Tua Tagovailoa is most polarizing figure of NFL Draft 2020

Tua Tagovailoa is most polarizing figure of NFL Draft 2020

The slogan, as recently as October, was Tank for Tua. Now, as the NFL draft nears, it has been altered, to Roll the Dice with Tua.

There isn’t a more debated prospect than Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in this year’s draft. Some see a future superstar who produced at a prolific rate when healthy in the nation’s premier conference. Others envision an undersized bust who can’t stay on the field. His mock draft results show how opinions vary on him, from going in the top five to falling into the late teens.

He’s a polarizing figure, the big mystery of an already intriguing draft that will be run virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic that has led to the cancellation or postponement of all sports.

“It’s going to be the million-dollar question,” lead ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said on WEEI radio in Boston.

 Tua Tagovailoa
Tua TagovailoaAP

Most of the questions surround the southpaw’s health. The 22-year-old Hawaiian appeared in just nine games last year due to a high ankle sprain and dislocated hip, both of which required surgery. The year before, he also suffered a high ankle sprain that led to a minor operation. He’s 6-foot and 217 pounds, leading some to believe staying healthy will be a hurdle he can’t overcome, even though he did reportedly get a medical recheck recently at the NFL combine to “overwhelmingly positive” results.

Former Jets and Dolphins executive Mike Tannenbaum has said “it would be irresponsible to take him in the top 10.” ESPN analyst Rex Ryan, who has coached the Jets and Bills, said he is “the biggest gamble in the history of the NFL draft.” Former NFL general manager Mike Lombardi called him “brittle,” listing all his injuries as proof. NFL Network draft guru Daniel Jeremiah has Tagovailoa rated higher than Oregon signal-caller Justin Herbert, but still expects Herbert to get selected before Tagovailoa.

There have been rumors the Dolphins will pass on Tagovailoa and select Herbert fifth. The Oregon quarterback is the more traditional quarterback, standing 6-6 and weighing 236 pounds. He doesn’t have the injury concerns of Tagovailoa, but he also lacks the upside.

“Let’s be clear. If Herbert gets picked over Tua in my opinion it’s only about injury,” former Eagles and Browns executive Joe Banner tweeted. “To me Tua is much better on tape. Better feel, more accurate and better movement in the pocket.”

ESPN analyst Booger McFarland said the gap between the two is “astronomical.”

“It’s like an ocean,” he said.

When Tagovailoa was on the field for the Crimson Tide, he was brilliant more often than not. He was so dynamic a thrower, coach Nick Saban went to a pass-first attack to take advantage of his skill set.

This past season, he threw for 2,840 yards, 33 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 71.4 completion percentage in nine games. The year before, he finished second in the Heisman Trophy race, throwing for 3,966 yards, 43 touchdowns, six interceptions and 69.0 completion percentage. And nobody can forget his freshman year, when he backed up Jalen Hurts all the way until halftime of the national championship game. With Alabama trailing Georgia 13-0, he was thrown into the fire, and led the Crimson Tide to a dramatic overtime victory, throwing the game-winning 41-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith in the extra session.

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