Prior to getting injured during his final season at Alabama, most scouting reports had Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa as the top two quarterbacks heading into the draft. A dislocated hip cemented Burrow into the top spot.
He actually hobbled into the Mississippi State game, where he endured his season-ending injury on a gimpy ankle. Instantly, the tag injury-risk began to fly around in discussions about his draft projection. Here’s our overall impression of Tagovailoa.
We’ll add some pros and cons, plus a best team/worst team fit opinion. We’ve also taken five quarterback skill categories and rated the former Crimson Tide signal caller on a scale of 10 in these areas.
Overall Impression of Tua Tagovailoa
Like many people who have never seen Tagovailoa live, the Hawaiian-born quarterback isn’t as big as he looks on camera. The former Crimson Tide star is listed at six-feet, one-inch, but some feel he is a shade under that number.
He filled out his crimson red Alabama jersey, but probably only tips the scales at 220-pounds. When he came out of Saint Louis High School in Honolulu, most ratings pegged him a 4-star QB. Of course, we all know the impression he made on the collegiate gridiron.
We don’t think he’s necessarily vastly underrated as QB ratings go, but there are more question marks than just those created by a devastating hip injury that ended his college career. His accuracy numbers were impressive.
However, something might be lost in the fact that including the current second-year Viking tight end Irv Smith Jr, Tagovailoa has thrown to nothing but NFL-caliber pass-catchers.
- Confidence is a quality essential to becoming a winning quarterback in the NFL. One of the strongest attributes that has followed Tagovailoa throughout his career is his unshakable level of confidence.
- He is also an accurate passer. His throws are not only on-spot, but he throws a very catchable ball. This combination is a tremendous asset that collective boosts his completion percentage.
- Tagovailoa also seems to have an uncanny mastery of seeing open receivers before they get open. In the NFL, the window of opportunity closes in an instant. Tagovailoa has shown a presence of mind to envision the best route before it fully materializes.
- Durability is the most glaring question surrounding Tagovailoa. Besides a season-ending hip dislocation, he also limped around on a pair of sprained ankles. His small stature has brought up whispers that he may not be physically able to stand up the NFL pounding.
- Everyone has heard scouts label a quarterback as having happy feet. This is a problem when faced with pressure. Game film has shown Tagovailoa to shift his feet incorrectly and alter his balance. This can make the tough throw impossible, which accounts for instances where he overshot his receiver.
NFL Comparison for Tua Tagovailoa
When you are compared with a quarterback who has hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, that’s a good thing. Many tab Tagovailoa as a mirror of Russell Wilson. Whether he turns out to have Wilson’s moxie remains to be seen.
In review of game film, Tagovailoa especially made scouts envision Wilson passing on the run. He also has shown a tremendous level of confidence and composure. Unfortunately, there is another subtle comparison that has to be mentioned.
Tagovailoa’s injury is the same one that crippled the career of Bo Jackson. As talented as Jackson was, he could never regain the necessary speed and agility to compete at the ultimate level. We hope this turns out to be a forgotten comparison for Tua.
Best Team Fit for Tua Tagovailoa
There has been a rumor that the Los Angeles Chargers are considering how they might navigate their way up the draft board to secure one of the best quarterbacks after Burrow. Some feel this is Justin Herbert. That could put a dent in where Tagovailoa falls.
However, with Philip Rivers still in the saddle, getting an LA Charger jersey with his name on it might be a great development. Unlike Miami or Cincinnati, he will not be asked to play as soon as the ink on his contract is dry.
There are some good wide receivers on the Chargers roster, and they ranked 12th giving up the fewest QB sacks. The time to learn would be nice, but the extra time to heal physically could prove even more important. The best fit for Tagovailoa is not in Miami, it’s in Tinseltown with the Bolts.
Worst Team Fit for Tua Tagovailoa
A huge dark cloud could hang over the fifth pick in this year’s NFL draft. When, and if the Miami Dolphins keep that pick, there is some question which quarterback they will take. Most early indications have them taking Tagovailoa.
Now, consider the questions surrounding his physical health and ability to stay on the field, and this makes the Fins a precarious fit at best. Miami hasn’t made any dramatic improvements in an offensive line that allowed their quarterback to be hit more than any other in the league.
Oddly enough, the team that may draft him in April could turn out to be the worst scenario for Tagovailoa. Rather than Joe Burrow trying to hold the Bengals hostage at number one, the former Alabama QB might hope for different scenery than South Beach.
Tua Tagovailoa Skills Rating
Pocket Presence – Unless he has been pressured, Tagovailoa has shown outstanding pocket presence. One of his drawbacks has been a tendency to shift his feet in the face of a strong rush. While he makes excellent reads and senses open routes early, hands in his face can affect his pocket presence.
Score – 7.5
Arm Velocity – His arm strength and velocity are average. The reason he is able to make the connection on deeper routes is his ability to read routes. His mid-range throws are crisp and accurate, but he’s only rated average on arm velocity.
Score – 6.5
Passer Accuracy – This skill is one that has established him as a potential starter in the NFL. His accuracy is enhanced by his read ability. It is also helped by what receivers call a very catchable ball. Tagovailoa puts the ball in spots where his receivers can make the catch. That earns him a good grade on passer accuracy.
Score – 8.5
Athleticism – When he arrived on campus in Tuscaloosa, no one question his athletic ability. All reports say he is confident that he will return unchanged from a dislocated hip. Some might have a different projection. Tagovailoa possessed excellent athleticism prior to the injury, but this must be considered a huge question mark heading to the ultimate level.
Score – 6
Decision-Making – This is the one skill that Tagovailoa actually seemed to score better than every other quarterback in the draft. Much of it certainly stems from his ability to read routes. Having an inherent sense of which receivers are going to be open is a critical part of quarterback decision-making. Tagovailoa may be the best on the draft board at this skill.
Score – 10
A lot has changed when we talk about Tua Tagovailoa’s draft outlook over the last two seasons. There were many who thought he would be the Arizona Cardinals’ first pick if they would have been eligible last season.
Heading into the 2109 NCAA football season, he was still the consensus top pick. But then, a fellow named Joe Burrow took college football by storm. If that wasn’t enough to push Tagovailoa at least one spot down the draft board, a horrific hip injury finished the job. What happened after the injury was a lot of question marks began to pop up.
Scouts wondered about his durability primarily, but there were also mentions of happy feet and average arm strength. Tagovailoa was once the QB darling heading into the draft. Now he’ll play with that proverbial chip on his shoulder, trying to prove the naysayers were wrong. Only time will tell.