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Should you draft Tua Tagovailoa or Dak Prescott in 2023: Fantasy Crossroads

NFL Fantasy



We shift our attention to the quarterback position as we continue our Fantasy Crossroads series. 


Tua Tagovailoa and Dak Prescott both missed time last year, and while Tua was outstanding when on the field, Dak didn’t exactly have his best season. Both quarterbacks are being drafted as low-end QB1 options in fantasy this season, but who should be your starting signal-caller?

Let’s take a look.

The Case for Tua Tagovailoa

Entering the 2022 campaign, it was expected that Tua Tagovailoa would take a massive step forward. Miami brought in a creative and innovative head coach to run the offense, while the team also traded for Tyreek Hill. And when healthy, Tagovailoa was fantastic. He ranked first in yards per attempt (8.9), third in air yards per pass attempt (9.3), first in deep completion percentage (49.1%), seventh in fantasy points per dropback (0.56) and ninth in fantasy points per game (18.4). Meanwhile, only Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen posted a better quarterback rating than Tua. He was stellar and also benefited from a tremendous offense in Miami.

Tua Tagovailoa QB Miami Dolphins

Hill and Jaylen Waddle are as good as it gets when it comes to wide receiver duos, but especially in Mike McDaniel’s motion-heavy offense. This past season, the Dolphins used pre-snap motion 67% of the time, easily the highest rate in the NFL. And they used motion in general 73% of the time, also the highest rate. Pre-snap motion is great because it can give your best players free releases off the line of scrimmage. For defenses, that is frustrating enough. But when you are trying to follow Hill and Waddle across the line of scrimmage, it’s a completely different challenge. 

You simply couldn’t play man defense against the Dolphins because of the confusion and speed they possess. And for the most part, teams didn’t even try that strategy. Miami faced man coverage just 20% of the time last year, the third-lowest rate in football. If you want to play man coverage, good luck keeping up. According to Sports Info Solutions, Hill ranked second among wideouts in targets (33) and routes run (34) out of pre-snap motion, helping him get so many easy, open looks, which is great for Tagovailoa. But it wasn’t as if Tua was just throwing quick passes over the middle and having Hill and Waddle do all of the work. According to FTN Data, Tagovailoa targeted go routes 9.3% of the time (11th) and post routes 10.7% of the time, easily the highest rate in the league. 

Finally, although McDaniel has a track record of leading run-first offenses, he changed his philosophy and was aggressive in his first season in Miami. The Dolphins finished eighth in the league in neutral-script pass rate (59.8%) and ninth in passing rate on early downs (55.9%). And the Dolphins didn’t take their foot off the gas when they were ahead. They led by eight-plus points for 153 plays last season and sported the league’s second-highest pass rate in those situations at 59.4%. Miami ultimately finished the year seventh in pass rate over expected, as they relied on their explosive passing attack for much of the season.

The Case against Tua Tagovailoa

It all comes down to health for Tagovailoa, who dealt with multiple concussions this past season. He missed four games in 2022 and left one game relatively early. If healthy, Tagovailoa should be able to post QB1 numbers, especially if he adds anything on the ground. Though given his history with concussions, it seems unlikely he’ll take off and run very often. 


The Case for Dak Prescott

Dak Prescott didn’t have his best season in 2022, as he led the NFL in interceptions (15) despite missing five games. However, Prescott was still QB11 in fantasy points per dropback (0.50) and QB13 in fantasy points per game (17.8). Prescott has been pretty good for years now, ranking first and second in red-zone completion percentage over the last two seasons, which has helped him post strong touchdown rates of 5.8 and 6.2%. 

Dallas has a new offense this season with Kellen Moore now in Los Angeles, and one that could feature more yards after the catch – making Prescott’s job easier. Moore’s system worked down the field and in. Head coach Mike McCarthy’s West Coast scheme has worked in opposite ways, prioritizing the intermediate passes to set up the deep shots. 

Dak Prescott QB Dallas Cowboys

During Moore’s four seasons in Dallas, the Cowboys ranked 25th, 23rd, 21st and 29th in yards after the catch per completion, averaging 4.8 yards after the catch per completion during that span. A huge part of Moore’s scheme was having the wideouts run hitch routes, as Dallas targeted hitch routes at a top-five rate in football last season. McCarthy and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer have elected to utilize more shallow crossing routes to get the wideouts moving. During McCarthy’s tenure in Green Bay, the Packers averaged a healthy 5.75 yards after the catch per reception, while Dallas averaged just 4.9 yards after the catch per reception in Moore’s four seasons as the offensive coordinator. We should see different route combinations from CeeDee Lamb and the Dallas wideouts this season, presenting more after the catch potential. 

The Case against Dak Prescott

Moore’s offense was very, very fantasy-friendly. The Cowboys have been one of the fastest-paced offenses in all of football, which we absolutely love for fantasy. Since 2021, Dallas has averaged 26.0 seconds per snap, the second-fastest pace in the league. They have also run no-huddle at the fifth-highest rate during that stretch (13.9%), and this past season, only Tampa Bay ran more plays per minute than Dallas (1.85). The Cowboys are going to slow it down quite a bit this season – not to mention the fact that Schottenheimer has been part of some pretty slow offenses, too. McCarthy recently stated that he “wants to run the damn ball so I can rest my defense.” That isn’t exactly what we want to hear and could lower Prescott’s already capped upside.

The Verdict

As you can tell, I am clearly going with Tagovailoa here. I understand there’s injury concern, but Prescott has missed time in two of the last three seasons, too. This would be closer if Moore was still calling plays in Dallas, but I think Miami’s offense is going to be so much more enticing for fantasy football purposes, and the Dolphins wideouts have the edge over the Cowboys. If everything goes right for Tagovailoa and the Dolphins this year, I think he has legitimate top-seven upside. I’m not sure I can say the same about Prescott in Dallas’ slower-paced, less aggressive offense.

Previous Fantasy Football Mock Drafts: Drafting for 2023, Ignoring 2022 Next Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions: The 2023 Jacksonville Jaguars