2020 NFL Draft: Why the Jaguars should be bold and trade up for Tua Tagovailoa
The Alabama quarterback is the perfect fix for what's been a long-term problem in Jacksonville
The Jaguars used to be a team with reliable talent at the quarterback position, from Mark Brunell to Byron Leftwich to David Garrard. But ever since using the No. 10 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft on Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville has shuffled through first-round busts, stopgaps and now a failed big-ticket signing in Nick Foles.
Gardner Minshew, the unheralded sixth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, brought some excitement to the offense when he took over for the injured Foles, and while it's easy to be optimistic about his future, Minshew endured plenty of struggles himself, finishing below 50 percent in completion rate on three separate occasions. Clearly the franchise didn't buy in to his impressive early-season stretch, going back to Foles once the former Super Bowl MVP healed.
Rather than pin all their hopes on the man with the 'stache, the Jaguars have the opportunity to make a bold move that could finally give them the franchise quarterback they've been chasing for a decade. Here's why they should get aggressive and go land Alabama prospect Tua Tagovailoa.
1. Tua's value when healthy
As long as the medicals check out, and all reports have been optimistic thus far, Tagovailoa is the type of talent at quarterback that typically isn't available for all but the top one or two teams in a draft. If he hadn't suffered a catastrophic injury, we'd be spending this predraft process debating whether Tagovailoa or Joe Burrow should go No. 1. In a different class, Tua would have a great shot of being the unquestioned No. 1 pick.
The Jaguars were burned by going in on the QB position in a draft class that didn't have a premier talent at the position when they selected Blake Bortles at No. 3 overall. Tua is a much stronger prospect if he's healthy, yet he's going to go in the same spot or even a few picks later.
Furthermore, Tua fills the role of a leader for the franchise who comes from a winning pedigree, which the team tried to capture when they signed the former Super Bowl MVP in free agency. He's the type of prospect who can come in and immediately change the culture, giving the Jaguars a much-needed fresh start after their purge of talent.
2. Minshew's 2020 showcase
For whichever team lands Tua, 2020 will likely be a year where the Alabama star focuses on getting healthy rather than taking over in Week 1. That means Minshew can still have his opportunity to prove he's a franchise quarterback, and if he shines, the Jaguars should find themselves with plenty of trade interest in one of their two young signal-callers.
Worst case, Minshew shows that he's not capable of being a QB1 long-term and the Jaguars are stuck with a super cheap backup QB who has proven he can handle spot starts when called upon. Those guys have plenty of value as well -- just ask the quarterback Jacksonville just traded away.
3. Selling more tickets
It's no secret the Jaguars have had trouble drumming up interest. They had the steepest dropoff in attendance in the league last year, per Sports Business Daily, and the NFL has now taken to shipping them across the pond multiple times in a season.
Here's how you can boost interest: Draft the stud SEC quarterback from one state over. Tagovailoa could be a star anywhere, but his ceiling in Jacksonville is "face of the city" status that -- who knows? -- could keep the Jaguars in northern Florida long-term. That's not the best reason to make an aggressive move for Tua, but it sure can't hurt.
4. The Jaguars' draft pick stockpile
Now we come to what it would cost to trade up, and I have good news: The Jaguars have been amassing picks over the last year, snagging two first-rounders and a mid-round pick for Jalen Ramsey and then shipping off several veterans for mid-round picks this offseason. They may end up with even more draft capital if someone meets their asking price for Yannick Ngakoue, the pass rusher extraordinaire who is also trying to force his way out of Jacksonville.
While it's hard to gauge just what picks are worth in the top 10 because there haven't been that many dealt over the past five years, my chart indicates that a package of No. 9 and No. 20 should be enough to get the Lions interested. Whether it's enough to get a deal done depends on how many suitors Detroit has for the No. 3 pick, but now that Jacksonville owns six picks between 115 and 190, it shouldn't be a deal breaker to include one of those as well to beat whatever offer a team like the Dolphins or Chargers has on the table. I suspect Miami won't be willing to part with No. 5 and 18, so No. 9, 20 and a mid-round pick could wind up being Detroit's best offer.
5. Another trade option for Jacksonville
Speaking of Ngakoue, what about making him a selling point in a trade up for Tagovailoa? Rather than trade two first-round picks, the Jaguars could go to any team picking second through fourth and try to sell them on moving down while staying inside the top 10 and picking up a premier pass rusher.
Having Ngakoue could make it more appealing for Washington to trade out of the No. 2 spot and give up its chance at Chase Young. Detroit certainly could use more edge rush help, and Ngakoue is far more proven than whomever is going to be left on the board at 20, so securing that type of talent could be more appealing than a straight package of picks. And while I'm not sure if the Giants could make a long-term extension for Ngakoue work, he's the difference-maker off the edge they desperately need, so where there's a will, there's a way.
If Tua is on the board when any of these teams pick, Jacksonville would be wise to try and work out a deal involving either Ngakoue or their picks.
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