In the two weeks leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft, NESN.com will be taking a closer look at this year’s quarterback class and how each player could fit with the New England Patriots. Next up, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.
Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
6 feet, 217 pounds, 10-inch hands
Projected Round: Early first
2019 Stats: 71.4 percent, 2,840 yards, 33 touchdowns, three interceptions, 11.3 yards per attempt (nine games)
Strengths: Accuracy, field vision, decision-making, escapability, college production
Weaknesses: Injury history, durability concerns, height, stacked supporting cast
Testing numbers: DNP (hip)
Analysis: Over the past six months, Tagovailoa has gone from the likely No. 1 overall pick to a player who, thanks to his worrisome injury history, now could tumble to the middle of the first round, if you buy into what the pre-draft rumor mill has churned out.
Though teams absolutely should be concerned about the dislocated hip that ended Tagovailoa’s college career, and the surgeries on his ankles and hand that came before it, we still cannot envision him slipping past the Miami Dolphins-Los Angeles Chargers tandem at Nos. 5 and 6.
Speculation about Tagovailoa enduring an Aaron Rodgers-esque fall reeks of spin from QB-needy teams further down the board. He simply has too much talent — excellent accuracy, superb diagnosing skills, unreal collegiate production — for that many teams to pass up.
Because of this, we believe it’s very unlikely the Patriots, who currently own the 23rd overall pick, will be in a position to draft the 6-foot lefty. A jump from No. 23 into the top five or six would require a trade unlike any deal New England has made during the Bill Belichick era.
While Belichick’s Patriots have traded up in the first round on four occasions, their largest leap was 11 picks, and that came way back in 2002 (for Daniel Graham at No. 21). Since then, they’ve moved up one spot for Ty Warren (No. 14 to No. 13) in 2003 and six spots each for Chandler Jones (No. 27 to 21) and Dont’a Hightower (No. 31 to 25) in 2012.
It’s worth noting, too, that Belichick has never traded a future Patriots pick during any of his 20 drafts. This sort of vault almost certainly would require the inclusion of New England’s 2021 first-round pick and possibly more future selections.
Of course, the Patriots also haven’t faced a quarterback situation this uncertain since the early 1990s, but including one or more of their 2021 picks in hypothetical Tagovailoa trade package would run contrary to two decades of Belichick draft strategy.
But let’s say, for argument’s sake, Tua does slide.
Say the Dolphins opt for the safer bet (from an injury perspective) in Oregon’s Justin Herbert at No. 5, and the Chargers grab one of the top offensive tackles at No. 6. Say the Carolina Panthers (Teddy Bridgewater), Jacksonville Jaguars (Gardner Minshew) and Las Vegas Raiders (Derek Carr/Marcus Mariota) all feel comfortable enough about their current QB setups to not use a premium pick on the position.
Say Tagovailoa falls to No. 13, the scenario Peter King outlined in his latest mock draft. What would it take for the Patriots to trade up to that spot, which currently is occupied by a potentially willing partner in the San Francisco 49ers? (The Niners have another pick later in the first round but none in the second, third or fourth.)
In the traditional Jimmy Johnson trade value chart, the 13th overall pick is worth 1,150 points, and pick No. 23 is worth 760 points. Another popular model, developed by Rich Hill of Pats Pulpit, pegs those two picks 336 points and 245 points, respectively. The Patriots currently have no picks in the second round, three in the latter half of the third (Nos. 87, 98 and 100), two in the fourth, one in the fifth, four in the sixth and one in the seventh.
A fair trade package for No. 13, according to Hill’s chart, could include the 23rd, 98th, 100th and 125th picks (total points: 337) or Nos. 23, 87, 100 and 172 (336), assuming San Francisco doesn’t receive a stronger offer from another team. The traditional chart is less forgiving, suggesting that even packaging No. 23 with all three of New England’s third-rounders might not be enough to get a deal done (total points: 1,123).
That’s not a prohibitive price tag, but it might be more than the Patriots would be willing to part with, especially since they have clear needs elsewhere (tight end, linebacker, wide receiver, offensive line) and a promising young quarterback in Jarrett Stidham already on their roster.
A longer fall for Tagovailoa — which, again, we don’t believe will happen — naturally would lower the trade-up price. The Patriots also could include a player like left guard Joe Thuney in a potential deal, either to move up in the first round or to acquire an additional pick or two on Day 2. Thuney, who reportedly was not close to signing an extension as of this past weekend, is set to make $14.7 million on the franchise tag this season, all of which can be wiped off the Patriots’ salary cap by trading him.
So, is it possible for the Patriots to trade up and land Tua? Yes, it’s possible. But we wouldn’t bet on it.