The Dolphins drafted Jaylen Waddle on Thursday, and previously signed Will Fuller, so they’ve added some explosive weapons to their receiving room. But do they have the right quarterback to bring those guys to life?
Tua Tagovailoa was underwhelming as a rookie, passing for fewer than 170 yards in five of his nine starts. For the bulk of the season, he looked like a guy who was just trying to avoid mistakes by getting the ball out of his hands. He ranked next-to-last in yards per completion, and he was the only regular starter who didn’t have a 40-yard completion all year.
He’s not a special athlete. Arm strength looks below-average (in comparison with other starters), and he doesn’t have great mobility.
Tagovailoa came on some late in the year, passing for more than 300 yards against Kansas City and Buffalo, but at this point, you can’t say with any confidence that the Dolphins have found their long-range quarterback. They might be back in the quarterback market next spring.
The historical numbers suggest it’s unlikely that Tua is the sneaky surprise quarterback of 2021. In the last 20 years, 12 other first- or second-round quarterbacks have started at least half the season and finished with bottom-5 numbers (per start numbers). Only two of those guys were able to rank higher than 20th in their second year. Furthermore, one of those (Mitchell Trubisky) was helped along by unlikely rushing production that’s way out of Tagovailoa’s capabilities.
I’m still firming up projections, but for quarterbacks, I would think Tua will be slotted outside the top 20. In a 12-team league, he would be either a lesser No. 2 quarterback or a flyer-type option for a team that’s carrying three quarterbacks.
In the chart below, the final column shows where the quarterback ranked in per-game production, when compared to other quarterbacks starting at least half the season in that particular year. Jimmy Clauson and Josh Rosen didn’t start enough games, so no number is listed.
|BOTTOM-5 PER GAME NUMBERS AS A ROOKIE (the next year)|
|2003||Joey Harrington, Det.||16||180||1.06||1.38||5||.00||14.0||27|
|2003||David Carr, Hou.||11||181||.82||1.09||11||.18||14.5||26|
|2004||Kyle Boller, Balt.||16||160||.81||.69||12||.06||12.9||31|
|2006||J.P. Losman, Buff.||16||191||1.19||.88||9||.06||15.5||21|
|2010||Mark Sanchez, NYJ||16||206||1.06||.81||7||.19||16.4||23|
|2011||Jimmy Clauson, Car.||0||0||.00||.00||0||.00||.0||--|
|2012||Blaine Gabbert, Jac.||10||166||.90||.60||6||.00||12.9||31|
|2013||Ryan Tannehill, Mia.||16||245||1.50||1.06||15||.06||20.1||20|
|2015||Derek Carr, Oak.||16||249||2.00||.81||9||.00||21.4||20|
|2017||• Carson Wentz, Phil.||13||254||2.54||.54||23||.00||25.7||2|
|2018||• Mitchell Trubisky, Chi.||14||230||1.71||.86||30||.21||23.2||10|
|2019||Josh Rosen, Mia.||3||155||.33||1.00||4||.00||9.5||--|
|2021||Tua Tagovailoa, Mia.||?||?||?||?||?||?||?||?|