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Look for 4 quarterbacks to go in first round of NFL Draft

Updated April 25, 2017 - 7:10 pm

For only the second time in 17 years, a quarterback probably won’t be selected in the first three picks of the NFL Draft, which starts Thursday in Philadelphia.

In fact, with no apparent franchise quarterback in the 2017 class, a quarterback probably won’t hear his name called in the top 10. Despite that projection by countless mock drafts, handicapper Bernie Fratto and Sunset Station sports book director Chuck Esposito said there’s still a good chance at least four quarterbacks will be taken in the first round.

That would push the popular prop bet on the number of quarterbacks drafted in the first round over 3½ (plus-190).

“There’s really nobody in the draft class that projects as a starter in 2017. However, as many as seven players have at least been mentioned by someone as a first-rounder,” said Fratto (Berniefratto.com), a local ESPN Radio host. “Obviously, you’ve got (North Carolina’s Mitchell) Trubisky and (Clemson’s) Deshaun Watson, so you’re halfway home. If only two of the other five come in, you cash (190).”

Fratto, a former Detroit Lions radio host, is basing part of his play on the fact that six of the league’s top quarterbacks are age 35 or older: Tom Brady (39), Drew Brees (38), Carson Palmer (37), Eli Manning (36), Ben Roethlisberger (35) and Philip Rivers (35).

“Of those six teams, only New England has a succession plan in place with Jimmy Garoppolo, who could be traded on draft day,” Fratto said. “If you’re a general manager, you’ve got inventory that needs to be filled. Even if they don’t start, you’ve got to be grooming a replacement.

“Quarterback is the thinnest position in all of sports and the toughest job. It’s not even close.”

Pat Mahomes of Texas Tech has quickly climbed the charts and is widely projected to be a first-round pick. That would leave bettors needing one more quarterback to cash their ticket from a group featuring DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame), Davis Webb (California), Nathan Peterman (Pittsburgh) and Joshua Dobbs (Tennessee).

Besides the Browns, who have been searching for Bernie Kosar’s replacement for 25 years, other teams in the market for a quarterback include the Jets, Texans, Bills and Saints.

“All of a sudden, you’ve got six teams with aging quarterbacks, five teams that need a quarterback and at least seven quarterbacks that might go in the first round,” Fratto said. “I believe the planets will align and you’ll see four quarterbacks go in the first round.”

Esposito said the quarterback prop has generated the most action at Station Casinos, and he thinks the fifth-year option teams can exercise on a first-round pick might help push it over the total.

“You may have teams look to trade up late in the first round,” he said. “You can make a case either way. I’ve watched so many different mocks that my head’s almost spinning. But there’s a good chance it goes over because of the fifth-year option.”

Another prop we like is over 4½ (even) Alabama players drafted in the first round. Linebacker Reuben Foster’s stock has dropped because of off-field issues, but he isn’t likely to drop out of the first round. Other Crimson Tide players projected to go in the first round are defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, tight end O.J. Howard, tackle Cam Robinson and cornerback Marlon Humphrey.

The most popular prop at William Hill sports books and the South Point has been “Which rounds will the first place-kicker get drafted?” Bettors have pounded the final four rounds, which is a minus-430 favorite at South Point. Rounds 6 and 7 is a minus-180 favorite at the Westgate.

The Buccaneers picked kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round of the 2016 draft. It was the first time in 11 years that a kicker was selected in the first three rounds.

Sebastian Janikowski was the last kicker drafted in the first round, picked 17th overall by the Raiders in 2000.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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