Tua Tagovailoa Rumors: Evaluating QB's NFL Draft Stock Amid Injury Concerns

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistApril 10, 2020

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) adjusts his helmet before an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

Where will Tua Tagovailoa be selected in the draft? That is one of the great unknowns heading into the event. 

On talent alone, Tagovailoa would be a top-five pick. Maybe the top pick overall. But there is one thing that could tumble the Alabama quarterback down draft boards—his injury history.

Former general manager Mike Lombardi said on his GM Shuffle podcast (h/t Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press) that Tagovailoa could be off the board for several teams.

"I'm saying that if you're picking a quarterback, it's really hard to pick a good one. It's even harder with a guy who can't stay healthy," he noted. "That's my point. So yeah, two teams I've talked to have flunked him. They flunked him on not just the hip, on the multitude of injuries. Like, the risk far outweighs the reward."

He further elaborated on those additional injuries. 

"It's not just his hip," he said. "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 and he came back and he re-broke it again. I mean, he's brittle. He is brittle. You can't deny it."

Granted, Tagovailoa's agent, Leigh Steinberg, did dispute that assessment. 

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But there is growing buzz that the Alabama quarterback could drop down the board.

B/R's Matt Miller reported on April 3: "I'm told by multiple league sources that the Miami Dolphins aren't convinced Tua is the best option and could instead target Oregon's Justin Herbert. The situation is fluid, but the buzz around the league is that Herbert has the most fans in the Dolphins' draft room."

The Dolphins might just be out of the mix for the Alabama quarterback.

Now, it's important to remember around draft season that a lot of erroneous information gets leaked in an effort to manipulate the draft. If teams want a player to fall down the board, they may tip off reporters to their concerns. And rarely do you hear about teams falling in love with a player. They want to keep that information close to the chest so that player drops to them.

It's all a game of smoke and mirrors, and one that could be playing out with Tagovailoa.

Here's another possibility—a team wants to move up to get Tagovailoa but doesn't want to pay an astronomical price to get him. Could there be a team that wants to move up to No. 3 or 4 to get ahead of potential Tagovailoa destinations like the Miami Dolphins or Los Angeles Chargers but doesn't want to go broke in the process?

It sounds like the No. 3 pick could be in play, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com:

The mystery surrounding Tagovailoa is whether teams will focus on his on-field performance, which has been stellar, or his injury concerns. It only takes one team to fall in love with him to prevent a slide. And there are plenty of teams that could consider a quarterback in this year's draft:

  • Cincinnati Bengals: They almost assuredly will select Joe Burrow, but that isn't official yet.
  • Washington: They'll probably give Dwayne Haskins another year to prove himself and draft Chase Young, but they are wild cards. 
  • Dolphins: Buzz has them leaning toward Justin Herbert, but that could be a smokescreen. 
  • Chargers: They need a franchise quarterback badly. Tyrod Taylor isn't the guy.
  • Jacksonville Jaguars: Gardner Minshew II isn't the long-term answer. 
  • Las Vegas Raiders: Derek Carr has been given ample opportunities to prove himself as the franchise guy. He's never quite done it. 
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tom Brady won't play forever. Using a first-round pick on a quarterback after signing him would be interesting optics, to say the least, but adding a player to groom behind him would make sense.
  • New England Patriots: Unless you believe in Jarrett Stidham, the Pats need a quarterback. Nobody would benefit from Tagovailoa sliding more than New England. 

Anything from Tagovailoa going No. 2 overall to sliding all the way to No. 23 to the Patriots seems to be a possibility. That makes him absolutely the most fascinating player heading into this year's NFL draft.