Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Tua, Chase Have Teams Ready to Move in NFL Draft

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterFebruary 26, 2020

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - NOVEMBER 9:   Tua Tagovailoa #13 of the Alabama Crimson Tide warms up before a game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium on November 16, 2019 in Starkville, Mississippi.  The Crimson Tide defeated the Bulldogs 38-7.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS — Tua Tagovailoa may be a whole lot better than a QB consolation prize on draft day, Chase Young has teams on the chase, and a wide receiver could be the steal of Round 1. All that and more in this NFL Scouting Combine edition of the 10-Point Stance.

1. No runner-up

It's generally a given that most teams believe LSU's Joe Burrow is the most NFL-ready quarterback in the draft. Some around the scouting combine have compared him to Tom Brady. Second on that supposed scale of readiness is Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

However, some teams have Tagovailoa (pronounced "Tag-o-vai-bad-ass") neck-and-neck with Burrow.

"If he hadn't been hurt, we'd be talking about them the way we did Luck and RG3," one NFC coach said, referring to the 2012 draft debate that had the league split over whether Andrew Luck would be a better quarterback than Robert Griffin III. "Tua has the potential to be as good as Burrow."

Indeed, even with the dislocated hip Tagovailoa suffered last fall that required surgery, he has generated some NFL comps of his own.

"I don't think it's crazy to say he could be the next Russell Wilson," the NFC coach said.

These comparisons are sometimes silly, of course. You don't compare a raw recruit who just graduated from S.H.I.E.L.D. to Captain America.

But the way Tagovailoa moves, goes through his progressions and throws the football, he resembles—quite astonishingly—a left-handed Wilson. That assumes he's healthy, and one need look no further than last season to see a player who still threw for 2,840 yards, 33 touchdowns and only three interceptions despite missing the last three games of it.

"I've been rehabbing my butt off," Tagovailoa told reporters at the combine this week. "After March 9, when I get clearance from my doctors, then it's full-go up until my pro day."

That's expected to happen some time in early April. 

Teams believe that he's healing well and, if he aces his pro day and has no further setbacks, that whatever team drafts him might be getting a steal, as ridiculous as that sounds for a potential top-five pick.

They will get, some teams believe, the next Wilson.

Which would be pretty damn good.


2. Impressive start

Cincinnati Bengals @Bengals

"Of course I want to be the first pick. That's every kid's dream."- QB Joe Burrow 📺: 2020 #NFLCombine starts Thursday 4PM ET on @nflnetwork https://t.co/VhoZnkRKy4

As for the presumptive No. 1 pick, Burrow met with the media on Tuesday in Indianapolis, and the only thing I'll say is this: He seems like a cool ass dude.

Whoever prepared Burrow for his news conference did an excellent job. He was professional, calm, funny, sincere and, perhaps most of all, comfortable in his own skin.

One of the things teams have noted about the Heisman Trophy winner is that he's a natural leader, and you could see flashes of that in how he spoke, offering honest, thoughtful answers without burning any bridges.

It was one of the best combine press conferences I've ever seen, and this is about my 25th combine.

His start to the week could not have gone better.


3. Mover and shaker

FOXBOROUGH, MA - DECEMBER 29:   Head coach Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins looks on during a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 29, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

This may not be breaking news, but one NFC general manager said the team that could be the most active in the draft is Miami, adding that the Dolphins are already having conversations with other teams.

Miami has the fifth, 18th and 26th overall picks. If they just keep their own choices, the Dolphins will be a powerful force on draft day. But based on the GM's remarks, they don't seem content to just stand pat. He believes they're going to be extremely aggressive, and that includes trying to maneuver into the top two or three picks. Be ready to hear the Dolphins mentioned a lot on Day 1.


4. Talk is cheap

Mike McCarn/Associated Press

The always excellent Ian Rapoport from NFL Network reported that—for nowthe Panthers are planning to move forward with Cam Newton.

That may end up being the case, but teams I speak to don't buy it. They believe the Panthers are going to pursue a QB in free agency, and the name I keep hearing is Ryan Tannehill.

The Panthers, goes the thinking around the league, are playing a nice game of poker and aren't close to settling on Newton.


5. QB frenzy

The NFL's increasing interest in employing quarterbacks with some sense of mobility could be rewarded in this year's draft. As one AFC scout told B/R in assessing this year's QB class: "There are two great quarterbacks [Burrow and Tagovailoa], and the rest are solid and mostly projects. But not long-term ones. What makes this quarterback class slightly different from some other recent ones is the level of athleticism from top to bottom. A lot of these guys can run and throw well while on the run. A lot of these guys will fit right in with the way the NFL is going now."


6. Chasing Young

Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

While QBs always have teams trying to move on draft day, another situation to watch closely this year is the race to maneuver for Ohio State pass-rusher Chase Young.

Some of the accolades he's received from NFL teams have been stunning. Think Burrow levels of excitement. Some think he's a faster and more aggressive version of the Bosa brothers.

Beyond his talent, scouts also tell me he's mature and smart, someone perfectly suited to handle going to a totally messed-up franchise like Washington. There's a reason the franchise consistently picks so high in the draft. It's because something there is always going wrong. When you go to a place like that, it takes more than talent (and Young has tons of it). It takes mental toughness.

And a team trying to climb out of the basement needs anchor-type players, and Young has the potential to be just that.


7. Teeing up Higgins

Gerry Broome/Associated Press

Beyond the top names, another player getting rave reviews is Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins. Teams tell me they think he'll go to either the Eagles (No. 21) or Bills (No. 22) in the back half of the first round.

One of the knocks on Higgins is that he's considered a bit slow for his position, a critique he addressed when meeting with the media on Tuesday.

"A lot of people think I'm a big, slow guy," the 6'4" Higgins said. "The tape speaks for itself. I'm not slow."

It seems like there may be more than a few teams that completely agree.


8. Money makes the (NFL) world go 'round

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The NFL's proposal for a 17-game season may not face as much opposition as it appeared initially. In speaking to a handful of players (including one union rep), the feelings from players on having to play an additional game, as outlined in the league's new Collective Bargaining Agreement proposal, is more split than I thought.

Everything I'm hearing is anecdotal, but it seems a fair chunk of players are open to a 17-game season. I was under the impression that somewhere between 80 and 90 percent of the players were against extending the regular season, based on the belief it would add another layer of violence in a sport that is already violent enough 17 weeks each fall.

However, I'm hearing from players it's more like 60-40 against and maybe even 50-50.

The issue, like many things, is about money. Players want a lot more to (understandably) compensate for what that extra game will do to their bodies and minds.

If the money makes it worth it, they will do it. If not, they won't.

So far, the NFL hasn't been willing to provide that extra incentive, but if the league comes around on that idea, we may just get the extra game.


9. Pay the man

Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

It's amazing how remarkably smart people can make the remarkably stupid suggestion that Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott should take less money in a new contract to stay with the team than more elsewhere. The theory is that if he takes less, more money could be used to keep other players.

Besides the fact that NFL owners maximize their profits, as do coaches and everyone else in and around the sport, making the most money that you can is extremely American.

Former Cowboys safety Darren Woodson explained how offensive the notion is that Prescott should be shortchanged to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

"It's a slap in the face for people to say he should take less," Woodson said. "That is a slap in that man's face. They are not out here. I am watching every day. My office oversees the practice field. And there ain't nobody on that team that works harder than Dak Prescott. He is putting the work in. The man deserves it. That is commitment.

"This is a capitalistic society. This is America. Why does he have to take less money? We are not expecting others to take less money. We didn't ask [Eagles quarterback] Carson Wentz to take less money. Why should Dak be the guy to take less money?"

Team officials from around the league tell me they don't believe Prescott and the Cowboys are close to a new deal and that Prescott will be franchise-tagged. 

Is he worth all he can get from the Cowboys? You're worth whatever the hell a team pays you and not a penny less.


10. Pathological

Just remember the old but still very true adage about the NFL draft...

...everyone in the league lies. All the time. About everything.

Teams lie about who they are interested in. They lie about other teams. They lie about what they had for lunch.

The trick is to find a few people who are connected and informed and historically don't lie to you. But hell, they probably lie, too.

Keep all of this in mind as the draft approaches. Everyone has an interest in floating something that may or may not be true.

Probably the latter.


Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.  



Live from the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, the Stick to Football team talks with Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel, Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott and provides plenty more buzz and thoughts on all things NFL. 


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