Clemson's Dabo Swinney: 'I Wouldn't Pass Up' on Tua Tagovailoa in 2020 NFL Draft

Megan ArmstrongSenior Analyst IIApril 9, 2020

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 13: Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers takes to the field after halftime against the LSU Tigers in the College Football Playoff National Championship game at Mercedes Benz Superdome on January 13, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Dabo Swinney and his Clemson Tigers defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa 44-16 in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 7, 2019, but that didn't lessen the head coach's opinion of the 2020 NFL draft hopeful:

"I love Tua," Swinney told ESPN's First Take on Thursday. "I'm on record with that. People can worry about whatever they wanna worry about. I wouldn't pass up on Tua. I think he is a big-time winner. He's a great person. He's a great teammate."

The 2018 Heisman Trophy runner-up has been widely projected to go No. 5 overall to the Miami Dolphins once the draft begins on April 23, but that presumption has lost some steam in recent days.

Former NFL executive Michael Lombardi revealed during his GM Shuffle podcast on Wednesday that Tagovailoa has failed at least one physical (h/t Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald):

"That's got to get around that at least one team failed the physical on Tua; others have to be concerned now as well. What they saw...is they saw the fact it's not just his hip. It's his ankle. It's his wrist. He broke his wrist the first day of spring ball one year. And then they fixed it, he came back, and he broke it again.

[...]

"And he's brittle. You can't deny it. You can't deny it."

Tagovailoa has several documented injuries while at Alabama, but a broken wrist was previously not among them. Most notably, he dislocated his hip last November to end his collegiate career prematurely. He also suffered a broken left index finger (March 2018), a sprained right knee (October 2018) and two high ankle sprains (December 2018, October 2019).

These injuries might cause the Dolphins—and perhaps other teams—to pass on Tagovailoa, per ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Bleacher Report's Matt Miller.

Kiper wrote in his draft column on Tuesday that the Dolphins are concerned because they can't perform an in-person medical checkup with their own team doctor because of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Miller had reported more broad concerns at the end of last week that extend beyond Tagovailoa's injury history:

"On calls and in texts with multiple scouts and decision-makers this week, you find that the media are higher on the former Alabama quarterback than teams are. Tua ranks as QB4 on one board I saw this week and was QB3 on another.

"So why are scouts down on what seems like a sure thing? It's not all injuries. One team source explained that they have knocked Tua for an all-world supporting cast that often saved him when plays broke down. Another mentioned poor interviews and board work during scouting combine meetings."

When it comes to his health, Tagovailoa appears to be controlling what he can control:

The 22-year-old's play spoke for itself with the Crimson Tide. He threw for a career-high 3,966 yards and 43 touchdowns opposite just six picks in 2018, then followed that up with a career-best 71.4 completion percentage alongside 2,840 yards, 33 touchdowns and three picks before his Nov. 16 hip dislocation.

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