Two quarterbacks are a lock, and a third is an odds-on favorite. The drama in the NFL Draft’s most-debated proposition likely will come down to DeShone Kizer or Davis Webb at the tail end of the first round.
With the 25th pick, the Houston Texans are on the clock … with the 30th pick, the Pittsburgh Steelers are on the clock … with the 32nd and final pick of the round, the New Orleans Saints are on the clock.
How many quarterbacks will be selected in the first round of the draft? The prop total is 3½.
Mitchell Trubisky from North Carolina and Deshaun Watson, who led Clemson to the national championship, are the locks. Patrick Mahomes from Texas Tech is seeing his stock rise so rapidly, he might go in the top half of the round.
“I think at 3½ you have to bet it over,” Sunset Station sports book director Chuck Esposito said. “I think there’s a real shot at five, but you just don’t know about the other two.”
The other two are Webb, a former California star, and Kizer from Notre Dame. Webb is starting to show up as a first rounder in some mock drafts. Kizer seems to be drifting toward the second round.
Webb could be a better prospect than Jared Goff, the Cal quarterback who went No. 1 overall last year and was a rookie bust. Kizer is an intriguing yet perplexing talent. One, both or neither could get called late in the round on April 27 and no scenario would be a big surprise.
“I think there’s a shot at (four),” said Phil Savage, a former general manager of the Cleveland Browns and former director of player personnel for the Baltimore Ravens. “I would say three if I was forced to make a call on it.”
As executive director for the Senior Bowl, Savage has seen the quarterback prospects up close and has insight into how some teams might approach the draft.
“This is a mediocre quarterback class. There is no sure-fire day one starter in this group,” Savage said. “But there’s a number of guys with potential upside. I think we’ll see one go in the top 10 and maybe we’ll have a couple more go in the first round. I think a slew of quarterbacks will go in the second and third rounds.”
In 2007, when Savage led the Browns’ draft, he took Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas with the No. 3 pick and traded up to get Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn with the 22nd pick. Quinn did not pan out. But from top to bottom — Jamarcus Russell went No. 1 to Oakland — that was the worst draft for quarterbacks in league history.
This draft, no doubt, will be much better. Savage said Watson, who gathered a lot of big-game experience at Clemson, is probably best suited to start as a rookie. In general, the quarterbacks in this draft are risky propositions, but there also are numerous teams in need of a quarterback, and there will be teams looking to trade up or down to get one.
“It’s a quarterback-driven league,” Esposito said. “How many actually go in the top 10? You could have none go in the top 10 but four or five in the first round.”
San Francisco, which picks No. 2, obviously needs a quarterback but is doubtful to pick one that high. The New York Jets, who pick sixth, are again in the market for a quarterback, as are the Browns at No. 12. The Jets and Browns are believed to be interested in Trubisky.
Savage said he believes Cleveland will take Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett first overall before hunting for a quarterback. Tennessee could be a potential trade partner at No. 5 ahead of the Jets, Savage said.
Arizona, with the 13th pick, is the next team in line for a quarterback. After that, the run on quarterbacks might quiet down until the Texans (25th), Steelers (30th) and Saints (32nd) go on the clock. Of course, trades could change everything. Buffalo and Chicago, teams with starting quarterbacks set for this season, are also kicking the tires on the quarterback prospects.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians seems most interested in Kizer. The Steelers are reportedly intrigued by Mahomes. Both are developmental quarterbacks, but that fits the plans for Arizona and Pittsburgh. Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger are nearing the end of the road, with neither aging as gracefully as Christie Brinkley.
More than one mock draft has Webb going to Houston. The Texans no longer have Tony Romo as an option, so Romo’s move into the CBS broadcast booth makes it more likely a fourth quarterback will go in the first round.
“Was Romo Plan A for the Texans?” Esposito said. “There are so many smokescreens out there.”
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk speculated that five quarterbacks could go in the first round if teams get anxious to roll the dice.
Florio wrote: “As the draft approaches, there seems to be a stronger sense that the quarterbacks will go earlier than previously expected. Which makes sense; some teams can’t resist the lure of a potential franchise quarterback, which often results in the guys regarded as the top quarterbacks in a given draft being drafted sooner than they should be.”
South Point oddsmakers opened the quarterback draft prop at 3½ (under minus-130; over plus-110). The under price has been bet up to minus-175. At Station Casinos, Esposito opened the under price at minus-190.
“I still think you have to look over 3½,” Esposito said. “We went through a number of different mocks and looked at everything. We did a lot of research on it. You could see Kizer and Webb go early in the second round.”
All things considered, in the plus-150 range, betting over 3½ quarterbacks in the first round appears to be the right roll of the dice.
NFL Draft order, first round
1. Cleveland Browns
2. San Francisco 49ers
3. Chicago Bears
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
5. Tennessee Titans
6. New York Jets
7. Los Angeles Chargers
8. Carolina Panthers
9. Cincinnati Bengals
10. Buffalo Bills
11. New Orleans Saints
12. Cleveland Browns
13. Arizona Cardinals
14. Philadelphia Eagles
15. Indianapolis Colts
16. Baltimore Ravens
17. Washington Redskins
18. Tennessee Titans
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
20. Denver Broncos
21. Detroit Lions
22. Miami Dolphins
23. New York Giants
24. Oakland Raiders
25. Houston Texans
26. Seattle Seahawks
27. Kansas City Chiefs
28. Dallas Cowboys
29. Green Bay Packers
30. Pittsburgh Steelers
31. Atlanta Falcons
32. New Orleans Saints