NFL rookie quarterbacks test betting systems in 2023
After just one rookie quarterback saw significant playing time in 2022, this NFL season figures to bring at least three first-year starters, all of whom were picked in the first four selections of the NFL draft. The struggling franchises that picked these former stars don’t have the luxury of being patient, so they are thrusting their prized rookies into significant roles right out of the gate.
With the importance of the quarterback position in the NFL, the decisions to give these guys starting spots immediately will have huge implications on the outright and betting results of their respective teams. As such, I’ve personally made it a habit of tracking rookie QB records and betting systems in recent seasons. Knowing how they perform historically is of great advantage when it comes to taking on the bookmakers. Thankfully, there have been some discernible patterns that have performed in regards to rookie quarterback performance, and bettors should take notice and take advantage.
According to most experts, the three quarterbacks drafted early this past April who will be getting chances to start in week one are Bryce Young of Carolina, CJ Stroud of Houston, and Anthony Richardson of Indianapolis. Interesting as well, all three will be operating new schemes for their teams as all three franchises replaced their coaching staffs in the offseason. Additionally, guys like Aidan O’Connell of Las Vegas, Stetson Bennett of the Rams, Sean Clifford of Green Bay, and Dorian Thompson-Robinson of Cleveland all had noteworthy preseason appearances and have elevated themselves to second string on their depth charts. If you consider that there are 272 regular season games, and three rookies may be starting at least 50 of them, with the potential for more depending upon injuries, coaching decisions, etc., understanding when these first-time signal callers perform at their best and worst levels is crucial.
Of course, not all of these guys will succeed. Their levels of achievement will vary greatly. Some may go on to become Super Bowl champion quarterbacks, others may settle in as solid starters for teams, some will flounder and have short careers, while others might become career journeymen. Whatever the case, without foundation-based historical analysis, football bettors typically have their hands full in getting to know these new players at the sport’s most crucial position.
In order to help readers get a jump on handicapping these rookie quarterbacks, I like to look back at how past rookies have fared in recent seasons. Of course, each new player will have to be evaluated on their own strengths, weaknesses, and team situation, but knowing how past players in similar spots have done or how those setting the odds judge these guys can only help.
What I’ve done is log all rookie quarterbacks in recent seasons who have started at least seven games in their initial season in the league. There were 52 such players since 2004, including five in 2021 alone. As you can see from the chart, the first players tracked are Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning, both eventual multi-time Super Bowl winners. In addition to analyzing the player-by-player performances for all 52 guys, I’ve also gone and uncovered some various betting systems that have been developed using these rookie quarterbacks. As a bettor, you should look to employ some of the more noteworthy systems when the time comes for any of our 2023 rookie class to be inserted as starters in their teams’ rotations.
As you look at the chart, one of the first things that you’ll want to digest is that the majority of these rookie quarterbacks do in fact help their teams improve. In fact, only 16 of the 52 teams showed a worse winning percentage in that new quarterback’s games started that rookie season than they did the prior season. Four maintained the same winning percentage while the other 32 helped their teams improve. The combined success rate of the 43 rookies was 280-404-2 SU (40.9%) and 341-335-10 ATS (50.4%). Clearly, you can’t profit by simply backing these rookies and their teams blindly, neither on money lines or point spreads. That is where the systems below come in, guiding you to the spots in which they are best backed or faded.
Betting Systems Involving Rookie Quarterbacks
Using the 52-player sample dating back to 2004 and their individual game logs in that span, I was able to come up with several definitive betting systems, considering variables such as line ranges, home/road dichotomy, depth into the season, and type of opponent faced, among others. Let’s dig right into them:
NFL Rookie Quarterbacks Stats Betting System #1 – Rookie quarterbacks are trending downward
- Earlier I indicated winning percentages of 40.9% straight up and 50.4% ATS for rookie quarterbacks since 2004. The results of late are far worse. Since the start of the 2013 season, rookie quarterbacks who started at least seven games in a season are just 144-268-2 SU (34.9%) and 190-222-2 ATS (46.1%). In addition, only three of 33 rookie QBs in that span were able to lead his team to the playoffs that season, those being Dallas’ Dak Prescott in 2016, Lamar Jackson for the Ravens in 2018, and Mac Jones of the Patriots in 2021.
Analysis: In my opinion, many of the rookie quarterbacks coming out now are either leaving college too early or being drafted into situations where there is little or no chance to succeed. Be careful with that logic this year, especially since all three named starters were top-four picks in the draft and playing for teams that struggled last year. All of these guys were studs in college and are met with exorbitant expectations as they begin their pro careers. Their team situations are not what they were in college, being loaded with an overabundance of offensive weapons and physically dominant blocking. How do these guys respond when there’s plenty of adversity to overcome? They haven’t seen much of that to this point. It's guaranteed they will in the NFL.
NFL Rookie Quarterbacks Stats Betting System #2 – Rookie quarterbacks are a risky bet in the postseason
- In their last 14 playoff games, rookie quarterbacks are just 4-10 SU and ATS (28.6%). Take away Joe Flacco’s 2009 run and the record drops to 2-9 SU & ATS, including 1-8 in their last nine.
Analysis: The pressure of the postseason is a lot to bear for a rookie quarterback and the best resumes are typically built on playoff success. For the elite quarterbacks, this usually comes later in a career. In four of those last eight losses, the rookie’s offense was held to 17 points or less. The most recent loss in this regard came following the 2021 season when Mac Jones and the Patriots lost 47-17 to the Bills.
NFL Rookie Quarterbacks Stats Betting System #3 – Rookie quarterbacks have gotten off to very slow starts of late
- As part of their overall recent struggles, rookie quarterbacks have struggled for bettors as early season starters, going 1-15-1 SU & 4-13 ATS (23.5%) in their last 17 week 1-3 games. They are also on a 20-5 UNDER the total run in their last 25 such contests.
Analysis: Typically, rookie starters are sided against by those setting the odds early simply because of their inexperience. After a 45-27-1 ATS run from 2004-20, the tables have been turned on rookie QBs the last couple of seasons, as they have gone just 1-15-1 in their last 17 games while leading their teams to just 15.5 PPG. Obviously, this has meant a lot of UNDERS on totals as well.
NFL Rookie Quarterbacks Stats Betting System #4 – Rookie quarterbacks have experienced major late-season woes
- For as much as rookie QBs have struggled early in recent years, over the long haul, or since 2008, the part of the season in which they have struggled worst is in weeks 10-15, as they are just 84-131 SU and 88-119-8 ATS (42.5%) in that time span.
Analysis: Most offensive coordinators are slow to trust their rookie quarterbacks in expanding their offenses, making it much easier for opposing teams to study and prepare for them. There may also be the factor of hitting the “rookie wall” after a few months of being in the league. If you figure a college season is usually 12-13 games, if you add three preseason games to 10 regular season contests, you can easily understand why this period in the season might be taxing on rookies.
NFL Rookie Quarterbacks Stats Betting System #5 – Rookie quarterbacks have struggled on the road, particularly late in the season
- The results of late rookie quarterbacks on the road lately are startling. Since the start of the 2013 season, rookie starters have combined for a record of 100-105 ATS (48.8%) in home games but just 90-112 ATS (44.5%) in road/neutral games. In later season road games, week 10-18, they are just 27-80 SU & 42-63-2 ATS (40%).
Analysis: This system is all about the increasing pressures in the NFL for quarterbacks, and typically only the most seasoned pros can thrive in late-season road contests. Rookie quarterbacks are a definitive play against in such games.
NFL Rookie Quarterbacks Stats Betting System #6 – Don’t fall for the big underdog point spreads with rookie quarterbacks
- Since 2004, rookie starting quarterbacks facing underdog lines of 7 points or more have won just 25 games, going 25-157 SU and 74-99-9 ATS (42.8%).
Analysis: As much as bettors in the NFL like to think that a large point spread can provide the necessary cushion and insurance for betting on a rookie quarterback, it simply isn’t the case. As underdogs, these quarterbacks (and teams) are simply overwhelmed. These teams are scoring just 16.4 PPG in those contests, and backing teams with that low production consistently is just not a sound strategy. Remember, only the league’s most woeful offenses get assigned large underdog lines like that.
NFL Rookie Quarterbacks Stats Betting System #7 – Rookie quarterbacks are solid bets in the larger favorite role
- Since 2004, rookie starting quarterbacks are 67-18 SU and 49-35-1 ATS (58.3%) when favored by more than a field goal.
Analysis: Oddsmakers can prove to be a reliable guide for when to back and fade rookie starting quarterbacks. In system #6 above I detailed the reasons why to fade them as large underdogs. Alternatively, when surrounded by solid teams worthy of playing as bigger chalk, these rookies perform admirably. The average point production is 26.5 PPG in this system, usually a total big enough to cover chalk lines.
NFL Rookie Quarterbacks Stats Betting System #8 – Scoring more than 17 points is a key benchmark for outright and ATS success for rookie quarterbacks
- Since 2009, rookie starting quarterbacks whose teams have scored 17 points or less in a game are a brutal 22-230 SU and 49-199-4 ATS (19.8%), as opposed to 196-128 SU & 227-89-8 ATS (71.8%) when topping that point benchmark.
Analysis: The amount of points a team scores is obviously not all on its quarterback so this is more of a team system than anything else. Still, projecting a team’s points in a given game is a key part of handicapping football, and using a good simulator can be of great value when you consider systems like #8. Don’t force the issue if rookie quarterbacks are facing stout defenses, it rarely pays off. For those of you who are new to VSiN, my Strength Ratings published on VSiN.com throughout the NFL season project scores for every game based upon a couple of time-tested models. These are a great place to start.
NFL Rookie Quarterbacks Stats Betting System #9 – By type of opponent, divisional matchups have been tough for rookie starting quarterbacks
- The breakdown of success levels against Division, Conference, and Non-Conference opponents has been definitive for rookie starting quarterbacks. Since the start of the 2013 season, versus non-divisional conference and non-conference opponents, they are about 49% ATS. However, against divisional foes, they are just 62-84 ATS (42.5%). As divisional dogs of 5 points or more, rookie QBs are just 6-61 SU and 24-42-1 ATS (36.4%) in that span.
Analysis: Familiarity with an opponent (and quarterback) plays a big role in determining the level of success a rookie quarterback will have. Divisional foes are more familiar and probably put more urgency into studying opposing quarterbacks’ play. Other foes see teams once every four years in some cases, and the urgency isn’t nearly as great.
NFL Rookie Quarterbacks Stats Betting System #10 – Losses have tended to snowball for rookie QB’s
- In their last 102 starts with their teams coming off outright losses, rookie QBs have gone just 30-71-1 SU and 42-60 ATS (41.2%). This trend dates back to 2018.
Analysis: With most struggling teams, it’s hard to pull themselves up in struggling times. With the prospects of a rookie QB leading the way, the task becomes even more ominous.
NFL Rookie Quarterbacks Stats Betting System #11 – Non-Sunday games have been a respite for rookie QBs
- Rookie quarterbacks have fared reasonably well under the spotlight of non-Sunday games lately, going 9-11 SU but 13-7 ATS (65%) in their L20 such tries. Moreover, they are 14-5 ATS (73.7%) in their last 19 Monday Night contests.
Analysis: Typically, the non-Sunday games are a little bit higher stakes, as in most cases, they are stand-alone nationally broadcast games. It’s a welcomed sign to see these rookie quarterbacks compete well in such scenarios.
Looking at the schedules of the 2023 potential rookie starting quarterbacks
Bryce Young – Carolina
Week – Opponent (Projected Line)
Week 1 - at Atlanta: +2
Week 2 - NEW ORLEANS: +1.2
Week 3 - at Seattle: +4.9
Week 4 - MINNESOTA: +0.5
Week 5 - at Detroit: +5.9
Week 6 - at Miami: +7.1
Week 8 - HOUSTON: -4.4
Week 9 - INDIANAPOLIS: -2.6
Week 10 - at Chicago: +3
Week 11 - DALLAS: +5.1
Week 12 - at Tennessee: +3.1
Week 13 - at Tampa Bay: +0.3
Week 14 - at New Orleans: +3.3
Week 15 - ATLANTA: -0.3
Week 16 - GREEN BAY: -0.3
Week 17 - at Jacksonville: +7.5
Week 18 - TAMPA BAY: -1.9
When considering the systems above, it is of interest that Young figures to be starting his career with back-to-back divisional games. Unfortunately, at this point, I only see one instance when Young’s Panthers project out as greater than a field goal favorite. On the opposite side, there are three occurrences where the Panthers figure to be playing as underdogs on the road of 5 points or more. Young had very little experience in the underdog role while at Alabama.
CJ Stroud - Houston
Week – Opponent (Projected Line)
Week 1 - at Baltimore: +10.6
Week 2 - INDIANAPOLIS: +0.4
Week 3 - at Jacksonville: +9.1
Week 4 - PITTSBURGH: +2.4
Week 5 - at Atlanta: +5.2
Week 6 - NEW ORLEANS: +2.6
Week 8 - at Carolina: +4.4
Week 9 - TAMPA BAY: -0.5
Week 10 - at Cincinnati: +12.5
Week 11 - ARIZONA: -3.1
Week 12 - JACKSONVILLE: +6.4
Week 13 - DENVER: +2.3
Week 14 - at NY Jets: +9.4
Week 15 - at Tennessee: +4.7
Week 16 - CLEVELAND: +2.4
Week 17 - TENNESSEE: +1.7
Week 18 - at Indianapolis: +3.4
Former Ohio State star CJ Stroud faces the most difficult task of the three rookie quarterbacks in Week 1, facing Baltimore on the road. Oddsmakers have already shared their feelings on the chances for Stroud and the Texans, as they have listed them as 9.5-point underdogs. Obviously, from the systems above, this is not a favorable spot for Stroud by many measures. Houston is expected to struggle once again in 2023, and as such, they are listed as large underdogs several times throughout the season, and only once as a favorite of more than three points.
Anthony Richardson – Indianapolis
Week – Opponent (Projected Line)
Week 1 - JACKSONVILLE: +4.4
Week 2 - at Houston: -0.4
Week 3 - at Baltimore: +8.8
Week 4 - LA RAMS: -1.2
Week 5 - TENNESSEE: -0.3
Week 6 - at Jacksonville: +7.3
Week 7 - CLEVELAND: +0.4
Week 8 - NEW ORLEANS: +0.6
Week 9 - at Carolina: +2.6
Week 10 - vs. New England: +2.7
Week 12 - TAMPA BAY: -2.5
Week 13 - at Tennessee: +2.9
Week 14 - at Cincinnati: +10.7
Week 15 - PITTSBURGH: +0.4
Week 16 - at Atlanta: +3.4
Week 17 - LAS VEGAS: -0.9
Week 18 - HOUSTON: -3.4
With a pair of divisional games to start, followed by a large road underdog scenario most likely in Week 3, it doesn’t figure to be a good start for the Colts. Rookie QBs have started slow of late, so perhaps it’s not a bad thing to have those three contests out of the gate. Weeks 4-8 look like a potential chance for this team to rebound, however. Then, they give up one of the late-season system games by having a bye in Week 11. That part of the slate is favorable. Still, there isn’t much reason to suspect any of the late-season games will matter much.