Was Tua the biggest steal of the draft?
Updated: Aug 24, 2020
In my opinion, although taken with the 5th overall pick Tua Tagovailoa was the biggest steal in the draft. While Joe Burrow was the consensus number one pick, I think had Tua not have been injured and therefore been able to attend the combine and team workouts he would have at the very least challenged for the top pick. Additionally, due to the current pandemic he was unable to be seen by team doctors making some teams scared to take the risk on him. It was in game 9 of the 2019 college football season that Tua went down. He was driven into the ground following a sack which caused his hip to dislocate fracturing the posterior wall along leaving Tua with a broken nose and concussion. Whilst this was by far his worst injury to date, Tua has struggled with getting beaten up his entire college career. He suffered a broken finger, sprained knee, quad injury and high ankle sprain in 2018 alone followed by another high ankle sprain I his other ankle. and his gruesome hip injury in 2019. While these injuries have led to some calling Tua brittle I believe his health can be boosted by the Dolphins coaching staff. The Dolphins have also invested a large amount of cap into their offensive line to keep Tua upright.
Apart from his injuries Tua is an incredible prospect hence why I believe he is the biggest steal in the draft. Unlike Burrow, Tua has a large sample size and track record of playing at an elite level. In 2017, albeit not a starter Tua threw 11 touchdowns and 2 interceptions on 77 attempts. Then in 2018 when named a starter Tua led his team to a 15-1 record only losing in the National Championship 44-16 to Clemson, whilst Tua didn’t have the greatest game going 22-of-34 for 295 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions he did have an incredible year, he threw 43 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions. Tua fell just short of Kyler Murray (2,167 points) in the Heisman voting with 1,871 points. Then, in 2019 before going down injured he was completing a career high 71.4% of his passes and he accrued 33 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions in 9 games. Whilst he would unlikely have beaten Burrow to the Heisman without getting injured, he would certainly have made it a competition.
What separates Tua from the rest of the young quarterbacks both in college and in the NFL is his elite passing accuracy. He has received comparisons to Drew Brees for his laser accuracy he showed in college. Throughout his 2 years as a starter he set numerous NCAA career records such as, passing yards per attempt, passing efficiency rating and adjusted passing yards per attempt. Given his natural accuracy his ceiling in the NFL is unlimited in my opinion. Fortunately, Tua fell to the Dolphins at the 5th overall pick, despite being in a rebuilding phase I have a lot of trust in head coach Brian Flores and general manager Chris Grier to successfully turn Miami into a play-off team given how they finished the season and operated in free agency.
While I hope Tua does not see the field his rookie year as in my opinion the best path for him to take would be to sit behind Fitzpatrick for a year whilst Miami’s specialists can prepare his body and let in heal to 100%. Even with the reports that Tua is healthy I would allow him to sit a year and learn defences the way Mahomes did. However, if he does see the field in 2020, I expect it to be in week 9 against the Cardinals, as his first 4 games would be against bad defences. If he does start in week 9, I would predict he throws for around 1,600 yards, 12 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.
Image from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJH4vuizJss
Image by: The University of Alabama