Tua Tagovailoa burst onto the scene his freshman year when he replaced Jalen Hurts in the second half of the 2017 National Championship Game, helping Alabama to a title win. He went on to complete 69 percent of his passes for 3,966 yards, 43 touchdowns and six interceptions, plus five rushing touchdowns in his sophomore season. Unfortunately his junior year was marred by an ankle injury which slowed him down and then a hip injury that cut his season short. He still was awesome statistically in his nine game, completing 71.4 percent of his passes for 2,840 yards, 33 touchdowns and three interceptions while adding two touchdowns on the ground.
His injury was a dislocated hip that fractured the joint’s posterior wall. It was the same injury Bo Jackson suffered which ended his career, so there was some real worry about his longterm health. But, medicine has improved since Jackson suffered his injury and Tagovailoa was given immediate medical attention whereas Jackson continued to play. For a hopeful comparison, the Jets C.J. Mosley had the same injury and continued to play at a high level. But, Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta suffered the same injury and then re-injured the same hip three times and was forced from the NFL.
Recently, Tagovailoa posted a video on social media of him running and throwing, which likely helped assuage some fears that he wouldn’t be back soon or ever. Before his injury and Joe Burrow’s huge 2019 season, Tagovailoa was considered the No. 1 draft pick and the more he shows his health, the more his stock will rise, but he still might need to sit his first season to completely recover and help his longterm prospects.
Tagovailoa was an elite producer in the nation’s toughest conference, which is great, but also means he had some of the best talent in the world giving him time to throw and catching his passes. That’s a catch-22 most quarterbacks in the SEC will face, but Tagovailoa undoubtedly stepped up and dominated against the best competition.
He will test defenses deep and has the mobility to let his receivers get open, but despite his mobility, he uses it more to extend time to pass than to take off running. He is often compared to Patrick Mahomes in that aspect of his game.
He may be pigeon-holed into a spread or RPO-heavy attack, but he’s actually a clean fit in a pro-style attack filled with play-action and roll-outs. He has the release, accuracy and touch needed to work all three levels successfully and can become a more disciplined, full-field reader to piece the puzzle together against NFL coverages. — NFL.com’s Lance Zierlien
There is some question to his arm strength and accuracy between evaluators, but most believe he has an above average arm that can make all the throws.
All things being equal, we know that they aren’t but for the sake of the evaluation, he would be the No. 1 overall pick for me had he had no injury history of the likes at which he does. He is just that natural as far as his decision-making in the pocket. His accuracy at all three levels of the field, his ability to throw on the move, his ability to execute any offense that you need him to execute. — ESPN’s Louis Riddick
With two ankle surgeries, a concussion and his devastating hip injury, there is real concern he won’t be able to hold up for a long career. But finding a quarterback of his talent isn’t easy, so teams will more than likely be ready to take on the risk for such a great reward.
The trouble this draft season is coronavirus has shut down visits and physicals for teams and draft picks, which puts those teams interested in Tagovailoa in a tough spot.
Mock Draft Results
Mel Kiper, ESPN: Miami Dolphins
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com: Miami Dolphins
Eric Edholm, Yahoo Sports: Washington
Doug Farrar, Touchdown Wire: Miami Dolphins
Fantasy impact: Rookie year
The odds are currently in favor of the Dolphins grabbing Tagovailoa with their first pick in the draft. If not the Dolphins, the Bengals, Chargers and Washington are all rumored to have interest. Whoever gets him would love to have him play in 2020, but there’s a good chance they “red-shirt” him his rookie year to learn and make sure his hip is 100 percent healthy.
His fantasy impact likely won’t be in his rookie season, but a year behind a veteran quarterback and learning a system while getting healthy would set him up for a strong debut season in 2021.
Fantasy impact: Career
Like teams who need to consider Tagovailoa’s health concerns, fantasy dynasty teams will need to factor in his injury history. Of course, as fantasy players we can get away with risky picks more than NFL teams and as long as a team feels comfortable drafting Tagovailoa as their longterm leader, we should follow their lead.
Tagovailoa’s upside is great in fantasy, as he has the skills to play well in multiple aspects of the game. For fantasy, his ability to run and avoid pressure will translate well to NFL offenses and fantasy scoring for as long as he’s healthy.