I’m a firm believer that quarterbacks are overvalued in the NFL draft, and history is seemingly on my side.
Since the draft became a regular part of the betting board in Nevada in 2017, the number of quarterbacks selected in the first round has been one of the most popular props available. In two of those three drafts the Under has cashed, with the lone Over coming on an upset in 2018 when Baltimore traded into the back end of the first round to acquire Lamar Jackson. Go back further and you will find that in six of the last seven years, four or fewer quarterbacks have been picked in the first round.
This year bettors who play this prop Over the total are wagering that five quarterbacks will be selected, which has happened once since 1999, when five went within the first 12 selections. Factor in the quarterback arms race that took place in the offseason, and not enough teams have needs at the position to make this a reality.
In my first mock draft, just three QBs find a home in the first round, and one drops from his projected spot to outside the top 10.
1. Cincinnati: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
A case can be made for Chase Young to be the top pick, especially when you consider Cincinnati totaled just 31 sacks while ranking 24th in adjusted sack rate last season. However, this is a league that values quarterback above all else, and Burrow played his way to this slot with 60 touchdown passes for the national champions.
2. Washington: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State
The Redskins actually finished 2019 as the seventh-best team in adjusted sack rate, taking down opposing quarterbacks on 8.5% of pass attempts. However, their rank on third down dropped to 21st. Young gives them the best player in this draft and puts him in a front seven that already boasts Ryan Kerrigan and Montez Sweat.
3. Detroit: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Chalk so far, but this is a need for the Lions now that Darius Slay is in Philadelphia. The Detroit defense ranked 28th in overall efficiency and 29th against the pass last season. Desmond Trufant, who signed in free agency, is more than capable at corner, but Okudah is a young stud around whom the Lions can build their secondary.
4. N.Y. Giants: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
This pick could be Isaiah Simmons from Clemson, but offensive line is a need for New York as well. Not only does general manager Dave Gettleman address a need with this selection, but it helps their top picks from each of the last two drafts, running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones.
5. Miami: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
The “Tank For Tua” campaign took a detour when Miami won five of its final nine games, but the Dolphins get their guy in the end. Miami could trade up into the top three for Tagovailoa, but the Alabama quarterback underwent two ankle surgeries and hip surgery in his short time in Tuscaloosa. That is not a player worth shipping the draft-pick assets you spent a year acquiring.
6. L.A. Chargers: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
The Chargers face a tough decision. Do they look to the future and draft one of the young quarterbacks, or do they select a player who can improve their 21st-ranked defense and help them compete for a spot in the postseason? If Simmons is still here, it is hard to look past the latter option.
7. Carolina: Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
Brown seems destined to be a Panther. Carolina ranked last against the run, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, and Brown is the best interior lineman in the draft. The Panthers need a lot of talent in their front seven, but no other player is worth adding in this spot.
8. Arizona: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
When the Cardinals pilfered DeAndre Hopkins from Houston, general manager Steve Keim’s draft board was essentially locked into place. Arizona’s offensive line allowed 50 sacks in 2019 and ranked 26th in adjusted sack rate allowed. Some of that is on Kyler Murray, but there is no denying this is a glaring need for the Cardinals.
9. Tampa Bay: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa*
With two of the best offensive linemen off the board, the Buccaneers see the writing on the wall and make the first trade of the draft. The next two teams need offensive linemen, and Tampa Bay just signed a 42-year-old quarterback who lacks mobility. Right tackle is no longer a question with the trade up for a player some consider the best offensive lineman in the class.
10. Cleveland: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Surprisingly, Cleveland has few glaring needs. However, left tackle is one of those. Jack Conklin comes over in free agency, but adding Becton will give Baker Mayfield the bookend tackles he lacked last season, when he was sacked on 7.2% of his dropbacks.
11. N.Y. Jets: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
12. Las Vegas: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
13. New England: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon*
14. Jacksonville: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida*
15. Denver: Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama
16. Atlanta: K’Lavon Chaisson, DE, LSU
17. Dallas: A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa
18. Miami: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
19. Las Vegas: Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
20. Jacksonville: Grant Delpit, S, LSU
21. Philadelphia: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
22. Minnesota: Antoine Winfield, S, Minnesota
23. San Francisco: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State*
24. New Orleans: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
25. Minnesota: Austin Jackson, OT, Southern Cal
26. Miami: Josh Jones, OT, Houston
27. Seattle: Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State
28. Baltimore: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
29. Tennessee: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
30. Green Bay: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
31. San Francisco: Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M
32. Kansas City: D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
* - projected trades