With Tua Tagovailoa’s selection by the Miami Dolphins with the No. 5 overall pick, the 2020 NFL draft’s biggest mystery has been solved. Here are five thoughts on Tagovailoa as he heads toward a professional career.
Left-handers are rare in the NFL
1) When he does eventually start an NFL game, Tagovailoa will become the NFL’s first left-handed starter since 2015. That was Kellen Moore, who started for the Cowboys. Now, Moore is Dallas’ offensive coordinator. When Tagovailoa throws his first touchdown pass, it will be first left-handed TD pass thrown in the NFL by an offensive player since Dez Bryant to Jason Witten in 2016.
Being left-handed changes everything for an offense. For example, Alabama tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. played right tackle to protect Tagovailoa’s blindside. The entire offense has to be re-engineered.
Injury woes will be scrutinized
2) Tagovailoa likely would have been considered much higher in this draft if he hadn’t dislocated his hip on Nov. 16 in a game at Mississippi State. The reverberations from that injury are still unknown, which means the Dolphins are taking some degree of risk. Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson reported recently “that Tagovailoa’s most reliable long-term assessment will be provided between nine months and one year since his surgery.”
Tagovailoa brings to the NFL a reputation for fragility. He had two ankle surgeries at Alabama and also dealt with a broken finger and sprained right knee. Regardless of the reality of his fragility reputation, every injury will be carefully scrutinized once he’s in the NFL.
Tagovailoa is Nick Saban’s first Alabama QB selected in first round
3) There are some amazing numbers that have come along with Nick Saban’s unparalleled success at Alabama. Entering a night when five Crimson Tide players were projected in the first round, Saban had 29 first-round picks compared to just 23 losses in his 13 seasons. Most remarkable, perhaps, has been the lack of a marquee NFL prospects at quarterback in that statistic. Tagovailoa is the initial first-round pick from Saban’s time in Tuscaloosa, and the program’s first first-rounder since 1976. (Raise a glass, Richard Todd, the No. 6 pick in 1976.) Prior to tonight, A.J. McCarron going in the fifth round in 2014 was the highest Saban quarterback drafted during his time at Alabama.
A healthy Tagovailoa could be dangerous
4) With this cluster of four quarterbacks going in the first round, they’ll all be linked by comparisons for the rest of their careers. I’ve heard scouts and evaluators make arguments for all four — Tagovailoa, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and Jordan Love. Here’s what one longtime college quarterback coach, who has seen both Burrow and Tagovailoa play in person, said about Tagovailoa’s pure talent: “To me, it gets down to skill level. When Tua is healthy, it isn’t even close.”
Tagovailoa’s father could have integral role in son’s career
5) One thing that will be interesting to watch once Tagovailoa arrives in the NFL is the role of his father. One scout joked that NFL teams had a folder on both Tagovailoa and his father, Seu. Tagovailoa listens to his father so closely and obediently that NFL teams have spent time examining how he thinks and acts on his own. The Tagovailoas moved from Hawaii to Alabama to be closer to their sons, Tua and Taulia, both of whom ended up at Alabama as quarterbacks.
There are no character or off-field concerns among NFL teams about Tagovailoa. But there’s curiosity about how his father’s heavy voice in his life and career will carry over to the next level.
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