Tua Tagovailoa’s injury history is damaging his draft stock. Any NFL team that passes on him in this year’s draft is going to be haunted by the decision.
Drafting a franchise quarterback is the single most important thing an NFL team can do during the draft. That’s what makes the idea that Tua Tagovailoa could slip out of the top five in this year’s draft so difficult to explain.
Yes, there are valid injury concerns about the former Alabama signal-caller. In particular, the dislocated and fractured hip he suffered against Mississippi State last season and a pair of sprained ankles that required surgery. However, Tagovailoa’s doctor has recently come out with his opinion that his patient is “not susceptible to injury” should emphatically silence the concerns of teams in need of a new starting quarterback.
Instead, teams have let Tagovailoa’s medical history dictate his draft stock. It’s caused talented NFL talent evaluators to ignore what is obvious when you turn on the film of Alabama’s offense in 2019. Tagovailoa is an elite quarterback prospect that’s ready to help a team right away.
If you throw out Tua’s medical concerns there’s no reason he shouldn’t be on par with Joe Burrow as the No. 1 quarterback prospect in this year’s class.
Taking Burrow ahead of Tagovailoa is a defensible decision based on the special season he enjoyed at LSU. Taking Justin Herbert, Jordan Love or any other quarterback ahead of Tua is a decision that will haunt the team that makes it for decades to come.
Tagovailoa’s two biggest strengths as a quarterback are two of the most important qualities to evaluate when looking at a collegiate signal-caller. First, he has the accuracy required to operate an efficient NFL offense. He doesn’t just do a good job of completing passes down the field. He does an exceptional job getting the ball to his receivers at the perfect position on their body to turn up field and make a big play. That skill is going to serve him well at the NFL level.
The other elite quality he demonstrates as a prospect is his ability to process information at a rapid rate. Tua is the rare college prospect that can walk into the NFL with the ability to process the entire field. His Alabama tape shows him cycling through all of his progressions ahead of schedule time after time. His NFL playbook will be more complex than with the Crimson tide, but he’s got the football acumen to handle it.
The rest of his game all rates out well above average. He’s not an elite athlete but he’s got the speed and quickness required to move around the edge to make plays. His arm strength may not put him in the same category as Josh Allen or Matthew Stafford in his prime, but he easily projects to be able to make every throw in his playbook. Outside of health, he is a quarterback prospect that doesn’t have any significant weaknesses.
Tua has the ceiling of a Hall of Fame quarterback combined with the floor of being an above-average starter for the next decade. Any NFL team that doesn’t have a current Pro Bowler at the game’s most important position should be doing everything they can to position themselves to draft him in Round 1. Any team that passes on him is going to regret the decision every time he completes a big pass for one of their competitors.