2020 NFL Draft: With Tua Tagovailoa injury, six prospects stand out for quarterback-needy teams
Tagovailoa's 2019 college season is over but he's expected to make a full recovery from a hip injury
Tua Tagovailoa college football, but details remain sparse about the timeline for that recovery.against Mississippi State on Saturday, ending his 2019 season. Alabama issued a statement explaining that Tagovailoa is "expected to make a full recovery." This is great news for Tagovailoa, one of the most well-liked and respected people in
And that's OK..
In the meantime, NFL teams searching for a franchise quarterback may now be forced to cast a wider net for potential candidates or focus on other positions altogether at the top of the 2020 NFL Draft. The good news is -- there are six intriguing quarterback prospects outside of Tagovailoa who have a strong chance to be selected on one of the first two days of the draft. We'll break them down, but first, let's recap the outlook for several quarterback-needy teams.
The Bengals have the NFL's worst record, they benched Andy Dalton two weeks ago, and rookie Ryan Finley may be considered more of a backup than Dalton's successor. The good news about being this bad: When you have the No. 1 pick you have options. If Cincinnati didn't want to take a quarterback they could draft edge rusher Chase Young and end up with the best player in the draft. They could also choose to go with Ohio native Joe Burrow, whose breakout season for LSU makes him the Heisman favorite and the likely first-overall player drafted in the spring. Even with the uncertainty surrounding Tagovailoa's injury, the Bengals have options. On some draft boards, it's likely that Burrow had moved into the No. 1 quarterback slot -- ahead of Tua -- before the injury.
The organization is in disarray, which, sadly, isn't uncommon. Washington drafted Dwayne Haskins 15th overall last season but the offense isn't equipped to help him succeed. As it stands, their best player, left tackle Trent Williams, refuses to play for the team, which leaves rookie Terry McLaurin, second-year running back Darrius Guice (who missed his rookie season with an ACL injury) and 34-year-old Adrian Peterson as Haskins' best weapons. Not great.
It doesn't help that Haskins has been unspectacular this season, which is hardly a surprise given that he's a rookie with only one year of collegiate experience and that he has little in the way of support on offense. But here's the thing: During two separate radio appearances in the D.C. area last week, we were asked if the Redskins should draft a quarterback. It sounds nuts until you remember that the Cardinals drafted quarterbacks in the first round in back-to-back years as recently as six months ago -- and it was the right move.
Now, you can argue that Arizona shouldn't have drafted Josh Rosen in 2018 but they were able to move Rosen to Miami for a second-round pick during the draft, and they still landed Kyler Murray, who is the NFL Rookie of the Year frontrunner at the midway point of the season. By all indications, the Redskins remain high on Haskins but the Cardinals said the same thing about Rosen 12 months ago.
The easy thing to do would be to draft Chase Young or left tackle Andrew Thomas, assuming the Bengals select Burrow. But Washington could certainly give serious consideration to taking a quarterback too, especially if Tagovailoa is expected to make a full recovery at some point during the 2020 calendar year.
The Dolphins are no longer the worst team in football, and even though franchise quarterback is at the top of their to-do list, they may have to readjust their offseason strategy. If Tagovailoa is healthy, Miami can still grab him if he's on the board. And there's a reason to expect he will be if A) Washington chooses to stick with Haskins and fill another need (of which they have many) and B) the Giants don't trade out of the pick to get rookie Daniel Jones, say, a potential Pro Bowl left tackle. Things get trickier for Miami, however, if Tagovailoa isn't ready to go for the 2020 season.
The Dolphins have three first-round picks and they need a quarterback, offensive linemen and pass rushers, for starters. And while they might be able to fill all those needs in Round 1, it might not be in that order. As an example, Miami could draft Thomas or Iowa offense tackle Tristan Wirfs with their first first-rounder, Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert with their second first-rounder and Penn State edge rusher Yatur Gross-Matos with their final first-rounder. And maybe that works out just fine; the draft is a crapshoot after all, and what seems like a slam dunk in mid-November can, in reality, be much worse when looking back several years later.
Bucs, Broncos, Chargers, Titans
When teams fall in love with a player, usually a quarterback, they're willing to trade up for him. We saw it with the Redskins and Robert Griffin III, the Eagles and Carson Wentz, and in the same 2017 draft the Bears and Mitchell Trubisky, the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes, and the Texans and Deshaun Watson. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. The Bucs, Broncos, Chargers, and Titans all, to varying degrees, need a quarterback. And some or all of these organizations may have given some thought to the idea of trading up for a quarterback in the spring. Burrow will have long been drafted, and the best chance to land a healthy Tagovailoa might be to leapfrog the Dolphins (who currently have the No. 4 pick). But again, we're only days removed from Tagovailoa's injury and there's so much we don't know.
For now, here are five other draft-eligible quarterbacks who could go in the first three rounds -- and who could end up going higher than we originally thought because Tagovailoa isn't fully healthy, he decides to return to school in 2020, or for some other reason completely.
Justin Herbert, Oregon. The No. 3 quarterback on our board, Herbert was inconsistent early in the season but has played really well during the past two games. He looks like an NFL quarterback and can throw the ball through a wall but the biggest question is whether he can perform at a high level from one play to the next.
Jacob Eason, Washington. Eason hasn't played a lot of football in recent years. He lost his job to Jake Fromm early in the 2017 season, transferred from Georgia to Washington and sat out last season, and has played only 10 games in 2019. Like Herbert, Eason checks all the boxes on measurables, but he's also very raw and could use a year or two of seasoning. It would be unfair to ask him to start as a rookie.
Jordan Love, Utah State. Love might be the most physically gifted quarterback in this class. But he's also the most frustrating to watch. His arm talent is undeniable but his decision making leaves a lot to be desired. Some of that is playing for Utah State offense lacking playmakers, but some of that is on Love, who routinely forces balls into coverage and suffers the silly types of turnovers that can doom an NFL season. Like Eason, Love will need time to grow into the job.
Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma. Hurts backed up Tagovailoa last season before transferring to Oklahoma where he has been just as productive as his Sooners predecessors in Lincoln Riley's system: Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. But Hurts is also still learning the position because he hasn't played a lot. And while he's great as a runner (he's nearing 1,000 rushing yards this season), Hurts still has a long way to go as a passer. Yes, he's completing 73 percent of his throws this season, but he's also targeting wide-open receivers, one of whom (CeeDee Lamb) will likely be a top-15 pick in the draft.
Jake Fromm, Georgia. Above the neck, Fromm is more NFL ready than Eason, Love or Hurts, but he's also without the physical abilities of those players. Fromm's arm strength and deep-ball accuracy are issues, and if you don't have those attributes at the college level, they typically don't show up once you're drafted.
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