NFL Betting: Who Will Be the 49ers' Starting Quarterback in Week 1?
The San Francisco 49ers have a decision to make in the coming weeks regarding who will be their starting quarterback heading into the 2021 NFL season.
FanDuel Sportsbook is offering odds on who they think the starter for the opener will be, with veteran Jimmy Garoppolo the favorite at -320. Trey Lance, the player they traded two future first-round picks to the Miami Dolphins for the chance to draft, is available at +240. Nick Mullens is a distant third in the betting and is way back at +1600.
Let's take a look at which of these three players you should bet on.
A season after leading the team to the Super Bowl, injuries restricted Garoppolo to just six games in 2020. He went 3-3 as a starter in those contests. Garoppolo completed 94 of 140 pass attempts on 151 dropbacks (67.1%) for 1,096 yards and 7 touchdowns. He also tossed five interceptions.
Garoppolo averaged 0.23 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back in 2020, good for 11th among the 39 quarterbacks with at least 150 drop backs last season. He also averaged 0.23 NEP in 2019, where he finished with the eighth-best mark (if you want to learn more about NEP, please visit our glossary).
Garoppolo famously offers virtually nothing as a rusher, however, with 131 combined rushing yards in 31 games for the 49ers. He has also failed to remain healthy for the bulk of his time in the Bay Area. He has played all 16 games in just one of his three full seasons with the team and has missed 23 games in that time.
Lance turned down offers to attend prestigious football programs due to their desire to have him play other positions. With his heart set on playing quarterback, Lance attended North Dakota State, the same school that produced Carson Wentz.
He played only two games as a freshman, but his sophomore year was nothing short of sensational. Lance completed 66.9% of his pass attempts on his way to 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns. He also rushed for 1,100 yards and 14 additional scores. If you are waiting to hear his interception numbers for the year, you'll have a long wait. He didn't throw one in the entire 2019 campaign. Lance's 9.7 yards per attempt mark in 2019 was good for a place in the 90th percentile, according to PlayerProfiler.
Lance and the Bison only played one game a year ago, and it was a mixed outing for him. He completed just half of his pass attempts for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns, but he also tossed his first collegiate interception. He also ran for 143 yards and scored twice on the ground.
Lance is the type of playmaker who can thrive and survive when operating outside of the structure of Kyle Shanahan's offense, while people are now convinced that Garoppolo cannot. That is why the team traded up to select him, and why he is undoubtedly the future of the franchise.
Finally, Mullens is a former undrafted free agent out of Southern Mississippi, and in his three NFL seasons, he has amassed 4,714 passing yards while throwing 25 touchdowns to 22 interceptions. He has a 5-11 record as a starter, going 2-6 a season ago while briefly stepping aside for C.J. Beathard in relief of the injured Garoppolo. He averaged 0.07 Passing NEP a year ago, which was 24th of 32 quarterbacks with at least 300 drop backs. He is a decent backup, but not a player one wants to see starting too many games.
The 49ers have been effusive in their desire to keep Garoppolo, and from the outside, it appears they are happy to commit to the Patrick Mahomes plan and sit their future savior for a season. That would certainly justify Garoppolo being the favorite with the bookies. But this is one situation where I am going to gamble, and I would take Lance at +240.
Mark Schofield, one of the best around when it comes to writing about quarterbacks and schemes, believes Lance will be the starter sooner rather than later.
I believe it will take approximately one-half of the 49ers' first training camp practice for Shanahan and Lynch to realize that Lance offers the very spark that, despite his best efforts, Garoppolo just cannot muster at this stage of his career. A quarterback who can influence and be a huge part of the ground game? Shanahan hasn't had one of those since his Washington days with Robert Griffin III.
The 49ers can save $25 million if they cut or trade Garoppolo after June 1st, according to OverTheCap.com. They can afford to carry his salary, but it wouldn't seem the best idea if all they want is him to sit behind Trey Lance.
We have seen historically that bad things can happen to quarterbacks in camp, and teams can panic and feel the need to make daft offers to land a veteran (the Philadelphia Eagles got a first-round pick for Sam Bradford in 2016, remember). The 49ers may be hoping for something similar with Garoppolo. That would increase his odds of being a Week 1 starter somewhere. But it won't be for the 49ers.