Tua Tagovailoa is a complex draft prospect. His talent is undeniable and his story is a great one. Tagovailoa spent his freshman season as the backup to Jalen Hurts. His first meaningful snap came in the second half of the National Championship down 13-0. After an overall shaky performance he was able to make the game-winning throw in overtime. In his three seasons at Alabama, Tua has amassed 7,442 yards, 87 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 32 games (24 as a starter).
Makes NFL Throws
There is a reason scouts and analysts consider Tua Tagovailoa a high first-round pick despite various injury concerns. His accuracy and skill set is already at an NFL level. Coaches can rely on Tua to execute their game plan because he rarely makes mental mistakes. On top of getting his team into the right look, he is a very accurate passer. Here are a few of my favorite passes from his games against Ole Miss and LSU:
Uses Eyes to Bait/Freeze Defenders
My favorite part of Tua’s game is his attention to detail. He has extremely good footwork and mechanics. He is great at working through progressions and knows how to mess with defenders just long enough to make a tight throw. Alex Rollins has a great breakdown of how Tua uses his knowledge and eyes to manipulate defenders:
Tagovailoa does not always handle pressure well, but he does have the ability to shine when a play breaks down. He does not possess the ability to extend plays like Russell Wilson, but he is an above average playmaker. Here are a few of my favorite examples of Tua making a play when everything around him is breaking down:
Makes Receivers Break Stride
This is more of a pet peeve than anything that will effect his draft stock. Tagovailoa is a typically accurate passer but he often slightly under throws his receivers. Alabama has an unfair amount of speedsters on their offense. When Tua causes the receivers to break stride, they have a much higher chance of getting caught despite creating yards of separation. At the next level that much of a miss will result in a turnover majority of the time.
As you can see, in both cases Ruggs has to turn around to catch the ball. In the second clip Ruggs is basically lined up to catch a punt, and if the Southern Miss DB had a higher motor he would have tackled Ruggs.
Everyone is talking about Tua’s long list of injuries in just three seasons at Alabama. Not only did he get hurt often, he is also coming off a major injury. Tua Tagovailoa dislocated his right hip and fractured his posterior acetabular wall in November. This injury typically only occurs from high impact car crashes or falling from large heights. Dennis Pitta had a similar injury that ruined his career because it was so easy to re-injure.
On top of the latest injury, he also had plenty of other injuries in his three-year stint at Alabama. In 2018 Tua broke his left index finger, sprained his right knee and had a left high ankle sprain. Those were all separate injuries occurring in different months. In 2019 he had a right high ankle sprain and the previously mentioned hip dislocation/fracture. He had surgery on both high ankle sprains and the hip injury.
As if that wasn’t enough, there is even more injury news about Tua Tagovailoa. Michael Lombardi reported that Tua failed one team’s physical, discovering another injury. “He broke his wrist the first day of spring ball one year. And then they fixed it, he came back, and he broke it again,” Lombardi said, according to the Miami Herald. Tua has the ability to be a really good player, but I would not feel super confident spending a top-10 pick on a quarterback with an injury history as expansive as Tagovailoa’s.
Overall Tua Tagovailoa is an impressive prospect. He brings different traits to the table than the typical high draft pick. Watching him progress through his reads and use his eyes to take defenders away from the throwing lane stood out to me. I would rank his ability to process information during the play first in his class. He does not appear to have any elite raw physical traits, but his accuracy is just as good as anyone in his draft class. I would take Drew Brees’ accuracy over Josh Allen’s arm strength every time. I would have considered Tua for the first overall pick if he could’ve stayed healthy in college. That being said, that fact that we do not know if he can play sixteen games is a real concern. A team will almost certainly take a shot on him early in the first round, and they will be justified in doing so. If Tua can get on the TB12 method or something and stay on the field, he has a shot to be a perennial Pro-Bowler.
If you liked this article, check out my take on the other signal callers in the draft class, starting with Joe Burrow. I will be covering all the top quarterbacks so stay tuned for the rest of the series.