The quarterback is the most important position in football, which also means that the starting QB has the biggest effect on how bookmakers adjust their lines for games.
In this article, we’ll take a look at how Vegas valued NFL quarterbacks last season against the spread, and which QBs were the top ATS performers in 2019. We’ll also discuss how this information can be utilized in investment decisions.
How did bookmakers value QBs last season?
When ESPN ran a piece on the value of quarterbacks against the spread in November 2019, this was the list of the top 10 QB’s as valued by Westgate and Caesars in Vegas:
Patrick Mahomes II
The numbers here are the amount of points against the spread that Vegas thought the quarterbacks were worth over their backups.
But is there a relation between this valuation and how starting quarterbacks ended up performing against the spread in 2019?
The best NFL QB’s against the spread in 2019
Let’s look at the top 10 teams and their quarterbacks against the spread last season:
Vegas QB rank
Patrick Mahomes II
What stands out here?
To begin with, the fact that the bookmakers had Jimmy Garoppolo on the 25th spot on the list of quarterbacks’ value to their teams’ spread seems outrageous in hindsight after a 13-3 season that ended up in a Super Bowl appearance.
In general, we can also see that only four of the top 10 Vegas ranked quarterbacks are on this list. This is something that could be expected. If Vegas was right about the value of a QB to their team, or overvalued them, it makes sense that their teams didn’t end up covering the spread much more than 50% of the time.
Vice versa, it’s not that surprising that the lesser ranked quarterbacks are appearing on this list, as some of their effect on the spread had probably been undervalued by Vegas, which in turn led them to cover the spread more often than not.
Making sense of the data
So, what do we make of this information? Should we start banging the books hard this year whenever Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff and Drew Brees are on the field?
Probably not. We should first look back at their overall historical performance, and then evaluate whether or not the teams around them will allow them to perform in similar fashion next season. And take into account that the bookmakers will adjust. And assess whether or not they will be better players during the upcoming season. And look at how top QB’s against the spread have fared historically the next season. And… well, the list goes on.
Earlier this year, we wrote an article on Tom Brady’s performance against the spread throughout his career. Here’s what we wrote about performing against the spread in general:
“Before we look at the ATS data from Tom Brady’s career, let’s establish that sportsbooks are usually extremely good at evening things out over long stretches of time with popular teams and players. That means that when sports traders look at raw ATS team winning percentages from a sample size that covers multiple seasons, the numbers are most often very close to 50%.”
And here’s what we concluded on Brady’s performance against the spread:
”Overall, the Pats have been by far the best team against the spread in the NFL during that period of time (since 2003) with a cover rate of 59.3% (the Indianapolis Colts are second at 55.8%). This is probably one more testament to Brady’s greatness – the bookmakers haven’t been able to find an appropriate line for him and his team during the 17-year span that we’re covering here!”
So, investing blindly in certain star players usually doesn’t make a lot of long-term financial sense, unless the player in question is Tom Brady. Do you think there’s a “next Brady” in that top 10 ATS performance group from last season?
The point here is this: recent trends can deceivingly look like great investment opportunities, but finding investment systems that bring in profits year after year takes more work than looking at a single performance stat.
To learn how to build more elaborate investment hypotheses and to come up with winning sports trading systems, don’t forget to check out John Todora’s new book – “Zero Correlation Investing – The Score Metrics Secret”. It’s currently on sale for a limited time, so go get your copy now!
The ScoreMetrics Lab is the engine that runs the Sports Trading System operation, consisting of a team of researchers and writers who are constantly testing and retesting algorithms. They work hand in hand with our Head Trader and Creator of ScoreMetrics, John Todora to help find new breakthroughs and develop new systems.