NFL draft odds: Will Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert be QB2? Massive shift in odds provides a hint

Frank Schwab
·4 min read

For a long time, it was a given that Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa would be the No. 1 pick of the 2020 NFL draft.

Then, after LSU quarterback Joe Burrow took off and Tagovailoa was dealing with a hip injury, it seemed to be a lock that Tagovailoa would be the second quarterback selected.

Bettors aren’t buying it.

There has been a massive change in the odds for the second quarterback taken at BetMGM in New Jersey. And it doesn’t favor Tagovailoa.

Bettors have a clear opinion on the second QB picked

Herbert is the safer pick. He’s got prototypical size, good athleticism and a great arm. Tagovailoa’s longer injury history, specifically his hip, will frighten some teams.

Tagovailoa was once minus-500 to be the second quarterback taken, meaning you’d have to wager $500 to win $100. The second quarterback drafted has been one of the most popular draft props this year, and heavy action on Herbert has changed the odds and pushed him into a tie with Tagovailoa. Both players are listed at -121.

To move from -500 to -121 on a prop bet is rather stunning. It reflects that the betting market is all-in on Herbert being the second quarterback off the board, after Burrow. While the quarterback position and the NFL’s thinking on it are changing, it’s still a risk-averse league. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the NFL is scared off by a relatively undersized Tagovailoa, considering his injury concerns in a strange offseason without as many medical checks as teams would like. Especially when compared to Herbert, who might not have a huge ceiling but has the size and arm strength teams have coveted for decades.

When teams take busts at quarterback in the top five, front office men lose jobs. Herbert is safer, and bettors seems to understand how the NFL thinks.

Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert will be selected early in the NFL draft. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert will be selected early in the NFL draft. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa?

Yahoo Sports NFL draft expert Eric Edholm has offered his insight on our draft props, and he thinks the order of Tagovailoa and Herbert (read Edholm’s breakdown of Herbert here) depends on which team makes a move up:

“If I could be assured that the draft order would not change in the top six picks, I think I'd say Herbert goes before Tagovailoa. There's an interesting dynamic going on here: The Dolphins are loaded with draft-pick ammo, and yet they seem quietly resigned to not be hyper-aggressive and move up to get their guy at QB. It's a massive need, and everyone knows it. But they're really slow-playing this thing, to the point where Detroit has hung another "For Sale" sign on the third pick.

“But the Chargers, who pick one spot behind Miami at No. 6, might only like one of the two. If forced to guess (the Chargers are always military-grade secretive this time of year), I'd say it's Tagovailoa. But how do they know Miami won't take him first? They don't, so if they truly feel they must come out of this draft with a QB, then their desire to move up would feel stronger than the Dolphins' need is. That's what makes this so tough to project.

“So if the picks stay the same at 5 and 6, I'll say it's 70-30 that Herbert goes first. But if the Chargers press the issue and move up, I think they'd be making it an 80-20 Tua likelihood first.”

Edholm’s analysis leads us to another prop: Which team will draft each quarterback?

The Cincinnati Bengals have a need at quarterback, and they’re almost definitely picking Burrow. That leaves two teams with a pressing need at quarterback: the Dolphins and Chargers. Teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots could be looking at quarterbacks too, but it would likely cost too much to move up to take Tagovailoa or Herbert.

Here are the odds at BetMGM (the Jacksonville Jaguars are +900 for Herbert, any other team for either player is at least 12-to-1):

Which team will draft Tua Tagovailoa?
Dolphins -106; Chargers +190

Which team will draft Justin Herbert?
Dolphins +120; Chargers +180

It seems hard to believe the Dolphins and Chargers don’t end up with those two quarterbacks. The Chargers’ reported plan to roll with Tyrod Taylor doesn’t pass the smell test. If I had to guess, the Dolphins will get aggressive and take Herbert, leaving the Chargers to grab Tagovailoa, an exciting young quarterback as they move into a new stadium in Los Angeles. But with those odds on the Chargers, it sure seems one will pay off.

Either way, there’s a lot more curiosity on the second quarterback off the board than there has been in a long time.

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