With the NFL Draft just a week down the road the Tua Tagovailoa injury red flag is still flying high which is unfortunate if you consider how great he was during his college career at Alabama.
Tagovailoa’s story is a combination of legend and a devastating hip injury that derailed his chances of being the first player picked in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft.
Barring any weird glitches in the upcoming virtual NFL Draft, Joe Burrow will go number one. Taking nothing away from Burrow, but when healthy Tagovailoa has significantly more upside than Burrow.
The Joe Burrow Impact
Before we dive into the left-hand genius of Tagovailoa, I thought it was important to cover why Joe Burrow shouldn’t be the first player drafted.
Burrow is basically a system quarterback who happened to catch lightning at LSU in 2019. The LSU Tigers essentially ran a quick-release pro-style spread offense against college defenses who were unable to stop the complexities of the offense which Burrow did a masterful job running.
Here’s what Nick Saban, the head coach of Alabama said about Burrow in an interview with ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi on November 8th, 2019.
“I think No. 1 is, they’re spreading people out, they’ve got really good skill guys, they’ve got a good runner. I mean this is as good an offense probably as we’ve had to face for a long time. I mean, one of the best.
[Burrow] does a great job. He understands exactly what they’re doing. Because people are spread out, it makes it a little bit easier to see, the defense has to declare itself so he knows exactly what you’re in, where to go with the ball. He gets rid of it quickly.
But where he’s been most effective to me is when plays break down, he’s been able to extend plays and make plays down the field as well as convert critical third-down situations by running, because he’s such a good athlete. So you’ve got to defend all of the above, which is a pretty difficult task.”
The NFL is All About Adjustments
How many times have you watched your favorite NFL team go down the field on their first possession and score a touchdown? As a fan, you think it’s going to be a great day, but 3 quarters later your driving home from the game shell shocked by your teams’ 21 point loss.
The NFL has been and always be a game of adjustments. Not just game to game adjustments, but actual in-game adjustments.
As for Burrow, let’s face-it his bread and butter in college was his ability to make quick decisions which were largely a result of the spread offense the Tigers ran.
The NFL is a completely different beast than college and I’m really not sold that Burrow has a strong enough arm to do what his mind tells him to do. Burrow who had so much time in college was able to Door Dash dinner while hanging out in the pocket. He will not have the same luxury in the NFL.
NFL defenses are complex, coaches are smarter, and most linebackers run as fast as an average running back. Schemes are actual schemes
and all the dink and dunk passes that worked so well for Burrow in college can quickly turn a starting QB in the NFL into a career backup.
Beyond the stats, Burrow does not have Tagovailoa scrambling ability and unique playmaking skills that made Tagovailoa a legend.
The Legend of Tua is Born
Remember that time when Tagovailoa was asked to enter the 2018 National Championship game at halftime. At the time he was a true freshman and all he did was go in and win the National Championship.
At halftime, he replaced Jalen Hurts who was ineffective. Tagovailoa ended up throwing the game-winning 41-yard touchdown pass in overtime to another true freshman, wide receiver DeVonta Smith as the Crimson Tide defeated the Georgia Bulldogs; 26-23 claiming their 17th National Championship. He finished the game with 166 passing yards, three passing touchdowns, and one pick. Tagovailoa was named the Offensive MVP of the game, not bad for a guy who only played half of the game. The legend of Tua was born!
Despite Alabama’s loss in the National Championship in 2019, Tagovailoa added to his legend by throwing for nearly 4,000 yards which included 43 touchdowns against 6 picks. The next season was even better as he threw for 2,840 yards in only 9 games. He added 33 touchdowns and was only picked off 3 times. Then came his devastating hip injury.
The Hip Injury That Changed Everything
A hip injury is an unusual injury for a young athlete which is why NFL GMs have shied away from him. Look, everyone who plays football gets injured. So why are NFL front offices shying away from Tagovailoa because of this injury? The answer is they understand MCLs, ACLs, ankle and hamstring injuries, but a hip injury is something that they don’t understand.
For most NFL teams picking Tagovailoa with a first pick is equivalent to flying into the Bermuda Triangle which is so wrong on so many levels if you look at his historic body of work.
Tagovailoa did not participate in February’s NFL combine but with his rehab nearly complete, he was set to conduct an NFL Pro Day in April but was unable to invite scouts because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Left Hand Genius
It has been a long-time since a great left-hand quarterback roamed the NFL. The list of notable lefties goes like this – Ken Stabler, Boomer Esiason, Steve Young, Mark Brunell, and Michael Vick.
Tagovailoa who appears to be fully recovered from his injury looks like one of the best QB prospects of all-time and I can’t believe he is most likely not going to be picked in the top 5 of this years NFL Draft.
Drafting Tagovailoa on stats basically means you are drafting one of the best college QB’s in the last 10 years. But if you draft him on the videotape evidence you are getting one of the best college football quarterbacks in this history of the game, and you won’t have to use the first pick to get him.
Being a lefty in the NFL is actually a huge advantage for Tagovailoa. Defenses are not used to playing left-handers, combine that with all his skills, football presence and the fact that he that ‘it’ factor I think any team that picks a QB before Tagovailoa is going to ‘Aaron Rodgers’ regret it.