23 October 2020

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Tua Tagovailoa: The Most Polarizing Prospect in the Draft

Tua Tagovailoa is the most polarizing prospect in the NFL Draft. The 6’1 Alabama product was nothing short of spectacular in his 3 seasons at Tuscaloosa. His first meaningful game action came when he rescued Alabama with 3 second-half touchdowns to secure the 2018 National Championship for the Crimson Tide.

Tagovailoa ran away with the starting job the next season and proceeded to throw for 3,966 yards and 43 TD’s in 15 games. The impressive blend of accuracy, arm-talent, and mobility made him a clear target for QB-needy NFL teams. The term “Tank for Tua” even gained traction, implying that fans were willing to watch their team lose every game just to gain a chance to draft him. Tagovailoa was a slam dunk of a draft pick. That is, however, until the 2019 college football season began.

The southpaw’s stats regressed to the tune of 2,840 passing yards and 33 TD’s. This, combined with LSU QB Joe Burrow’s meteoric rise led to Tua being moved down most draft boards. The stats so much themselves don’t matter much, though. It’s the reason behind them that has teams and fans wary of picking him.

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Report: Tua Tagovailoa off 3 NFL Draft Boards; Injuries Concern ...
Vasha Hunt / Associated Press

It’s his injury history. A sprained knee, a quad injury, a broken finger, two sprained ankles that each required surgery, and a very worrisome fractured hip, all in the span of 2 years. Availability is the best ability, and Tagovailoa hasn’t been very available. An anonymous NFL GM told reporter Tom Pelissero of NFL.com that drafting Tagovailoa “is a little bit of a leap of faith.” In most mock drafts, Tua is pegged in the 5th slot to the Dolphins. It’s easy to see why he would be a perfect fit for Miami.

First, the Dolphins have 5 picks in the first 2 rounds combined, which is incredible draft capital. This gives them some leeway to take a swing at a high-risk prospect such as Tagovailoa, as well as the ammunition to trade up to a higher pick if they feel it’s necessary. Another is the fact that they can surround him with the tools he needs to become a great NFL QB. In Miami, he would be supported by a solid defense headline by the star CB duo of Xavien Howard and Byron Jones (both of whom have been paid handsomely in the past year) as well as emerging WR DeVante Parker. The extra draft picks would allow the Dolphins to address problem areas such as the offensive line and the running back position.

Finally, Tua would have a great mentor in Ryan Fitzpatrick, who could start games until he is ready and teach him some of the nuances of being an NFL QB. The team that selects after Miami, the Los Angeles Chargers, might be an even better situation for the young passer. He would be surrounded by a plethora of offensive weapons in LA, such as tailback Austin Ekeler and pass-catchers Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and franchise-tagged TE Hunter Henry. If the Dolphins pass on Tagovailoa, you would have to think the Chargers would race to the *virtual* podium to make the selection.

After all, the only other passers on their roster are former Ravens, Bills and Browns castoff QB Tyrod Taylor and second-year 6th round rookie Easton Stick. Except the only fault with this line of thinking is the information that’s leaked out of Chargers camp. Reporter Ian Rapoport tweeted, about the Chargers, “They are moving forward with Tyrod Taylor for 2020.” However, plans can always change, and if the unexpected opportunity to draft Tagovailoa is presented to Chargers GM Tom Telesco, it could be too good to pass up.

Tua Tagovailoa is an enigma. Some believe he’s poised to become the greatest lefty QB since Steve Young. Some think his career will be ruined by injury, similar to former 2nd overall pick Robert Griffin III. The truth is, no one really knows how his career will turn out.

Due to the challenging conditions team’s face due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teams weren’t able to have their own doctors examine Tagovailoa, nor were they able to see him work out at a pro-day. With the April 23rd date for the NFL’s first-ever virtual draft fast approaching, there is still very little clarity about Tagovailoa’s draft stock or his health for that matter. Where he is selected in the first round is still a mystery as much as it was when the draft process started.

Is it possible a desperate team such as the Dolphins or Chargers trades up to a top 3 pick to draft Tagovailoa? Yes? Is it possible he slips out of the top 10 to a team like the Raiders or (forgive me) the Patriots? Absolutely. Everyone has their own opinion about Tua, but one thing all can agree on is that he’s made the NFL Draft much more interesting.

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