Player Props: Best NFL Quarterback Touchdown Totals to Bet
The NFL draft is almost upon us, finally giving us some semblance of a live "sports" event -- even if it's technically just a bunch of guys sitting at their computers.
We still have another day to go, but in the meantime, you can bet all sorts of NFL player props on FanDuel Sportsbook. Previously, I've highlighted some of the best yardage props for quarterbacks, running backs, and pass-catchers.
Now, we can check out some touchdown props. I looked at running backs last week, so let's move along to quarterbacks, of which there are quite a few to choose from. You simply pick whether a specific player will go over or under the listed number for their regular season passing touchdowns. Teams must play a full 16-game schedule for bets to stand.
Using numberFire Editor-in-Chief JJ Zacharasian's player projections as a guide, let's see which props we should target.
Patrick Mahomes (35.5 touchdowns)
Of the 12 quarterbacks with touchdown props listed on FanDuel Sportsbook, it doesn't come as much of a surprise that Patrick Mahomes has the highest over/under, and it's actually a number he fell well short of last season with 26 passing touchdowns.
Of course, the year before that, Mahomes demolished opposing defenses for a league-high 50 scores, so there's little question that he's capable of hitting the over.
But is it worth a wager?
Despite the dip in scores, Mahomes remained incredibly efficient in 2019. Among quarterbacks with a minimum of 100 passes, Mahomes ranked third in numberFire's Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back and sixth in Passing Success Rate. Not surprisingly, that was a slight step back from his ranks the prior season (first and second), but he still remained among the league's best. Similarly, he went from first to third in adjusted yards per pass attempt -- again, hardly a cause for concern.
We can also point to a midseason knee injury as an excuse for Mahomes' lack of touchdowns. A dislocated knee cap caused him to miss two games and most of a third. That alone took away a good chunk of scoring potential. It's also possible this injury contributed to his inconsistent play down the stretch.
JJ's projections have Mahomes at 38.0 touchdowns, far and away, the highest total in his model. While 35.5 scores is a pretty lofty mark to reach -- only Lamar Jackson exceeded it in 2019 -- it's basically splitting the difference between Mahomes' last two seasons, and his continued elite efficiency in 2019 was encouraging. With a fully healthy campaign, Mahomes should contend for the league lead in passing scores, and it's not like he needs to match anything close to his 2018 performance to hit this over.
Pick: Over 35.5 touchdowns
Carson Wentz (27.5 touchdowns)
The Eagles' offense was absolutely decimated by injuries last season, with DeSean Jackson missing practically the entire year, and guys like Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor (now with the Raiders) also missing significant time.
And yet, Carson Wentz still tallied 27 touchdowns, tied for the league's fifth-best mark in 2019 and the second-most of his career. With this offense back at full strength and likely using an early draft pick on a wideout, it's safe to assume that Wentz should hit his over, right?
The question, though, is whether we can expect everyone to stay healthy. Jeffery has missed nine games over the last two seasons -- 11 if you include two games he failed to finish in 2019 -- and has appeared in all 16 regular season games just once in the last five years (his four missed games in 2016 were due to suspension). Jackson effectively played one full game last year (three appearances), and his career has been littered with injuries. He's played 16 games just twice in 12 seasons, and he isn't getting any younger, turning 34 in December. And while Zach Ertz has generally stayed healthy over his career, playing at least 14 games in every season, it's worth noting that he hits his 30s come November, too.
Then there's Wentz himself, who's constantly dealt with ailments throughout his career, including injuries dating back to college (wrist) and high school (back). Between a torn ACL in 2017 and a back injury in 2018, Wentz has missed eight regular season NFL games and five playoff games, notably sitting out the Eagles' entire Super Bowl LII championship run. And even in his two 16-game campaigns, Wentz missed three preseason games in 2016 (ribs), and last year, he was knocked out of his first playoff game with a head injury.
Although plenty of bad luck has played into Wentz's unfortunate injury history, most of his setbacks haven't been of the nicks and bruises variety, raising some serious health concerns.
JJ's model likely factors in some of the aforementioned uncertainties, projecting Wentz for 25.2 scores. Considering how many touchdowns Wentz was able to score with next to no weapons last year, if you believe the Eagles -- and especially Wentz -- can stay healthy, then taking the over is the way to go. However, I'm worried there are too many ways this can go wrong and am inclined to go in the other direction.
Pick: Under 27.5 touchdowns
Jimmy Garoppolo (25.5 touchdowns)
Jimmy Garoppolo finally got a chance to start a full season, tossing 27 scores and helping the 49ers to an appearance in this past Super Bowl. Garoppolo showed well in numberFire's metrics, too, ranking 8th in Passing NEP per drop back and 10th in Passing Success Rate.
However, between a strong defense that ranked second overall by numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics and a solid stable of running backs (Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, and Matt Breida), San Francisco was more than content to get out to lead and rely on the run game to win games. They ranked second in rushing play percentage, and alongside Baltimore, they were one of just two teams to run on over half their offensive plays.
This ultimately led to Garoppolo ranking just 19th in pass attempts despite playing all 16 games, averaging just 29.8 attempts per game. Among the dozen players who threw for at least 26 touchdowns last season, only Garoppolo, Lamar Jackson, and Kirk Cousins averaged fewer than 30 pass attempts.
Garoppolo also lost one of his weapons this offseason, with Emmanuel Sanders heading to the Saints in free agency. In Sanders' 10 regular season games with the 49ers, he was targeted 17.4% of the time and led the team in air yards share (30.1%). Garoppolo will still have his top two pass-catchers in George Kittle and Deebo Samuel, and many also expect San Francisco to take a wideout early in the draft, but the absence of Sanders could sting.
As for JJ's model, it projects Garoppolo for a modest 23.4 scores. Considering San Francisco made it all the way to the Super Bowl, there's little reason to think they'll dramatically adjust their play-calling and suddenly have Garoppolo slinging it Jameis Winston style. The under looks like the play here.
Pick: Under 25.5 touchdowns