NFL

NFL Draft Betting: Where Will Jordan Love Be Selected?

From a betting perspective, Jordan Love is already one of the most fascinating prospects in the 2020 NFL draft.

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have action on whether Love will be drafted before Justin Herbert with the loser donating $5,000 to the V Foundation. McShay has the Love side, and Kiper is riding with Herbert.

That bet is straight up, but if you want more of an even playing field, you can snag that exact bet over at FanDuel Sportsbook. Herbert is -290 to go ahead of Love, so clearly we need to encourage McShay to do some price shopping next time.

Another way you can dabble in the Love market is by betting his draft position. It's at 14.5 now with -164 on the over and +128 on the under. With many of the quarterback dominoes having already fallen in free agency, we've got most of the information we need to figure this one out.

Should we swallow the chalk and side with the over, or will a team talk themselves into Love within the first 14 picks? Let's check it out.

What the Experts Say

Kiper's first mock draft since free agency started came out earlier this week. His layout seems to indicate the over is the way to go.

Kiper had Love falling all the way to the New England Patriots at 23rd overall. He was fourth among quarterbacks with Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, and Justin Herbert all going within the top six picks.

That's in line with what other mocks are saying, as well. NFL.com's Charley Casserly and Chad Reuter have also released mock drafts since the start of free agency. Reuter had Love going 23rd overall via a trade with the Los Angeles Chargers, and Casserly had Love outside the first round entirely. Both had Herbert within the top six picks.

The Herbert part is key here with the number of quarterback-needy teams picking in the top 14 picks.

We can say with a good amount of certainty that the Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, and Miami Dolphins are likely to take a quarterback, and all three pick early on. If Love winds up slotting in ahead of Herbert, then the under hits with ease. If he doesn't, he could slip quite a bit.

The Carolina Panthers are now seemingly set at quarterback with Teddy Bridgewater and PJ Walker in town. The Las Vegas Raiders now have both Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota, tying up a lot of money into their quarterback room. And with Tom Brady now inked for two years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they're likely locked in, as well.

The Bucs pick 14th, the final selection before the over hits on Love. All of those needs getting filled hurts Love's chances of being a top-15 pick significantly.

If you're looking for potential surprises, the two teams that could flip this conversation are Washington and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Washington seems committed to Dwayne Haskins, and they just brought in Kyle Allen as a backup, which lowers the odds they pull the trigger on someone like Tagovailoa at two.

The Jags are a tiny bit more interesting. Based on the odds at FanDuel Sportsbook, they're currently the betting favorites to sign Cam Newton (+250) and the favorites to have Andy Dalton (+175) or Jameis Winston (+200) at quarterback in Week 1. Clearly, the bookmakers don't think that Jacksonville is fully settled on Gardner Minshew.

After all the shedding they've done this offseason, the Jags now have $20 million in cap space, according to Over the Cap, so they could, in theory, make one of those moves. But the broader thread is that they may be secretly in play to take the plunge on a signal-caller.

If Love makes it past the Jaguars at nine, he's likely to fall. The next team that could be sniffing quarterbacks is the Dolphins at 18, but they'll likely have that need addressed by then. Next is the Jags at 20, followed by the Patriots at 23. If you're trying to trade up to jump one of those teams, you don't need to get all the way to 14.

If you decide to take the under on Love, you're hoping for one of two things:

1. That he leapfrogs Herbert and is the third quarterback off the board.

2. That we have a surprise with either Jacksonville or Washington addressing quarterback.

The implied probability on the under at +128 is 43.9%. If you think the odds of one of those events happening are greater than 43.9%, then you want to side with the under.

Unfortunately, based on the history of first-rounders, those odds seem higher than they should be.

What the Numbers Say

Since 2000, 56 total quarterbacks have been selected in the first round. Not many of them had final-year numbers as poor as Love's.

In 2019, Love's adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A) was 6.4. Assuming he does go in the first round, it would be the third-lowest mark of any first-round pick, besting only Patrick Ramsey and Rex Grossman, who both went outside the top 20. That does matter for his draft stock.

If you look exclusively at each player's final-year AY/A, the correlation to the pick with which they were selected in the first round is -0.230. That's not a huge correlation, but when it's focusing on just one number, it means that players with better stats do tend to go higher in the draft.

That's troublesome when you're comparing Love to Herbert. Herbert has a non-dazzling statistical profile, but it's a whole heck of a lot better than Love's. Herbert's final-year AY/A was 9.0, and he had a peak of 10.0 as a sophomore. This seems to indicate that point number one on our checklist is unlikely.

The discussion of peaks is pertinent for Love, as well. Love's 2018 season put him on the map as he threw for 32 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, good for a 9.4 AY/A. That's more in line with what you expect out of a top-14 pick. But it may not be enough to help Love skyrocket up draft boards.

Part of the reason is that the 9.4 AY/A came against putrid competition. Eight of Love's 13 games were against either FCS opponents or teams ranked outside the top 90 in Bill Connelly's SP+. In four games against top-50 defenses, Love's AY/A plummeted to 5.9, not a whole lot better than his mark of 5.1 against top-50 defenses this year.

Additionally, having a spike year in the past hasn't necessarily been a great indicator of success for first-round picks. Six first-rounders since 2000 have had an AY/A at least 1.0 yards better than their final-year AY/A at some point in their collegiate careers (with a minimum of 200 pass attempts). Jameis Winston is the only guy in that group who has ever had a top-15 season in numberFire's Net Expected Points, and he has never reached the top 10 in that department.

If teams have picked up on this, it's likely they'll be skeptical of using a high pick on Love. We saw Grossman and Brady Quinn both fall outside the top 20 picks despite having quality outputs in previous seasons, and Winston was the only player in that group who went inside the top six (where Love needs to go before the quarterback-needy teams fall off). Even that one quality season doesn't do a ton to boost the odds that a team takes Love early.

If someone like Tagovailoa (or even Herbert) were available at nine, it would be interesting to see what the Jaguars would do. Both have statistical profiles in line with previous successful first-rounders, and they may represent an upgrade over Minshew. With Love, the odds seem a bit longer, and it is more likely that they ride with Minshew and check out quarterbacks later in the process.

Conclusions

With -164 on the over, the implied odds that Love falls to the 15th pick or later are 62.1%. Based on both the way the draft board lays out and Love's risky profile, we should likely side that direction.

As discussed, if Love's going to hit the under, we need him to either go ahead of Herbert or entice a team without a clear and obvious need at quarterback to pull the trigger. However, history indicates that teams value stats at least a bit, and Herbert's numbers are a healthy amount ahead of Love's. And with Love having struggled his final year, it makes it less urgent for a team to take him if they don't have to.

The other factor to consider with the Jaguars is that even if they do dig Love, they don't have to take him at nine. Assuming the Dolphins get a quarterback early, there are no quarterback-needy teams between the Jags' two first-round picks, so they could address one need at nine, hang out at 20th overall, and take Love there.

Love's exciting with a big arm and a solid athletic profile, so you can see why a smart evaluator like McShay would be intrigued by him. It also could get a team to roll the dice and take Love early. But with the way things stand right now, the over on pick 14.5 seems to be the right play.