Tua Tagovailoa

Drafting QB Tua Tagovailoa comes with risk

In a surprising move, head coach Jon Gruden and the Las Vegas Raiders finally select their quarterback of the future in the 2020 NFL Draft: Tua Tagovailoa.

Tagovailoa was head coach Nick Saban’s wonder quarterback at the University of Alabama. Since Tagovailoa took over, the Crimson Tide evolved and it’s offense started to feature a passing attack rather than the bruising three yards and a cloud of dust philosophy. The signal-caller from Hawaii had Saban’s offense throwing more frequently than it ever has.

Tagovailoa has been sensational since bursting on the scene as a rookie in relief of Jalen Hurts in the BCS 2017 National Championship. As a true freshman, he completed 49 of 77 passes for 636 yards 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions. His sophomore year was hardly a slump. In his first full season as a starter, he threw for 3,966 yards, 43 touchdowns, 6 interceptions and averaged 11.2 yards per completion.

Related: What if the Raiders had passed on PJ Hall?

Tagovailoa’s junior season ended with a hip injury similar to the one that ended Bo Jackson’s football career. Prior to dislocating his hip, Tagovailoa had the Crimson Tide in national title contention and ranked No. 1 in the nation. Favored to win the Heisman trophy at the halfway mark of the season, Tagovailoa headed into a classic No. 1 vs No. 2 matchup in Tuscaloosca, Alabama. In their only head-to-head matchup, Tagovailoa’s furious fourth quarter, which broke loose for 21 points, fell five points short of a win against Joe Burrow and the LSU Tigers.

Risky Business Drafting Tua Tagovailoa

Taking Tagovailoa comes with a lot of risk. His 6-1 and 218 pound frame and unafraid playing style aren’t the answer to longevity in the NFL. He runs hard and doesn’t shy away from contact and stands tall in the pocket. Tagovailoa’s only saving grace may be that he came from the famed SEC conference and competed against pro caliber talent week in and week out. Is he “brittle”? He’s broken a few bones: His wrist twice, and dislocated/broken his hip and severely sprained his ankle.

Tagovailoa claims to be healthy and is posting workout videos as well as conducting virtual visits. However, Michael Lombardi of the Athletic reported Tua has failed at least one teams physical.

Furthermore, Tagovailoa seems complicit with taking this shortened offseason and redshirting a year in order to heal up and get up to speed in the offense. A situation favoring what appears to be the Raiders plan to start Derek Carr for another season, with Marcus Mariota as a competitive back up.

The burning question

Tagovailoa’s draft slot is a hot topic of conversation. In a perfect world without injury, he would without a doubt be a top five draft pick. Posting pro day videos, and workouts along the way up is going to likely convince a team to possibly gamble on him in the first round. In reality, every team should be wary of choosing him without having their medical teams evaluate him personally and properly. A three-year player with an extensive injury history, coming off a serious hip injury without any live action prior to the draft should have a red flag.

Will Gruden be able to contain himself? Players with Tagovailoa’s pedigree aren’t usually available in the teens. The injury history is very real, but the Raiders pass protection was ranked in the top ten in 2019. Mike Mayock and Gruden value players from Alabama and Clemson a little more than most other universities.

A healthy Tua Tagovailoa should be at the top of both of their boards in terms of quarterback. If he’s there at No. 12, it may prove to be too difficult for Gruden not to take him.

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