In the NFL – where hope for a semi-normal training camp/preseason and a full regular season still endures – quarterback competitions are an annual rite of summer.
This year shapes up no differently, despite a unique offseason with a complete absence of on-field Organized Team Activities. With legalized sports betting more prevalent than ever, there are opportunities to monetize predictions about the position every team’s fans have the strongest opinions about.
DraftKings Sportsbook’s starting QB markets are open for business. As customary, a handful of the league’s 32 teams have what could be considered a viable job battle under center. The Bears are arguably at the forefront.
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Trubisky-Foles battle serves as main event
Favorite: Nick Foles -250
Top Underdog: Mitchell Trubisky +170
Extreme longshot: Taylor Bray +6000
It’s crunch time for Mitchell Trubisky in the Windy City. His status as a 2017 second overall pick wasn’t enough to offset his pedestrian play in 2019 – Chicago brass opted to acquire Nick Foles via trade from the Jaguars this spring, leaving Trubisky in a sink-or-swim scenario.
Prior to last season, Trubisky’s trajectory appeared favorable following a 2018 campaign during which he completed an impressive 66.6 percent of his passes and threw twice as many touchdowns (24) as interceptions (12). However, he lost much of that momentum in 2019. An unsightly 23.4 percent of his 516 attempts were considered bad passes. He also tossed seven interceptions during a five-game late-season stretch.
Head coach Matt Nagy has made no secret of the fact Foles will be given every opportunity to make his case for the top job. Oddsmakers seem to clearly like the former Super Bowl winner’s chances for the time being.
But, given Foles’ struggles anytime he’s suited up outside Philadelphia, a bet on Trubisky at plus-money seemingly offers strong value. The fact the incumbent also has two years of experience in Nagy’s offense only furthers this notion.
Two high-profile rookies in play for top jobs as well
Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert were deemed worthy of the fifth and sixth overall picks, respectively, this spring. In the past, conventional wisdom has often dictated that kind of investment is a powerful impetus for serious playing time very early into a quarterback’s rookie season.
Does this year’s unique circumstances alter that equation to an extent? A quick glance at the betting markets for both the Dolphins’ and Chargers’ starting QB battles:
Favorite: Ryan Fitzpatrick (-278)
Top Underdog: Tua Tagovailoa (+235)
Extreme longshot: Josh Rosen (+2500)
Analysis: The anticipation surrounding the dynamic Tagovailoa is rightfully through the roof. Nevertheless, Fitzpatrick is the favorite to open the season under center for a couple of important reasons.
The first is his body of work in the second half of last season. The Harvard product posted a 15:6 TD:INT and helped lead the Dolphins to a 5-4 mark in that span. The second is the rather surprising hiring of Chan Gailey as offensive coordinator for a second tour of duty in Miami after 19 years elsewhere.
Fitz was Gailey’s quarterback for five of the seasons between the coach’s Dolphins stints. Two of those featured the veteran signal-caller’s top single-season passing yardage totals – 3,915 with the Jets back in 2015 and 3,832 with the Bills in 2012. In all, Fitzpatrick has logged between 23 and 31 scoring tosses in four of his campaigns under Gailey’s tutelage.
Favorite: Tyrod Taylor -335
Top Underdog: Justin Herbert +300
Extreme longshot: Cam Newton +2500
Analysis: Taylor hasn’t been a regular starter since Week 2 of the 2018 season. However, he threw 51 touchdowns against just 16 interceptions over 44 games (42 starts) in Buffalo between the 2015 and 2017 campaigns. He also has a jump on Herbert in learning Shane Steichen’s offensive scheme after the latter took over as interim coordinator for the final two months of last season.
Herbert’s physical tools are above question; his readiness to be thrust into the fire from Day 1 isn’t anywhere near as certain. It’s far from inconceivable the Oregon alum makes enough noise during camp and preseason to vault into the top job ahead of Week 1. Yet an offseason with considerably less on-field work than usual and Taylor’s experience understandably tilts things slightly in the veteran’s favor.
Newton’s name naturally carries intrigue. But, given his likely asking price and reported desire to hold out for a starting opportunity, it would likely take injuries to both Taylor and Herbert for this longshot wager to cash.