Each SDS roundtable discussion involves the SDS staff providing individual answers and comments to questions covering a wide range of sports and non-sports topics. In this discussion, we ask the question: In the case of Joe Burrow vs. Tua Tagovailoa, who has the better rookie season, and does either have a chance at breaking Baker Mayfield’s rookie record of 27 TD passes?

A bit of background …

Baker Mayfield broke Peyton Manning’s NFL rookie record when he threw 27 TD passes in 2018. Just 3 rookies in NFL history have thrown 25 TD passes. Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa were 2 of the most prolific QBs in SEC history. Who will have the better rookie season, and will either have a shot at Mayfield’s rookie record?

Jon Cooper, SDS co-founder

Between Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa, Burrow has the better chance to throw the most touchdowns. This will be a different year in 2020 with the impact of the coronavirus, as teams will have less time to practice overall, and Burrow has had a head start in learning the playbook because he knew he was going No. 1 overall. Neither Burrow nor Tagovailoa will start immediately; however, Burrow has the better chance to throw the most touchdowns, but he won’t get to Baker Mayfield’s record of 27. I expect the Dolphins to take it slow with Tagovailoa coming off his hip injury and not throw him into the fire, so to speak.

Connor O’Gara, Senior national columnist

Burrow is the obvious choice because I don’t think the Dolphins are in any hurry to play Tagovailoa. As positive as his medicals have been, he’s still working his way back from a hip dislocation and multiple ankle surgeries. They aren’t trying to compete for a playoff spot in 2020, and even if they were, they don’t have the weapons that Cincinnati does.

Burrow will get to throw passes to A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd, both of whom are top-20 receivers (when healthy), and he’ll get to hand the ball off to Joe Mixon. It’ll only be a matter of time before Burrow, who will turn 24 by the end of the season, will be given the opportunity to start. The Bengals could easily decide to give him the Peyton Manning treatment and just roll with him from the jump. Nobody would be surprised if they let him get all the reps as a rookie and allow him to work through those issues.

I’ll say that Burrow hits exactly 25 touchdown passes and that he flashes some of the brilliance that we saw at LSU. With Tagovailoa’s starts limited in Year 1, Burrow cruises to the rookie lead for touchdown passes.

Michael Bratton, News editor

I don’t have a ton of faith that any of these rookies quarterbacks are going to have a great debut in the NFL next season. Much of that has to do with the fact that it doesn’t appear NFL teams will be getting much of a training camp and that belief is compounded by the situation these quarterbacks are walking into with their respective franchises.

For all the hate Andy Dalton gets, he’s not a bad player. Joe Burrow and Dalton, if he stays with the Bengals this offseason, will likely battle it out and I’m not convinced Burrow wins the job without more reps with his new teammates before the season starts.

We are all well aware of the fact Tua Tagovailoa is coming off a serious injury and the Dolphins have a solid option in Ryan Fitzpatrick. It seems very unlikely the Dolphins would force Tua on the field immediately given those realities.

Jordan Love probably won’t see the field for at least 2 seasons (great pick there, Packers!).

No rookie quarterback is going to touch the rookie record for touchdown passes this season, but Burrow has to be the favorite to throw the most among the rookie signal-callers. One wild-card I’d throw out there is Jacob Eason. If Philip Rivers gets hurt, I could see Eason having a decent season, the Colts have talent all around the quarterback position.

Adam Spencer, Newsletter editor

I’m going with Joe Burrow on this one. I find myself agreeing more and more with ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. when it comes to Tua. He said on NFL Live on Monday that he doesn’t think Tua should play a single snap for the Dolphins this fall. Based on Tua’s hip injury and this weird offseason as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, letting the No. 5 overall pick rehab this fall doesn’t seem like the worst idea.

The Dolphins are rebuilding, and Tua is the future of the franchise. For 2020, though, they have the very capable Ryan Fitzpatrick to start and Josh Rosen to back him up.

For Burrow, the Bengals still have Andy Dalton, but they should hand the keys to the franchise to Burrow as soon as possible. A.J. Green isn’t getting any younger, and Cincinnati has last year’s first-round pick, Jonah Williams, returning from an injury to help shore up the offensive line. Give me Burrow to throw 22 touchdown passes this year.

Chris Wright, Executive editor

I also like Burrow in this battle. Not only is he healthy and throwing to better weapons, he’ll face some of the weakest secondaries in the NFL.

Division rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh are noted exceptions, and he’ll have 4 games against them. Those aren’t stat-builders, but those matchups are mitigated by the rest of the schedule.

Cincinnati faces 4 teams that ranked in bottom 7 in terms of passing TDs allowed in 2019. All 4 allowed at least 30 TD passes.

That includes a date against Tua and the Dolphins, who gave up a league-worst 39 TD passes in 2019 and weren’t much better in 2018, when they allowed 31.

Assuming he’s healthy — far from a guarantee — and isn’t on a pitch count, Tua will face division rivals New England and Buffalo a combined 4 times, and those defenses were statistically superior to the Ravens and Steelers last season. In addition, the Dolphins play the Seahawks, Broncos, Chargers and Chiefs, all of which ranked in the top 10 in fewest TD passes allowed.

If Tagovailoa finishes with 15 TD passes, that will be outstanding.

I think Burrow tops 20 but falls short of Mayfield’s record of 27.

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