NBC Sports’ Peter King swung from the heels in his mock draft Monday by predicting the New England Patriots will select Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the 13th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The San Francisco 49ers currently own the No. 13 pick, but they’re reportedly open to trading the selection, and King believes Bill Belichick could pounce if Tagovailoa begins to slide down the draft board Thursday night.
“The reason I gave him to the Patriots is that if he falls, and he continues to fall, if he gets to 12, 13, 14, look at Bill Belichick’s relationship with (Alabama coach) Nick Saban,” King said Monday on NBC Sports, offering further explanation for his bold projection. “Nick Saban loves Tua Tagovailoa. He loves his competitiveness, he loves his drive, his ability to come back from injury. He loves everything about him. And in my opinion, that’s exactly what he would tell Bill Belichick.
“And if you watch the tape of Tua when he’s healthy, he’s a great football player. So, then you decide: Is maybe trading next year’s (first-round pick) worth it — this year’s (first-round pick) and next year’s (first-round pick) to get a guy who could be a great player for the next 10 or 12 years in the NFL?
“Now, you’re taking a risk. You are. But I just thought, it seems to me, anyway, the kind of gamble that Bill Belichick very well might take. I have no inside information. All it is is just a projection, that if I were Bill Belichick and I saw Tua falling, I would say, ‘I want this guy.’ ”
The Patriots need a quarterback in wake of Tom Brady’s departure. Jarrett Stidham, a fourth-round pick in last year’s draft, currently is the frontrunner to become New England’s starting QB this season, with veteran journeyman Brian Hoyer serving as the backup. But it’s likely the Patriots will add another signal-caller at some point, and how they proceed in the draft could reveal how they feel about Stidham’s NFL potential.
Tagovailoa is a wild card in the upcoming draft thanks to his extensive injury history, which includes a hip ailment that cut his final season short at Alabama. While some believe the young southpaw remains the second-best QB prospect behind LSU’s Joe Burrow, who almost certainly will go No. 1 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals, others believe Oregon’s Justin Herbert will be drafted before Tagovailoa.
King predicted Monday the Miami Dolphins will trade up from No. 5 to No. 3 and select Herbert, jump-starting Tagovailoa’s draft-day tumble.
“Over this past weekend, I talked to 12 general managers and several coaches, and all of them had different feelings about Tua Tagovailoa — about where he should go, where he would go,” King said. “I didn’t find many people, including some who know the Miami Dolphins pretty well, thinking that he would go to Miami. And honestly, if I had 10 or 11 people over the weekend who said, ‘Dolphins, yeah, they love Tua,’ I probably would have put him to Miami. But a clear majority felt that the Dolphins are gonna go with Herbert.”
Tagovailoa is arguably the most polarizing prospect in this year’s draft given the risk factor that comes with his immense upside. It would be relatively shocking to see him wind up in New England, but that obviously didn’t stop King from predicting what would be a fascinating development.