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Daniel Wilco | | December 8, 2018

Comparing the 2018 Heisman finalists: How do Tua Tagovailoa, Kyler Murray, and Dwayne Haskins stack up?

Oklahoma's Kyler Murray is the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner

The three finalists for the 2018 Heisman trophy were announced Monday night: Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins.

It’s just the seventh time in the 84-year history of the trophy that all three finalists are quarterbacks.

RELATED: Oklahoma's Kyler Murray wins 2018 Heisman Trophy

Year Winner 2nd place 3rd place
1970 Jim Plunkett - QB, Stanford Joe Theismann - QB, Notre Dame Archie Manning - QB, Ole Miss
2000 Chris Weinke - QB, Florida State Josh Heupel - QB, Oklahoma Drew Brees - QB, Purdue
2001 Eric Crouch - QB, Nebraska Rex Grossman - QB, Florida Ken Dorsey - QB, Miami (Fla.)
2008 Sam Bradford - QB, Oklahoma Colt McCoy - QB, Texas Tim Tebow - QB, Florida
2013 Jameis Winston - QB, Florida State A.J. McCarron - QB, Alabama Jordan Lynch - QB, Northern Illinois
2016 Lamar Jackson - QB, Louisville Deshaun Watson - QB, Clemson Baker Mayfield - QB, Oklahoma

The winner of the trophy will be announced Saturday, Dec. 8.

Before then, let’s break down the three finalists. First, the stats:

StatS Tua Tagovailoa Kyler Murray Dwayne Haskins
Completions 199 241 348
Attempts 294 340 496
Passing yards 3353 4053 4580
Completion percentage 67.7 71.00 70.2
Yards per attempt 11.41 11.92 9.23
Passing touchdowns 37 40 47
Interceptions 4 7 8
TD/INT rate 9.25 5.71 5.88
Rating 202.3 205.7 175.8
Rushes 48 123 73
Rushing yards 190 892 122
Yards per rush 4 7.3 1.7
Rushing TDs 5 11 4
Total yards 3543 4945 4702
Total touchdowns 42 51 51

Those numbers certainly tell a story — which we’ll get to — but they don’t give the full picture for a complete comparison. For one, Tagovailoa hasn’t played nearly as much as either of his peers.

When counting offensive plays that each quarterback was directly involved in (pass attempts, rush attempts, and sacks), Tagovailoa tallies 74.9 percent of Alabama’s quarterback plays. Murray came in at 94.3 percent for Oklahoma, while Haskins was at 91.7 percent for Ohio State. Should a quarterback be knocked for his team playing so well that they don’t need him for a full game? No. But it does mean Tagovailoa has a smaller sample size to draw on than either Murray or Haskins.

And even Murray and Haskins didn’t get their stats in equal environments. Haskins played in the most pass-heavy offense of all, and it’s not even close. Of the Buckeyes’ offensive plays, 49.3 percent have been passes, compared to 43.2 percent for Alabama and 42.4 percent for Oklahoma.

Haskins has 156 more pass attempts than Murray and 202 more than Tagovailoa — that’s 46 and 69 percent more respectively — a crazy gap.

With all that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the stats.

Due to the extreme pass-heavy offense of Ohio State, Haskins has a sizeable lead on Tagovailoa and Murray when it comes to passing totals. His 4,580 yards through the air are more than any other FBS player, beating out Washington State’s Gardner Minshew II by 103. But Murray is in third place in the nation with 4,053, and — as we said before — his total came on 156 fewer attempts.

Haskins’ 47 touchdowns are also the most in the country, with Murray’s 40 good for second place.

But if you were just looking at efficiency, Tagovailoa and Murray jump ahead. The Crimson Tide quarterback threw touchdowns on 12.6 percent of his pass attempts, better than Murray (11.8 percent) and Haskins (9.5 percent). But it’s Murray in front in terms of yards per attempt, at 11.92 compared to 11.41 from Tagovailoa and 9.23 from Haskins.

On the ground, Murray is miles ahead. The Sooners’ quarterback has 892 yards rushing — the 73rd most of any player in the FBS. Haskins and Tagovailoa combine for 312 yards. He’s also picked up 11 touchdowns rushing, while Tagovailoa has five and Haskins, four. Combined with his passing yards, Murray has 4945 yards of total offense — more than anyone in the country.

One thing is for sure, any one of these three quarterbacks is more efficient than your average Heisman winner. Fifteen quarterbacks have won the award this century, and they’ve averaged a passing efficiency rating of 167.2. Last year’s winner, Baker Mayfield, was the highest of them all at 198.9. 

This year, Murray has the highest rating in the country at 205.7. Tagovailoa’s 202.3 is in second place. Haskins, at 175.8, is tied for third.

Those are three extremely impressive resumes. Now, we wait.

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