2024 NFL draft: Betting public expecting fewer QBs in first round

Michael Penix Jr. has quickly skyrocketed up the draft board for many analysts, signaling a potential big run by NFL teams on quarterbacks on Thursday night. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The NFL is a quarterback-driven league. Each year, teams select elite signal-callers from college and hope that they can become franchise players. With so many highly touted quarterbacks in this year's class and so many teams needing upgrades at the position, sports bettors are leaning into a specific prop bet that highlights the QB craze.

"Total quarterbacks drafted in the first round" is the third-most-popular NFL draft wager at ESPN BET and DraftKings.

Caesars Sportsbook head of football Joey Feazel says the prop bet is likely the book's "next biggest action" after the market for the No. 2 pick, which has emerged as the most popular bet across the sportsbook landscape.

The line for quarterbacks taken in Round 1 of Thursday's draft is 4.5, with the over juiced heavily to -390 and the under at +270 at ESPN BET. The under has attracted 59% of the bets but only 39% of the handle, indicating that there are many small wagers from casual bettors looking to score on fewer than five QBs being taken.

The overwhelming majority of mock drafts have Williams, Daniels and Maye being selected with the first three picks, usually in that order. Many mocks have McCarthy going fifth or within the top 10, but at minimum, he isn't expected to be around by Day 2. That means that just one more quarterback would have to be selected Thursday evening in order to cash the over, and it is becoming increasingly likely that will happen.

"With Michael Penix Jr.'s draft stock trending upward recently in public conversation, and the general consensus among draft experts that Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye and J.J. McCarthy are likely to be picked early, bettors have taken an interest in this market in a strong year for quarterbacks," ESPN BET head of sportsbook Patrick Jay said.

Penix has been flying up draft boards in recent weeks, and his betting props have followed suit: The Washington product's odds to be a first-round pick opened at +120 and have since flipped to -350. Meanwhile, Bo Nix's first-round odds went from -225 at open to +130, but that's still a 43.5% implied probability.

"As we got out on that price [on the over], we started seeing a lot of sharper action, with the value of taking the under being whether Nix or Penix is worth it in that first round," Feazel said. "Are they worth that? Do you want to get that first-rounder to get that fifth-year option, or is there someone else that you have that you need to fill a hole on your team that might be more promising?"

If five QBs are selected Thursday, it would be tied for the second-most players to be drafted in the first round at the position, and the first time five QBs were selected in the first round since 2021. The record is held by the legendary "Elway to Marino" 1983 NFL draft, which saw six quarterbacks selected in the first round.