An in-depth Analysis of the NFL’s Two Newest Stars – Tua Tagovailoa & Joe Burrow

An in-depth Analysis of the NFL’s Two Newest Stars – Tua Tagovailoa & Joe Burrow

Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa are two of the most talented and talked about quarterbacks to enter the NFL in years.

Across the course of 2019, there was ongoing debate between football fans surrounding whom, out of the two, would be first off of the draft board.

Ultimately, it was the prior that won that battle but does it mean that he is now guaranteed to have the more successful NFL career? Absolutely not.

UKPigskin have taken an in-depth look at the two and tried to decipher just who we’d rather have leading our franchise for the foreseeable.

Much hype built up around Joe Burrow during his senior year with Louisiana State University, a campaign which saw the Tigers win the CFP National Championship.

Burrow’s last season of college football propelled him to the national spotlight as he claimed both the Championship match MVP and the Heisman Trophy.

And it’s not like he was short of competition, as he beat out an impressive field which included number two draft pick, Chase Young and fellow talented quarterbacks, Jalen Hurts and Justin Fields.

But Tagovailoa’s comparative resume is far from limited or something to smirk at; he was a national champion in 2018 with Alabama and second in the 2018 Heisman voting, behind another number one pick in Kyler Murray. 

Had Tagovailoa not gone down with his season-ending injury, he might also have challenged Burrow for the Heisman this year, a list he still came tenth in despite only playing eight and a bit games.

Both the Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins will be hoping their new recruits become the figurehead of their franchises, which have suffered recently. The last time the Bengals won the AFC was 1988 and the Dolphins 1984, respectively.

Both sides are looking to build for the future and part of what makes the respective career prospects of Burrow and Tagovailoa so intriguing is the consistency of the two.

While Burrow’s senior year birthed a star, Tagovailoa’s form over his time at college shows he’s more than capable of performing at an elite level year after year.

As a freshman, he played in eight games and passed for 49/77 for a total of 636 yards, 11 touchdowns, and two interceptions.

In 2018, his only full season, he hit 245/355 for 3966 yards, 43 touchdowns and six interceptions in what was his best year for the Crimson Tide.

2019 curtailed for Tagovailoa due to injury but the statistics show that a complete campaign would more than likely have surpassed the incredible numbers from the one previous.

Over the course of eight and a bit games, Tua saw 180/252, 33 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

Impressive, right?

And then we have Joe Burrow, whose name you simply cannot say without mentioning incredible numbers.

The former LSU man’s 2019 comfortably surpasses Tagovailoa’s 2018, a feat that nobody could have predicted only 12 months ago.

Burrow boasted stats of 5,671 passing yards, 10.8 yards per pass, 60 (Sixty) touchdowns and only six interceptions. A passer rating of 202.

It is, however, worth noting Tagovailoa’s rating for the same season was 206.9.

If you’re into the combine and all that goes with that when it comes to comparing a player, then you’d be disappointed, as neither attended, but it certainly hasn’t taken the hype factor away from either of the pair.

The disparate nature of their consistencies could just be a case of Burrow taking his time to mature into the right sort of quarterback. Then again, Tagovailoa is still over a year younger than his counterpart and already seems to have a more level, experienced head. 

What the Hawaiian does have to deal with, though, is that serious hip injury that everyone involved with the Dolphins will severely hope is well behind him.

For a dual-threat quarterback of his style, with a durable pocket presence and footwork to match, evasiveness will be much needed given his size, slightly below that of Burrow’s.

And then you have Burrow, who has the invaluable but unteachable asset that is intelligence. His ability to read defensive coverage and throw an accurate pass is second to none. Once he has a downfield target in mind, he hits them.

Burrow’s athleticism isn’t his strongest trait but he’s more than capable of rushing where needed and that shows as he raked up over 700 yards on the ground in his two years with LSU, over double of what Tua boasted.

The quarterback, though, can never do it alone. They need receivers and targets making themselves available.

Tom Brady had Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. Joe Montana had Jerry Rice. Phillip Rivers had Antonio Gates. You get the picture.

To have a prolific season, a quarterback needs functioning components surrounding him. 

The Bengals’ roster, although scattered with new rookie talent, is only really decorated by the veteran presence of AJ Green.

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Green, the 2011 number four pick and seven time pro-bowler has a rating of 92 (via – for context, DeAndre Hopkins, undoubtedly one of the best receivers around, has a rating of 96. 

Miami, meanwhile, will hope that Tagovailoa will be able to get the best out of DeVante Parker, who totalled 1,202 receiving yards last season, and tight end Mike Gesicki, who managed five touchdowns.

Following the release of Andy Dalton, who was signed by the Dallas Cowboys, it’s safe to assume that Joe Burrow has the starting spot.

It’s a lot for the Bengals to change tact, given Dalton is the only franchise quarterback to lead the side to five consecutive playoff matches. Burrow has big footsteps to follow in. 

It’s a little more complex in Miami, where 15-year NFL veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick is still likely to be the starter next season.

There’s no need for Tagovailoa to be rushed into the starting birth, so it will come as no surprise when he features but likely doesn’t start until the Dolphins’ form is set. 

Josh Rosen also sits on Miami’s roster, but the former first-round pick had an unimpressive 2019 when given a starting chance.

Losses against Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Chargers were bleak, and a third-quarter relief by Fitzpatrick in a 17-16 loss to the Washington Redskins would be his penultimate game.

He served as Fitzpatrick’s backup until the season was complete. 

Burrow will have the better rookie season, but that could be attributed to the fact he’s just more likely to get playing time than his fellow rookies.

It may take some time to see the full force of Tagovailoa in the NFL unless he manages to usurp Fitzpatrick as Daniel Jones did with Eli Manning in 2019. 

One thing is for certain, no matter who your preference, come gameweek 13 when the Bengals and Dolphins go head-to-head, the entire footballing world will be tuning in hoping for a repeat of the epic Alabama / Louisiana match-up we saw between the two in 2019.

Tua Tagovailoa v Joe Burrow. The hype is real.

Billy Brake

NCTJ-accredited freelance sports journalist, overly interested in any sport and classic rock. Particularly American football, football, and rugby. Frustrated Manchester United and New York Giants fan.