The range of landing spots for Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is much greater than expected.
Entering the 2019 season, it was a formality that the Miami Dolphins would hold the No. 1 pick and Tagovailoa would take his talents to South Beach. As it would turn out, the Cincinnati Bengals earned the 2020 NFL Draft’s first-overall selection and LSU’s Joe Burrow is the consensus top passer available while the Dolphins hold pick No. 5.
The belief has been that Tagovailoa is still Miami’s guy and the emergence of Burrow as a natural link to the Bengals would lead to either the Dolphins landing the Alabama passer or moving up just a few slots to get him. As time goes on, there’s a growing sense that Tagovailoa ending up in Miami is far from a certainty.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, TDN gained perspective from multiple teams that Oregon’s Justin Herbert was higher on the Dolphins' board than Tagovailoa. In Bleacher Report's Matt Miller’s scouting notebook, per unidentified league sources, Herbert could be the apple of the Dolphins’ brass’ eye.
“Dolphins fans might want to begin thinking about life without Tua Tagovailoa as their quarterback after months of "Tank for Tua" talk. I'm told by multiple league sources that the Dolphins aren't convinced Tua is the best option and could instead target Oregon's Justin Herbert. The situation is fluid, but the buzz around the league is that Herbert has the most fans in the Dolphins' draft room.”
While Tagovailoa could land in Miami, there is more than enough smoke to consider other outcomes. The most popular destination after the Dolphins is the Los Angeles Chargers but there is plenty of momentum to indicate Utah State’s Jordan Love is their first choice at No. 6.
With the current state of affairs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the medicals red flags for Tagovailoa are challenging to navigate especially for an NFL team that is set to make him the new face of their franchise.
Where will Tagovailoa ultimately land? The answer isn’t as straightforward as once believed. Let’s examine some potential suitors that deserve consideration.
Washington has reportedly been divided over drafting Dwayne Haskins last season and the transactions that have taken place since his selection was made affirm them.
While all-everything pass rusher Chase Young is going to be available at No. 2, nothing trumps securing a franchise quarterback if the organization doesn’t have one. Haskins could be it. But if the team is split over him and newly signed head coach Ron Rivera has been given more power in the organization than ever before under owner Daniel Snyder then it’s appropriate to consider Washington is primed to relish its opportunity to land Tagovailoa.
Washington recently traded for Kyle Allen, who has two years of experience in offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s system. In a year where at a minimum, OTA’s and minicamps are likely to be reduced, having a quarterback in the building with two seasons and 13 starts of experience in an offense that is foreign to the rest of the roster was not done by coincidence.
Allen is a limited passer that doesn’t project favorably as a long-term answer, but he can certainly bridge the gap to whoever is. Perhaps that’s Haskins, who entered the league with minimal experience in college and is reliant on his ability to stand tall in the pocket and distribute the football with limited mobility. Maybe that’s Tagovailoa, who brings more mobility, experience and accuracy to the equation.
Rivera is known for being a no-nonsense coach. If he isn’t all-in on Haskins, there’s no certainty as to when Washington will again be picking this high in the order and in position to land a passer as talented as Tagovailoa.
With Allen in the mix, it affords Washington more flexibility with its pick, including enough depth on the roster to move Haskins similarly to how the Arizona Cardinals dealt Josh Rosen during last year’s draft after making him a top-10 pick the previous year.
Just like there’s reason to be open-minded about Tagovailoa not being Miami’s pick at No. 5, the same could be said for Washington and Young at No. 2 if the organization still isn’t on the same page with Haskins.
Given the number of holes on the roster and the Carolina Panthers entering Year 1 of the Matt Rhule era, they should not even be considering moving up the order for Tagovailoa but that is a much different conversation if he’s on the board when they draft at No. 7.
Tagovailoa is a perfect fit for Joe Brady’s spread offense that puts a heavy emphasis on the quarterback’s decision-making, accuracy and poise in the pocket. Tagovailoa firmly checks those boxes.
Carolina recently signed quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year, $63 million contract which does complicate matters to an extent, but not if Tagovailoa could be had at No. 7. With Bridgewater already in the fray, Carolina could take its time bringing along Tagovailoa and make sure he’s fully healthy and ready to run the offense. During this time, the Panthers could take the necessary steps to get the offensive infrastructure better around him.
Absent of a trade up, Tagovailoa to the Panthers is worth talking about.
New England Patriots
There’s reason to believe Tagovailoa gets by the Chargers at No. 6. If he does, a tumble down the board becomes a very real possibility.
Since Tom Brady is no longer a New England Patriot, the quarterback room suddenly consists of just Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer. For the first time since 1993, the Patriots need a quarterback and Tagovailoa would be a wonderful addition.
It might be ambitious to think New England, armed with the 23rd-overall pick, wouldn’t have to make a move up the board to land Tagovailoa but in either case, the Patriots are a natural fit for his services.
Sleeper: Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts don’t own a first-round selection but they do have picks Nos. 34 and 44 with the aging Philip Rivers on a one-year deal. Packaging those picks together for a move up to a team like Dallas at No. 17 isn’t a crazy thought to land a new franchise quarterback.