 23-25 in Las Vegas, is expected to go off on those dates, but it will no longer be a spectacle on the Strip because of the coronavirus pandemic. Several more books will be posting props soon. Here are a few best bets from the current menus offered at Station Casinos and DraftKings:
— Who will be the No. 2 overall pick?
Chase Young, a defensive end from Ohio State, is the -305 favorite at DraftKings. The Redskins drafted Haskins 15th overall last year and seem unlikely to take another quarterback, but it’s not out of the question because new coach Ron Rivera is not tied to Haskins. Rivera could opt to start fresh with Tagovailoa or trade out of the second spot, where another team might want him. Herbert is an interesting long shot at 33/1. Best Bet: Tagovailoa + 200.
— Who will be the first offensive lineman selected?
This is an especially strong draft class for offensive linemen, with at least five who can step in and start as rookies. Alabama’s Jedrick Wills is the + 160 favorite at DraftKings, but I’m not sure he should be favored. Look at Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs (+ 200) or combine standout Mekhi Becton of Louisville. Best Bet: Becton + 300.
— Who will be the first running back selected?
It's easy to like Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, who’s the second choice on the DraftKings board at + 125. But most scouts tend to tout Georgia’s D’Andre Swift as the better back, and he’s slotted higher in almost every mock draft you read. Best Bet: Swift + 115.
My first mock draft for 2020:
1) Cincinnati: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
2) x-L.A. Chargers: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
3) Detroit: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State
4) N.Y. Giants: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
5) Miami: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
6) x-Washington: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
7) Carolina: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
8) Arizona: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
9) Jacksonville: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
10) Cleveland: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
11) N.Y. Jets: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
12) Las Vegas: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
13) San Francisco: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
14) Tampa Bay: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
15) Denver: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
16) Atlanta: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
17) Dallas: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
18) Miami: A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa
19) Las Vegas: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
20) Jacksonville: K’Lavon Chaisson, LB, LSU
21) Philadelphia: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
22) Minnesota: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
23) New England: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
24) New Orleans: K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn State
25) Minnesota: Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
26) Miami: D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
27) Seattle: Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State
28) Baltimore: Grant Delpit, S, LSU
29) Tennessee: Josh Jones, OT, Houston
30) Green Bay: Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado
31) San Francisco: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
32) Kansas City: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
x - indicates projected trade