Tua Tagovailoa Is Incredible CFB QB, but Is He a Tank-Worthy NFL Prospect?

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2019

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) warms up before an NCAA college football game against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

Tua Tagovailoa is already an Alabama legend.

After one championship win and one record-breaking year, Tagovailoa has secured a positive college football legacy. That should only improve in 2019, a season in which he could annihilate defenses at an even greater rate than he did in his sophomore campaign.

By the time Tagovailoa leaves Alabama, his resume will be littered with individual accolades and team successes.

Will the NFL view him as fondly?

In today's "embrace debate" sports culture, hyped prospects are often unfairly pinned to one of two answers: no-brainer top pickTank for Tua!or he's overrated and you need to listen to me.

Heading into 2019, Tagovailoa is somewhere between those answers.

Although huge college stats "definitively" outline a quarterback's ceiling, per SB Nation's Bill Connelly, they do not automatically create a top prospect or low-risk pro. There are any number of examples of draft busts at the position who thrived in college.

But if stats are the ceiling, they represent an alluring one.

Last year, Alabama led the Football Bowl Subdivision in offensive success rate and passing S&P+, per Connelly. Tagovailoa tallied 3,966 yards and 43 touchdowns while hitting 69.0 percent of his passes at 11.2 yards per throw.

While at a lower rate given the increased competition in the NFL, that level of efficiency is most likely to translate.

Tagovailoa is seemingly elite between the ears, and that wisdom is valuable for the pros. Many quarterbackswe're not here to publicly ether themhave failed to match NFL expectations because they couldn't handle off-field responsibilities.

Physical skills don't always determine a signal-caller's future; for Tagovailoa, though, it appears to be the case.

Largely, his outlook is positive. Though not a classic dual-threat QB, he's mobile enough to extend plays in the backfield and scramble on occasion. That awareness in the pocket only adds to the greatest strengths on his assessment.

Tagovailoa has incredible anticipation and touch—a combination most evident in his ball placement. On downfield passes specifically, receivers often don't even break stride. Excellent pre-snap recognition aids his precision.

Those traits are necessary, however, because his velocity is unspectacular.

While timing and preparation atone for average arm strength in college, NFL competition will quickly shrink that gap. The rise in defensive talent could expose his intermittent habit of holding the ball too long.

Listed at 6'1", he's a bit smaller than a prototypical NFL quarterback. Russell Wilson (5'11") and Baker Mayfield (listed at 6'1") have helped break the mold, but Tagovailoa's height will still be used as a negativeespecially when compared to 6'6" Justin Herbert.

One element of Tagovailoa's scouting report will probably be divisive: mechanics. His throwing motion looks elongated and slow, yet the numbers don't necessarily reflect it. This will probably be an eye-test battle in the scouting community.

Tagovailoa's report isn't finalized, yet expecting any regression is unwise. Alabama returns wideouts―Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle, Henry Ruggs III and DeVonta Smith―who combined for 201 catches, 3,597 yards and 38 touchdowns last season.

Heading into the 2019 season, Tagovailoa still has vulnerabilities to correct and arm strength to add. Until that happens, he shouldn't be declared a can't-miss prospect.

But it's a whole lot closer to "Tank for Tua" than it is a faulty QB1 bandwagon.

                               

Stats from NCAA.com, cfbstats.com or B/R research. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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