2020 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Tua Tagovailoa
By Charlie Campbell
Tagovailoa won the starting quarterback job over Hurts for the 2018 season and was sensational for the Crimson Tide. On the year, he completed 69 percent of his passes for 3,966 yards with 43 touchdowns and six interceptions. Tagovailoa led Alabama to return to the National Championship game, but this time, the Crimson Tide lost to Clemson.
Tagovailoa completed 71 percent of his passes for 2,840 yards with 33 touchdowns and three interceptions in his injury-shortened 2019 season. He had two rushing touchdowns as well. Disaster struck for him in early November when he suffered a dislocated hip against Mississippi State. His injury is rare and not common in football, but the medical prognosis is that Tagovailoa will make a full recovery and resume football activities during the spring of 2020. Earlier in the season, Tagovailoa suffered a high ankle sprain against Tennessee and had surgery the day after the injury. Given the hip injury on top of the injuries he had earlier in the 2019 season and in 2018, there will be major medical and durability concerns for Tagovailoa in the leadup to the 2020 NFL Draft.
Team sources are concerned about Tagovailoa's long-term future in the NFL. The track record that gives them concern is Dennis Pitta. The former Ravens tight end dislocated his hip in training camp of 2013. He came back to play later that season, but in September of 2014, Pitta dislocated the hip again. Doctors told Pitta it was not safe for him to continue to play football. He returned to the field in 2016 and posted career highs that year, but then dislocated the hip for a third time during 2017 OTAs. Right now, NFL evaluators are worried about a similar future for Tagovailoa.
If it weren't for the hip injury, it would be a vigorous debate about who should go first overall in the 2020 NFL Draft between Tagovailoa and LSU's Joe Burrow. If Tagovailoa hadn't been injured, he would be a legit No. 1-overall prospect.
Tagovailoa is a good fit for the current NFL and looks like he could become a quality starter early in his NFL career. He can beat defenses as a pocket passer, use his feet to move the ball on the ground, and is dangerous to make a game-changing throw any time he drops back to pass. Tagovailoa makes plays in the clutch and has the presence of a winner.
Tagovailoa is an aggressive passer who doesn't hesitate to challenge defenses downfield. He throws a very good deep ball, showing a quality arm and an ability to place his passes well downfield. He may not have an elite cannon, but his arm looks good enough. In the pocket, Tagovailoa shows patience and doesn't panic when his first read is covered. With his presence and feel, he has the ability to function in a vertical passing offense.
Tagovailoa is a steady thrower who generally has good accuracy. He does well for the most part on his short and intermediate passes to hit receivers on the run on slants and crossing routes.
In almost every NFL game, there are a few third-and-medium situations on which a mobile quarterback can use their legs to pick up a first down, and Tagovailoa has that ability. He is a good athlete with enough quickness to get yardage on the ground. His mobility and athleticism allow him to buy time and escape sacks. There were also times when Tagovailoa demosntrated an ability to scramble and make throws off platform to move the chains. Tagovailoa is not tall, but not too short given the current trend in the NFL. He also has a thick build that should help him to avoid injury.
Tagovailoa has some things he can seek to improve on, and he definitely has upside to develop as he gains more experience. There were plays where he could pull the trigger a little faster and anticipate his receivers breaking open rather than waiting an extra second. In the NFL, he won't have as much time to throw as he did at Alabama. His footwork and mechanics could use some development, but he has a very good starting point for a quarterback entering the NFL. Tagovailoa is also left-handed, and that will cause time to adjust for his pro receivers as the vast majority are used to a right-handed quarterbacks, plus his offensive line is going to need a very good right tackle as he will be the blind side protector for Tagovailoa.
Team sources also say Tagovailoa will need to develop his preparation habits for the NFL. With the NCAA-mandated limited amount of time players are allowed to practice and prepare, that is understandable.
Tagovailoa looks like a future NFL starter and will become a team's young franchise quarterback on the opening night of the 2020 NFL Draft. If Tagovailoa can stay healthy and his hip injury doesn't impact his future, he has the potential to be an elite Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback capable of leading his team to Super Bowl championships.
Player Comparison: Russell Wilson. If Tagovailoa can put his hip injury behind him and stay healthy, I think he will be a quarterback similar to Wilson. They have a similar style of play with mobility, accurate passing, and making plays in the clutch.
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2020 NFL Draft Scouting Reports
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