NFL

NFL Betting: Is Tyrod Taylor a Lock to Start Week 1?

It certainly wasn't a surprise in April when the Los Angeles Chargers used their first-round pick to draft Justin Herbert as their potential franchise quarterback.

The Chargers were in need of a quarterback after agreeing to part ways with Philip Rivers, and it was likely one of the three highly-touted signal callers would be there at the sixth pick. But now the countdown clock begins as to when Herbert will earn his first start as the Chargers' quarterback of the future.

The FanDuel Sportsbook has prop bets on the Week 1 starting quarterback for four different teams, the Chargers being one of them. Herbert is the second choice for the sportsbook at +260, trailing veteran Tyrod Taylor, who is the overwhelming favorite at -370. There are also odds on Easton Stick at +3200, but the fifth-rounder from 2019 is probably a longer shot than that to be the opening game starter.

Is there any value in placing a wager on Herbert? Or is there little chance of him unseating Taylor entering Week 1?

Tyrod Taylor (-370)

Taylor spent three seasons as the Buffalo Bills' starting quarterback from 2015-2017, the first two years being played for Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, who was the offensive coordinator in Buffalo at the time under Rex Ryan. Those two seasons with Lynn were Taylor's best in the NFL -- even though he led the Bills to the playoffs in 2017 -- and the re-connection of the duo leaves a lot of hopes for Chargers fans.

In his two Buffalo seasons within Lynn's offense, Taylor completed 62.6 percent of his passes while throwing for more than 3,000 yards in both campaigns and combining for 37 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions.

Taylor's decision-making is spectacular, as he has thrown just 20 interceptions in 46 starts and 70 appearances over his nine-year career. He even led the NFL in 2017 by throwing interceptions on just one percent of his passes that season.

In terms of overall efficiency, Taylor fared best in 2015 when he posted 0.17 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back, which ranked 10th among quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs. He didn't achieve quite as high marks the following two seasons in Buffalo, but he was still no worse than a league average passer.

In addition to his arm talent, Taylor is also a rushing threat and used his legs many times to escape pressure in his three seasons in Buffalo. In his three years with the Bills, he ran 283 times for 1,575 yards and 14 touchdowns and was the team's second-leading rusher all three years. That escapability is especially helpful with an offensive line that is replacing its right half in 2020 and rated 20th last season in pass blocking win rate at 58 percent.

As the veteran in the Chargers' quarterback room, Taylor is the safe option in an unusual and unpredictable offseason. He certainly knows the offense, and he's proven he can execute at a high level in the system from his time in Buffalo.

Justin Herbert (+260)

Anytime a franchise drafts a quarterback in the first round, there is an expectation that the quarterback is going to be the team's future quarterback, especially if he's drafted in the upper half of the first round. So as soon as the Chargers selected Herbert in April, it's been a question about when he will take over as the starter, not if he will.

Herbert checked so many boxes last season for the Oregon Ducks. He completed roughly two-thirds of his passes, threw for more than 3,400 yards and tossed 32 touchdowns compared to just 6 interceptions. Physically, Herbert hits most prototypical benchmarks, as well, at 6-6 and 235 pounds, so he seems to have the physique to be a good quarterback in this league.

In reality, though, there is just so many unknowns this offseason to accurately predict how Herbert will adjust and transition to professional life. He hasn't had any official practice time due to the pandemic, so it's hard to judge how well he knows the playbook and other intangibles without seeing him on the field. He hasn't faced a NFL defense yet, nor had to break down coverages and blitzes while under center.

Fortunately, the Chargers need only to look within their own division to see a suitable plan for how to groom Herbert into being their starter. The Chiefs traded up to draft Patrick Mahomes then let him develop behind a veteran quarterback for a season before handing the keys over to the future MVP.

I'm not saying that Herbert is going to be an MVP in his first full year as the starter or lead the Chargers to a Super Bowl victory in his second, but the less pressure placed on a rookie quarterback in his first season, the better it could be in the long term.

The Pick

This situation seems very similar to the one Taylor found in Buffalo back in 2017. This is the last year of his contract, and it's clear that he's simply a bridge to a quarterback the front office believes to be the long-term answer. The difference is that Taylor has the chance to mentor and compete with his eventual successor this season, a chance he never received when the Bills traded him to Cleveland before drafting Josh Allen the next month.

It is not a coincidence that Taylor's best seasons as a starting quarterback came in Lynn's offense, and that experience should give the Chargers enough confidence to let Herbert mature before thrusting him onto the field. You aren't getting great odds on Tyrod Taylor at -370, but he's the clear choice to be the starting quarterback Week 1 when the Chargers travel to Cincinnati.