Is it wise to place futures bets on NFL teams who lose their starting quarterbacks?
The answer is somewhere between yes and no. Yeah, it’s true that for some teams, it doesn’t matter who lines up behind center.
If they have a solid running game and defense, consider the quarterback a gadget player who is part of a larger system. It also goes with the team’s current identity. Take a team like the Cleveland Browns who win games via ball control. It’s an old-school, smashmouth style of play. The same goes for the Baltimore Ravens, who have gone ultra old school with their offensive attack.
Also, the departure of a quarterback might mean a competition. So, pay attention to the depth chart. And don’t forget to study the team’s presumed starter.
We will look deeper into these issues in the following sections.
Study the Team’s System
Ask yourself if the departing quarterback was a fixture in the team’s system.
Let’s use the Indianapolis Colts, whose incumbent Philip Rivers just called it a career. The Colts relied on Rivers’ arm to win games. However, they also boast a strong defense.
So, if you plan on placing a futures bet on the Colts for 2021 at the top NFL betting sites, it’s not the end of the world if Jacoby Brissett takes over (again) or if the Colts tradwe for someone like Carson Wentz.
They have a strong defense, and if Jonathan Taylor makes “The Leap,” a strong running game.
Now, let’s look at a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers. We know what happened in 2019 when they lost Ben Roethlisberger for the year. They went 8-8 and fell from grace. But in 2019, they still had traces of a solid running game.
Again, it’s the system. If Ben retires or goes down with an injury, can Haskins seriously throw the ball 35 to 50 times a game without a strong running game or offensive line? The Steelers have gone one-dimensional in 2020. And if Ben walks, they become a poor futures bet—regardless of how talented the defense is.
Study the Team’s Positional Depth Chart
Here are a few teams who should win regardless of who is playing quarterback given the strength of their depth chart: The Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, and Indianapolis Colts.
Their depth chart has built the team to win without a star quarterback. They all rely heavily on the run, and a quarterback is just another puzzle piece. You may ask why the 49ers, given their 7-9 record in 2020.
The positional depth chart gives each team in the NFL the system they wish to run. But it goes further. When you study the depth chart at other positions, you will find out where the team’s strengths are.
Take the Browns, who have a line full of run blockers and two fantastic running backs to complement. The Titans have the best back in the league with Derrick Henry and also a run-block first line.
If the team losing their star quarterback boasts strong running backs, a strong defense, and even a wide receiving unit comfortable catching passes in traffic, then once again the team won’t need a star quarterback.
In fact, some coaches will even tailor their entire system to fit the strengths of their quarterback. If the incoming quarterback doesn’t have a strong arm, the vertical offense may become more of what you see with a West Coast offense.
Or the coach may switch the pass-first offense the old quarterback succeeded in, into a run-first offense that suits the new quarterback. So, pay attention to the depth chart and see where the teams are strong. A system change may loom on the horizon. If it does, you have a solid futures bet.
Study the Team’s Quarterback Depth Chart
This one is like our second subheading, except now we’re focusing on just the quarterbacks. You’re looking at the players who were the second and third quarterbacks last season. And you’re looking at the newcomers.
Ask yourself if there is a likelihood for a quarterback competition. And if so, is the competition one that may spill into the regular season?
And it can have disastrous consequences for a few teams if the coach can’t decide who the quarterback should be at mid-season. It happens a lot.
Let’s say, for instance, Ben surprises the football universe and retires.
Ditto for Drew Brees, whose retirement is becoming more likely. Now, the Steelers are stuck with pitting Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins in a quarterback competition. Perhaps a rookie drafted in the second or third round will join them.
The Saints have Taysom Hill. But let’s assume they re-sign Jameis Winston and draft someone in the second round.
The Steelers have a weak line and running game, and it’s a solid wager that they won’t fix all their issues in a single offseason. Few teams can.
The Saints have won without Drew Brees, posting an 8-1 record without him in 2019 and 2020. However, Hill doesn’t have full-time starting experience. Winston flamed out in Tampa. And the new man in town is a rook.
Not that the Steelers and Saints wouldn’t be safe futures bets, but it’s easy to see why it’s wise to study their quarterback depth chart.
But it also shows why it’s important to study their positional depth chart. Let’s say the Saints start Hill.
A mediocre passer, but he’s a solid runner. The Saints have a great running game with Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray, among others. The Saints could end up doing what the Ravens did, and tailor the system to fit Hill’s strengths.
But look at the Steelers. No running game and a mediocre line. Can Haskins and Rudolph perform like Ben? Uh, no. At least not with their current sample sizes of starting in the NFL.
The Saints go with Hill and perhaps add a backup quarterback to fit his strengths while letting Winston walk. As for the Steelers, you’re probably looking at the two quarterbacks flip-flopping back and forth between starting roles.
And that can lead to a disastrous season. In this scenario, it’s important to study the Steelers’ depth chart and realize that, along with the system and positional depth chart, lack of good quarterback play will sink this team.
As for the Saints, Hill replacing Brees isn’t the end.
In fact, it could be a new beginning in New Orleans given the team’s positional depth chart and potential system change. Here, the Saints would be a better futures bet.
But keep in mind, the above are just examples of what could happen and in no way, shape, or form reflect on what will happen.
Study the Team’s Current Incumbent Quarterback
We’re talking about the team’s incumbent quarterback replacing the star.
Go back to the Colts. Let’s look at Jacoby Brissett.
He has an enormous arm. One of the biggest in the game. But he’s afraid to take too many risks, downfield. Brissett likes to go with the quick game and check it down as opposed to throwing deep and taking a risk.
He takes care of the ball and makes minimal errors in terms of turnovers.
He’s a game manager. That’s the label you would put on him.
What about Taysom Hill, who would be a candidate to replace Brees if the latter hangs it up.? Hill’s a run-first quarterback. But like Brissett, he has the traits of a game manager. The only difference is that Hill would excel in a run-first option system. Similar to what Lamar Jackson does in Baltimore.
Plus, Hill’s passing mechanics rival that of Jackson’s. They’re not good. But because of his running, lanes can open. So, Hill’s a run-first quarterback.
Study the characteristics of every new quarterback replacing a star and ask yourself if their traits reflect that of the team’s system and positional depth chart. Then, look at the quarterback depth chart.
And that doesn’t count the “competition” when a head coach claims every position is up for grabs. But by studying what makes the quarterback click, it will go a long way in deciphering whether it’s worth placing a futures bet on a team whose quarterback will replace a star.
It’s always a muddled mess when a new quarterback replaces a star, especially if that quarterback has remained in the limelight for a while. But by looking at the team’s system, you can see right away if the new quarterback will succeed.
Once you assess all the above, you will discover whether it’s a wise futures betting strategy to wager on an NFL team losing their star quarterbacks.