The Tua Fallout
On November 16th, 2019, Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa suffered a hip injury against Mississippi State in a blowout win. Before we examine the fallout of his unfortunate injury let’s just start off with the obvious; Tua is in many of our thoughts as we hope for the best case with this setback and that he’ll be able to return to the field fully healthy. As someone put it, this injury is bad for football.
Now let’s get to the rumors and speculation we’ve heard so far. Only so much can happen in less than eight hours since the injury occurred, but information is getting around quick. Until the surgery is performed, we won’t know the timetable for return and may not for a while past that, however it is safe to assume Tua will miss the rest of the season even if he were somehow cleared to return beforehand. Comparisons to Bo Jackson’s career ending injury have been made but it should be clear that not only has medical advancements times over been made since Bo, but his career was ended due to a lack of proper care as opposed to the injury itself. Unfortunately, because of the severity of the injury we can’t entirely rule out the idea it may be career ending, but early reports suggest there is optimism over a long-term recovery. That’s all we know at the moment so now let’s get into the impact of Tua’s future and the potential effect on the upcoming draft.
What was once an easy choice has now become a more complicated one. Throughout most of the season Tagovailoa was a competitor for the number one overall draft pick. While he began slipping down draft boards a top ten, if not top five, selection was still very likely. With this injury potentially eating into crucial development time at the next level he’s even more likely for a first-round slide at the cost of millions of dollars. This doesn’t help the narrative that he may be injury prone either. Teams will now have to weigh his quarterbacking ability alongside his health now and that will scare certain teams off.
With a year of eligibility left, Tua and his agents are going to have to listen to the whispers of his draft stock and decide if going back to Alabama for another year is his best choice. This would allow him to get fully healthy, increase his potential draft stock should he make it to next offseason in full health while improving, and potentially make up any money he could lose. It is an option though not a very safe one. Any injury sustained next year, even minor, would greatly increase worry and the potential to fall even further down draft boards is entirely possible. He would also now be competing with Trevor Lawrence and whoever else plays their stock into a 1st round pick. As it is now, there’s seemingly little chance he falls out of the first or even that far down into it assuming his medicals come back mostly clean. It is even possible he gets drafted into a better situation with a lower stock.
While the decision to declare still seems pretty sound, there is always the possibility Tua has something to prove to himself and feels his work at Alabama is not done. There is an upside to returning but it’d be an extremely risky one.
The Dolphin’s Decision
We are making assumptions here. Those assumptions being that the Bengals have won the tank-off and as a result, will select Joe Burrow with that pick. With how the rest of the top-10 currently looks, there are a lot of teams with their QBs already in order who will be looking to build around them or bolster the other side of the ball. I went into this article thinking that the Dolphins choice was clear as it was the theory I subscribed to even before Tua’s injury; Miami was not capable of properly setting up a young QB for success and should improve the roster first. When Tua went down I thought that became the clear route, but on second thought this could be even better. Should Miami elect to draft Tua they could effectively redshirt him a majority of his rookie campaign, let him work his way to full health, practice, then let him play a few late games next season. This way they can get their franchise QB, develop him without affecting the tank/rebuild, while still have the draft ammo over the next two offseason to give him the help he’d need. In this case the decision comes down to the Dolphins.
Do they still believe Tua Tagovailoa is a franchise QB? Is this injury what makes them officially declare him injury prone? That’s the biggest question for them and probably most teams, but I believe that if they’re clear on his medicals come draft, they should draft him should they believe he’s the guy. If they didn’t believe that before obviously pass as they would have. If they thought he was prior and come combine his injury isn’t believed to have long-term worry, draft him. Ultimately, I believe the Dolphin’s decision more or less remains the same as before.
How it Affects the Rest of the Draft
We’re completely in the dark here until the combine. Even then medical records don’t seem to make their way to the public like a lot of information does. So, we’re going to make some guesses here. For starters Joe Burrow went from likely QB1 to surefire QB1. It had been trending this way for a while now but as long as he gets to the offseason healthy (fingers crossed) there isn’t a reason any team shouldn’t have him pegged as the number one guy, and the likely number one overall pick.
This retroactively increases Justin Herbert’s stock without him doing much at all. His season at Oregon has been pretty baseline which has slowly kept ticking his stock downwards. Considering his clean bill of health, incredible arm talent and now question surrounding Tua, few teams may have these two QBs closer than ever before. It seems pretty short sighted to have this injury bring them closer together as prospects, but we never know what NFL teams are thinking and we can pretty confidently say Herbert is less of an injury risk.
The rest of the top 10-16 teams picking in the draft are probably hoping Tua’s medicals come back clean. This draft is so rich and balanced up top that Tua’s selection would have had a great prospect falling down one more spot. While that doesn’t seem like a lot on the surface that one pick can be the difference between getting your guy or not. Recall when San Francisco won the coin flip over Oakland to pick ahead of them, both were targeting OT Mike McGlinchey and being just one pick shy, Oakland elected to trade down for OT Kolton Miller instead. Every team is hoping to have their choice of talent and Tua being healthy helps that probability.
If the injury ends up being slightly more serious and Tua is expected to miss more time, then teams like the Buccaneers, Broncos, Chargers, Titans, Panthers, Colts, or even the Vikings could look to get in on the Alabama alumni. A surefire top five pick now begins to slide and teams further down the draft board will be more and more willing to trade up to land a potential franchise guy at a fraction of the value.
That’s all I have immediately. We should learn more every day and now have something to pay very close attention to throughout #DraftSzn. Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts? Prayers up to Tua who we will hopefully be seeing on Sundays soon.