Tua Tagovailoa is shaping up to be the wild card of the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Alabama quarterback, once viewed as a surefire top-10 pick (if not the No. 1 selection overall), is coming off a 2019 season cut short by a hip injury, raising questions about where exactly he’ll be chosen in the first round.
The debate has intensified in recent days, too, with former NFL executive Michael Lombardi reporting on the most recent episode of “The GM Shuffle” podcast that Tagovailoa has “flunked” at least two team physicals ahead of the draft due to the “multitude of injuries” the QB sustained throughout his college football career.
“What they saw is the fact that it’s not just his hip. It’s his ankle. It’s his wrist,” Lombardi said. “He broke his wrist the first day of spring ball one year, and then they fixed it and he came back and rebroke it again. I mean, he’s brittle. He is brittle. You can’t deny it. He’s a really good player. … I’m not disputing the evaluation. I’m saying that if you’re picking a quarterback, it’s really hard to pick a good one. It’s even harder with a guy who can’t stay healthy. That’s my point.
“Two teams I’ve talked to have flunked him. They flunked him on not just the hip, (but) on the multitude of injuries. The risk far outweighs the reward.”
Lombardi obviously has sources across the NFL, having held front office jobs for the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots. And he’s not alone in voicing concern over Tagovailoa’s medical history, making it fair to wonder whether the 22-year-old signal-caller’s stock will continue to slip leading up to the draft, which kicks off next Thursday night and will be conducted virtually amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Miami Dolphins once seemed like a logical fit for Tagovailoa with the No. 5 pick, assuming the Cincinnati Bengals draft LSU quarterback Joe Burrow with the No. 1 pick, as expected, and the Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions and New York Giants stand pat and don’t select a QB with picks No. 2, 3 and 4, respectively. But even the ‘Fins might steer clear of Tagovailoa when the time comes if it’s determined he poses too much of a risk.
Now, might all this buzz open the door for Oregon’s Justin Herbert or Utah State’s Jordan Love to leapfrog Tagovailoa on some draft boards? Perhaps. Although it’s also possible this information is being leaked by a team hoping Tagovailoa slides to them on draft night.