For my very first weekly entry discussing the NFL from a betting perspective, I decided to focus on the success rate of first-year and/or rookie starting quarterbacks. For decades, conventional wisdom pointed toward betting against “green” quarterbacks. But there has been a paradigm shift in that regard so far in 2016. There have been six quarterbacks that have made their first ever start in the NFL: Trevor Siemian (Denver), Carson Wentz (Philadelphia), Dak Prescott (Dallas), Jimmy Garoppolo (New England), Jacoby Brissett (New England) and Cody Kessler (Cleveland). Siemien and Wentz appear to be the only two poised to be starter for the duration of the season while others are simply keeping the seat warm. Nevertheless, the collective amount of success from that group through three weeks of the season, specifically from a pointspread perspective, is impressive.
Denver, New England, and Philadelphia are all 3-0 SU/ATS. Dallas is a solid 2-1 SU/ATS. And Cleveland lost to Miami in overtime last week as +9.5 underdogs. The aforementioned group of signal callers have a combined for a 65.7% completion rate and a 15-to-3 TD-to-INT ratio (all 3 INTs via Siemian). They enter Week 4 with a combined 11-2 SU, 12-1 ATS mark. Note too that those five teams have combined for a +13 turnover margin; consistently winning the turnover battle remains and obvious key to pointspread success in the NFL regardless of who takes the snaps. The question now becomes, will these quarterbacks and teams maintain their path or suffer regression?
I certainly am a believer in Wentz. I was unsure of how much to make of wins over woeful Cleveland and Chicago but his performance against Pittsburgh was dominating. Wentz has displayed an aura of poise and calmness in the pocket and has made one great read after another in the passing game despite playing with a middling receiving corps. He has looked wise beyond his years with a 64.7% completion rate, 5-to-0 TD-to-INT ratio and 103.8 QB rating. He’s also backed by an Eagles’ defense that has clearly bought in to Jim Schwartz’s aggressive schemes which completely shut down Ben Roethlisberger and a potent Pittsburgh offense.
Prescott is another of the first-year starters that should retain some ATS value in the weeks ahead. He is a dual threat that can make plays with his feet when the pocket collapses. He also has the benefit of playing behind one of the league’s top offensive lines. Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott continues to get better which coupled with quality weapons at receiver provides Prescott with the blueprint to succeed. The Cowboys have the offense to never be out of a game and could be a good betting option specifically in the underdog role (at Green Bay, at Pittsburgh) in the weeks to come.
It’s not as easy to evaluate the future success of Garoppolo and Brissett because Tom Brady is slated to return in Week 5? Garoppolo looked outstanding in New England’s Week 1 win at Arizona and equally brilliant against Miami before getting injured. Brissett played a clean, mistake free game against Houston while the defense pitched a shutout.
I’m not however sold on Kessler and Siemian. Kessler managed not to make any critical mistakes against Miami but looked panicked at times and got away with a handful of questionable throws. This of course was be expected as Kessler began the season as the third option on the worst team in the league. And while the Browns in theory have value being the lowest power rated squad in the NFL, he has the least upside of the group. Siemian has shown the ability to throw the deep ball with a pair of 40+ yard touchdown strikes to Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas in last week’s win at Cincinnati. That said, he’s prone to throwing the ball into traffic too often (3 INTs) and has missed on some of the easier short to intermediate throws. His accuracy on shorter passes must improve as well as his decision making. Unlike Kessler, Siemian does have the benefit of playing behind one of the league’s top stop units.
The NFL is notoriously unkind to first-year quarterbacks but thus far, the results have bucked that trend. It’s a matchup league and I think a majority of our group’s success has come due to favorable opponents as well as taking care of the football. Moving forward, struggles are bound occur, but we have proof that betting on first-year and/or rookie quarterbacks is no longer something gamblers should completely avoid.