I haven’t written a college football orientated piece since previewing the National Title game back in January. Throughout the season I’ve followed the main headlines and trending topics and I’m sure even the most casual of fans would have heard of the name Tua Tagovailoa before this week. The Alabama junior has wowed in his 32 games with the Crimson Tide, but may never add to his already impressive collegiate resume following a season-ending dislocated hip suffered against Mississippi State last weekend. Tagovailoa’s injury is going to have a serious impact on the rest of Bama’s season with the entire college football season and even the race to the bottom of the NFL standings also feeling the effected by Tua going down.
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IN his near three seasons at Tuscaloosa, there wasn’t a lot that Tagovailoa failed to accomplish. From coming close to winning the Heisman Trophy to his infamous performance in the 2017 National Championship game many expected Tua to be the consensus top overall selection in next year’s NFL Draft – or at worst the first QB to come off the board. That ‘certainty’ is now much more complicated with Tagovailoa’s devastating injury understandably creating unease about his future as a pro.
ALL signs point to the Bama QB making a full recovery after successfully undergoing surgery early in the week. After the fact, it was revealed that not only did Tagovailoa suffer a hip injury, but he was also concussed and coped a broken nose. Yikes. Either way, a dislocated hip isn’t exactly an ailment you want to be associated with your future franchise player and Tua’s draft stock will certainly take a hit as a result.
STEREOTYPICALLY speaking NFL teams aren’t too keen on taking risks at the top end of the draft and even though Tua is still likely to be snapped up in the first round, he’s still going to lose a lot of money. To put it into financial perspective, last year’s No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray signed a four-year, $35mil deal with the Cardinals once he was draft while Dwayne Haskins who was drafted 15th overall pick by Washington was forced to settle for four-years and $14 million.
THERE are no guarantees that Tagovailoa will even be drafted that high, with his place in mock drafts bound to fluctuate right up until next April’s NFL Draft. No longer are fans of a struggling team chanting ‘Tank for Tua’, despite the Hawaiian native making a lot of sense under center for multiple franchises. The Cincinnati Bengals who recently benched their former franchise man Andy Dalton are shaping up as the favourites to earn the first overall pick come draft time and selecting Tagovailoa made a lot of sense. Instead, they may change their sights to another college stud in LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, or even opt to select defensive juggernaut, Chase Young.
SO if the Bengals aren’t eyeing off Tua early in the piece where else could he land? Miami will be looking for a new play-caller with neither Ryan Fitzpatrick or Josh Rosen shaping up as their long-term answer. The good news for Dolphins fans is they currently hold three first-rounders courtesy of offloading Minkah Fitzpatrick and Laremy Tunsil. If the season ended today Miami GM Chris Grier would have picks #4, #16 and #23 at his disposal, with a real possibility that Tagovailoa would be available with their last selection of that trio.
OF course, one hip injury no matter how bad it seems won’t deter everyone and a team may move up or trade into the first round if Tua keeps sliding. Teams like Tampa Bay, Carolina, Tennessee, Chicago, Denver and Washington spring to mind as potential candidates, with all of them facing some uncertainty over who their QB will be in 2020 and beyond. Let’s not rule out Bill Belichick, the eternal master of squeezing his draft hand for every drop available making a move to find his Tom Brady successor either.
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THERE is an entirely different pathway that Tagovailoa could venture down, as unlikely as it seems. Rehabbing with an NFL team after being drafted makes a lot of sense, but in an effort to recuperate the money he’s lost, Tua could choose to return to Alabama for his senior season. Doing so could help him re-establish himself as one of the best players in college football and in turn, one of the very first picks in the 2021 draft. There is then the risk though of Tagovailoa further hurting himself and not just hurting his draft stock, but ruining it completely.
INJURIES have followed the Crimson Tide play-caller for his entire career so far, with knee, hand, hamstring, ankle and now hip issues all impacting Tua. He hasn’t been blessed with a cannon of an arm or the stature of textbook QB so if Tagovailoa is tabbed with the dreaded injury-prone label, it only makes his quest of being drafted as high as possible all the more difficult. A few years ago we saw now Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith suffer a fall down mock drafts thanks to an ACL and MCL tear in his final college game, that saw him fall out of the first round, eventually draft 34th overall.
IF I was running an NFL team I’d still draft Tua without too many concerns, but the majority of GM’s who own a top-10 pick probably won’t have the same optimism. Someone could have a steal on their hands if Tua fully recovers and lives up to the hype he was once associated with, but given the amount of punishment professional quarterbacks take week in, week out, each squad will want to do their due diligence. The full ripple effect from Tua Tagovailoa’s injury won’t be understood for years to come, but one awkward landing from a seemingly innocuous tackle has quickly become one the biggest talking point of the entire football season. Here’s hoping it only costs Tua a few dollars (initially) and not his dream of becoming an NFL star.
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