Less than a month to go until the Great Quarterback Draft of 2021. Trade rumors, actual trades, disinformation campaigns, a suspected second-round talent may be going in the top 3. And a prop betting market that will be centered around who will be the SECOND quarterback off the board.
Some things for bettors to ponder:
1. WHAT WE KNOW FOR CERTAIN – Barring injury or illness, Trevor Lawrence will be under center when his Jacksonville Jaguars travel to Cincinnati in Week 1. It will be a battle between back-to-back overall No. 1 picks, assuming the Bengals’ Joe Burrow continues to make progress rehabbing his ACL-damaged left knee; surgery took place on Dec. 2, which would make the recovery approximately eight months. Pushing it a bit, but Burrow is reportedly running and ahead of schedule. There is no money to be made on Lawrence; the former Clemson is -10,000 at most books to go No. 1 overall. Passing on Lawrence would set up Urban Meyer as the guy who didn’t draft the NFL’s version of Michael Jordan.
2. THE FUN STARTS AT NO. 2 – The Jets had Lawrence in the palms of their hands last December but messed things up by beating the Chargers just before Christmas and the Browns just after – gift-wrapping him and giving him to the stunned but appreciative Jaguars. So the Jets have to settle, and the betting favorite is BYU’s Zach Wilson, who is listed at about -500 to New York in many books. There are reports that the Jets, who look ready to part ways with 2018 No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold, are locked in on Wilson.
3. WHITHER THE 49ERS AT NO. 3? – If the 49ers are trying to confuse everyone, they’re doing a great job of it. Through a trade with the Dolphins (who are now committed 100 percent to Tua Tagovailoa), Frisco is now in a position to jettison injury-in-waiting Jimmy Garoppolo and draft his successor. The question now is who gets to wear that 49ers baseball cap on April 29? If we knew a month ago that SF would somehow swipe No. 3, we would have figured Ohio State’s Justin Fields would be gold at +2000. But now word out of the Bay Area is that Alabama’s Mac Jones is the guy. Sports Betting Dime lists Jones now at +125 to San Francisco. The big question with Jones: Are his college stats a mirage because Alabama’s receivers were so good, or are the receivers’ stats so impressive because Jones is so accurate?
4. WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE FIELDS? – Say hello to the Atlanta Falcons, who could throw a grenade into the draft by moving down and out of the No. 4 spot and opt to build around veteran Matt Ryan. Might be tempting for the Falcons to move down in the first, take impact TE Kyle Pitts, and add draft capital in the process. That scenario gained some steam this past week when questions arose about Fields’s alleged poor work ethic. Denials poured in soon after, but the balloon might have already been popped. You can get Fields at +180 at No. 4, though.
5. IF NOT ATLANTA, THEN WHO? – If Fields is still on the board after Atlanta picks, the next three teams (assuming no trades) up are Cincinnati, Miami, and Detroit – all of whom are set at the QB position. The spotlight then shines on Carolina. Most mock drafts don’t see the uber-athletic Fields dropping past the Panthers, but North Dakota State’s Trey Lance is a possibility if the Fields rumors gain some traction over the next few weeks.
6. WHO ELSE IS HUNTING FOR A QB? – Denver at No. 9 looks ready to go big for a quarterback and trade talk is swirling in Colorado, though it appears their hope that Jones would fall to them appears dim. The 800-pound gorilla in the room, though, is New England. Bill Belichick has famously never drafted a QB in the first round, but there is talk about the Patriots breaking precedent and actually moving up for a QB. Belichick was present for Jones’s Pro Day workout, and the team ignored Fields’s session that was held the same day. That could be just a misdirection play called by the Pats. Whatever the strategy, everyone will be keeping a close eye on New England as the draft nears.
7. THEN THERE’S THIS – Only twice before have QBs gone 1-2-3 in the draft. Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, and Akili Smith were the first three off the board in 1999, with only McNabb finding success. This year’s teams are hoping for something like the 1971 draft, when Jim Plunkett, Archie Manning, and Dan Pastorini were first, second, and third. History tells us it is likely that at least a few teams picking QBs early this time will be asking themselves, five years down the road, “What were we thinking?” No one wants to be remembered as the guy who drafted the next Couch, Heath Schuler, Akili Smith, Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell, Andre Ware, or Johnny Manziel – picks that set their franchises back for years. Caveat emptor.