NFL Betting: Can Tua Tagovailoa Beat Out Ryan Fitzpatrick as Miami's Week 1 Starter?
Miami has journeyman veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick on the roster, a quarterback who led the Dolphins to some truly unexpected victories last season with a depleted roster. The Dolphins then drafted Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa -- the passer who might have been the most gifted in the draft class -- in the first round.
Complicating matters is the fact Tagovailoa is only seven months removed from a hip fracture and is still rehabbing to be ready whenever training camp begins this offseason.
FanDuel Sportsbook is offering a wager on who will be the Dolphins' starting quarterback in Week 1 against the Patriots, and Fitzpatrick is the overwhelming favorite with -550 odds. Tagovailoa stands at +370, and you could even bet on Josh Rosen at +2500 if you'd like.
Let's examine the two front runners in order to figure out where to bet your money.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (-550)
Fitzpatrick is a gunslinger who will throw a lot of bad interceptions but will counter those with plenty of amazing plays that most quarterbacks wouldn't even attempt.
The Harvard graduate was the fourth-most aggressive quarterback in the league last year, which is defined as throwing into an area where there is a defender within a yard or less of the receiver at the time of completion or incompletion. 20.9 percent of his passes fit said criteria.
Last season might have been some of Fitzpatrick's finest work, too. He helped lead the Dolphins to five wins, including the season finale in New England.
Fitzpatrick had the same Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back in 2019 as Tom Brady, though it was still below league average. Additionally, of his eight campaigns with at least 300 drop backs, Fitzpatrick had his second-highest Passing Success Rate (i.e., the percentage of drop backs that lead to positive NEP for a team’s offense).
The Dolphins went 5-4 in their last 9 games of the 2019 season, with Fitzmagic completing 62.8 percent of his passes for nearly 300 yards per game, 15 touchdowns, and just 6 interceptions.
The comfort level Fitzpatrick has within the offense should give Miami confidence to let Tagovailoa sit and learn the system while being mentored by a 15-year NFL veteran.
Fitzpatrick is the ideal guy to help bridge the gap until Tagovailoa is ready. He's been open about being as supportive as he can if Miami decides to move toward the future at some point this season.
Fitzpatrick probably can't lead Miami to the postseason this year, but the Dolphins likely won't be competing for the top pick either with him at the helm.
Tua Tagovailoa (+370)
It's been a little while since a quarterback entered his final college season with as much NFL buzz as Tagovailoa did last season at Alabama. And through all that hype and pressure, Tagovailoa once again lived up to the lofty expectations that had been set for him.
The main reason Tua wasn't the first overall pick in April was likely the devastating hip injury he suffered in November in a win over Mississippi State. The fracture ended his season and started him on a long road to recovery -- a recovery many teams could not evaluate themselves due to the pandemic.
The workout videos that were posted showed a quarterback that looked healthy, though Tua being able to do things in shorts and a t-shirt in the gym doesn't necessarily mean it'll translate onto the field.
In any other circumstance, though, Tagovailoa would be the clear choice to be Miami's Week 1 starter.
The 22-year-old completed 71.4 percent of his passes in 9 games last season while tossing 33 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions.
In his one full season as a starter two years ago, Tua had a 69.0-percent completion percentage, threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 43 touchdowns, and was intercepted just 6 times. Being in the SEC, he accomplished all of that against some of the country's best competition. And he did so on a team that played for a National Championship.
Yet the injury looms large for Tagovailoa and the Dolphins. It behooves Miami to take things slow with the youngster and make sure he's ready for his NFL debut, as there's very little to gain by throwing him into the fire.
In an ideal world where the Dolphins wouldn't need to allow Tagovailoa time to heal from an injury, they'd be in a position to immediately insert the rookie quarterback after his stellar career at Alabama -- especially with the division so wide open this year.
However, it's nearly impossible to pick against Fitzpatrick being the starter for the Dolphins in Week 1, because, at the very least, Miami knows what it has in the veteran quarterback.
How long Fitzpatrick remains the starter is a valid question to ask, but in terms of this bet, the best option is to take Ryan Fitzpatrick to be the opening day starter, even at -550 odds.