It is rare for a rookie quarterback to start Week 1 in the NFL. If they do it is likely because they are top picks, hopeful future franchise quarterbacks. Since 2003, only 19 signal-callers have started Week 1 as a rookie and all but one were drafted in the first three rounds.
This season we will see at least two first time starters and both were selected in the fourth round or later. Dak Prescott will take the controls of the Dallas offense after quarterback Tony Romo suffered a broken bone in his back during the preseason (don’t worry Cowboys fans, you are still the favorites to win the NFC East). Joining Prescott is Trevor Siemian who the Broncos announced as the starter on Monday. Denver took Siemian with a seventh round pick in 2015; he has never attempted a pass in the regular season.
According to SportsInsights, the majority of the money-line and spread bets are on the Cowboys and Broncos’ opponents in the season openers. This doesn’t come as a surprise. The public is unlikely to back two unheralded quarterbacks in their first professional start. However, that is a mistake.
Using the Bet Labs database, we found that rookie starters in Week 1 were on average underdogs of 5.8 points. The public often backed the opposing team as the lines moved by an average of 1.3 points against the teams starting a rookie. Going against this line movement has proven profitable, as first time starters are 11-8 against-the-spread (57.9%). This win rate is better than we would expect. On average, teams that are underdogs of 5 or more points only cover the spread 51.7% (786-734) of the time.
In fact the teams starting rookie quarterbacks went 7-12 straight-up (36.8%). This win rate also exceeds expectations. Again, teams favored by five or points have a straight-up win rate of just 24.0% (369-1169).
You might not have expected Prescott and Siemian to be Week 1 starters, but that doesn’t mean they won’t cover the spread. Rookie quarterbacks are underrated.
Rookie Starters in Week 1 (click here to see a full list of starters since 1970)
|2015||Marcus Mariota||Tennessee Titans||Yes||Yes|
|2015||Jameis Winston||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||No||No|
|2014||Derek Carr||Oakland Raiders||No||Yes|
|2013||Geno Smith||New York Jets||Yes||Yes|
|2013||EJ Manuel||Buffalo Bills||No||Yes|
|2012||Russell Wilson||Seattle Seahawks||No||No|
|2012||Brandon Weeden||Cleveland Browns||No||Yes|
|2012||Ryan Tannehill||Miami Dolphins||No||No|
|2012||Robert Griffin||Washington Redskins||Yes||Yes|
|2012||Andrew Luck||Indianapolis Colts||No||No|
|2011||Andy Dalton||Cincinnati Bengals||Yes||Yes|
|2011||Cam Newton||Carolina Panthers||No||No|
|2010||Sam Bradford||St. Louis Rams||No||No|
|2009||Mark Sanchez||New York Jets||Yes||Yes|
|2009||Matthew Stafford||Detroit Lions||No||No|
|2008||Joe Flacco||Baltimore Ravens||Yes||Yes|
|2008||Matt Ryan||Atlanta Falcons||Yes||Yes|
|2005||Kyle Orton||Chicago Bears||No||Yes|
|2003||Kyle Boller||Baltimore Ravens||No||No|