Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is one of the most polarizing prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft class. There are a wide-range of opinions on where he should be taken later this month. In an effort to provide some clarity and context, CBSSports.com dives deep into one of the most tantalizing draft storylines.
What he offers from an athletic standpoint
First, let's take a look at what a healthy Tagovailoa offers to teams. As a left-handed quarterback, the ball does come out and spin a bit differently than it would from a right-handed quarterback. It is not something that would deter a team from selecting him, but it might take some adjustment from the receivers.
Tagovailoa is not the fastest player and will never be confused for a dual-threat quarterback. The Ewa Beach native is a pocket quarterback and an accurate one to boot. His knowledge of the game is obvious in the way that he manipulates defenders with his eyes. His ball placement is among the best. Tagovailoa does not possess the strongest arm but it is enough to get the job done.
As the quarterback of a team loaded with NFL talent -- Henry Ruggs III, Jerry Jeudy, Najee Harris, Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle last season alone -- there are questions about whether or not he directly benefited by having that strong of a supportive cast. To be honest, those concerns are warranted because he was not forced to go to his second or third read often.
The medical history
With all of that being said, Tagovailoa is a leader and stands apart as a top-two quarterback prospect when healthy. The latter two words weigh heavy, however.
By now, fans across the country are familiar with the devastating hip injury that he suffered in November against Mississippi State. In the same season, he suffered a high-ankle sprain that required surgery and the loss of a game. During the 2018 season, he suffered injuries to his ankle, knee and finger. No games were missed.
Former NFL executive Mike Lombardi revealed to the Miami Herald that the quarterback had also broken his wrist twice. Lombardi went a step further to call him "brittle." The purpose of laying out his medical history is not to pile on, but rather to provide some context that extends deeper than his widely-known hip injury.
The NFL combine is usually Step 1 for teams to gain a better understanding of injury history. Tagovailoa, like all others in attendance, underwent a medical exam, and those results are disseminated to each of the league's member franchises. There is commonly a Step 2 for involved teams and that entails a more thorough exam by their own team doctors. Those medical re-checks and additional examinations were in jeopardy because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
It is unclear what the combine medical results told teams and how much they were able to gather. His medical team has given him a clean bill of health but at least two teams -- one of whom picks within the top 10 -- have "flunked" him based on the medicals, according to Lombardi via AL.com. It is worth noting that 32 teams are not selecting the player. It only takes one.
Last month, Tagovailoa posted a video of his workout. He was moving well and did not look impeded by his hip injury. In fact, he boldly claimed that he was back to "100 percent."
"I feel 100 percent. I feel like if there was a game today, I'd be able to go out and perform the same way I was able to perform in previous years. I feel as mobile as possible. I feel 100 percent," he said via NFL Media.
The truth often lies somewhere in between, but it is difficult to form an opinion without all the information.
How it could impact his stock
Tagovailoa is not the first draft prospect to be picked apart as the process prolongs. It happens every year with top prospects. Where were all of these remarks two months ago? It is a fair question. The intent must be questioned as well. Could these dissenting opinions be strategically placed to push an agenda in favor of the Dolphins? Miami is certainly in the market for a quarterback and would love to acquire one without giving up additional draft capital. Could this be just a smokescreen?
General managers are already pushing the narrative that this is an odd year and are questioning how they are even going to complete the draft. Even in uncertain circumstances, NFL owners are not going to be overly understanding and dismissive if their team's draft fails. There will be accountability regardless of the challenges presented. Decision-makers might as well come to terms with this situation being their reality and adapt.
In any year, there are inherent risks when taking a prospect in the first round. The list of draft busts are as long or longer than the success stories.
Former Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said that it would be "irresponsible" to select Tagovailoa in the top 10. With all due respect, Tannenbaum should understand the inherent risks of taking a prospect in the first round regardless of injury. He was at the helm in draft classes featuring Vernon Gholston and Mark Sanchez. Oregon's Justin Herbert, Utah State's Jordan Love and even LSU's Joe Burrow carry their own varying levels of risk. The only certainty in the NFL Draft is uncertainty.
There are ways to mitigate risk, but they can not be totally alleviated.
How it boils down
The Alabama product is high risk, high reward. He carries potentially the largest draft range that has been seen in recent memory. If there is a shadow of a doubt relating to his health, then Miami, Los Angeles or any other team can not compromise vital draft capital to move up.
The Dolphins have three first-round picks but it does not mean that they should be reckless with those picks. If he falls, then weigh those aforementioned risks and rewards, and make a decision best suited for the organization long-term. If the team is comfortable with his medical history, draft him with confidence.
The murmurs have grown louder, but there will be a resolution in two weeks.