Tua Tagovailoa NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Immense Talent vs. Injury Risk (Scouting Report)

If Tua Tagovailoa had stayed healthy, Cincinnati would have a very interesting decision to make with the number one pick. Teams outside of the number one pick also have a hard decision to make, as Tagovailoa’s hip injury is still somewhat of a mystery as far as how healthy he can be moving forward. Tagovailoa’s durability is the hump he will need to get over, as he checks off a lot of boxes for being a pro-ready quarterback. Tua Tagovailoa still projects to go inside the top eight in the upcoming draft, and Miami seems to be the likely destination. He is a smart quarterback, who can place the ball where he pleases. His mobility outside of the pocket isn’t one of a true dual-threat quarterback, but he is athletic and can create plays out of nothing.

Tua Tagovailoa College Production

YearClassGamesCompletionsAttemptsComp%Passing YardsYards/AttemptPassing TouchdownsInterceptionsPasser Rating
2017FR8497763.66368.3112175.0
2018SO1524535569.0396611.2436199.4
2019JR918025271.4284011.3333206.9
Career3247468469.3744210.98711199.4

Tua Tagovailoa eventually forced out Jalen Hurts, and took over the starting job at Alabama. He completed 69% of his passes throughout three seasons, and over 70% in his Junior year. Tagovailoa had 76 touchdowns over two seasons, and only 11 interceptions over his entire college career. Alabama has generally had game manager style quarterbacks over the past decade, and that changed with Tua. He averaged over 11 yards per attempt, and had about 4,000 yards on 245 completions in 2018. As mentioned above, despite being an athletic quarterback, he is not defined as a running quarterback. He ran for less than 200 yards in each of his first two seasons, and had just 17 rushing yards in his Junior year. However, Tagovailoa played with ankle injuries a few times throughout his career.

Video Breakdown

One of the major pros that stands out with Tagovailoa is that he has excellent accuracy on the deep ball. There is such a difference in upside for deep balls when the ball is put in place where wide receivers can continue without skipping a beat. At 0:10, this is where we first see that ability against a good LSU defense. Tagovailoa did play with some incredible NFL ready wide receivers, which certainly helps as well. During this play to Devonta Smith, he does not look his way until just before the throw. We see the same process at 0:33 where he makes a strong leading throw down field. As mentioned above, he is not someone who looks to run and generates a ton of rushing numbers. But, at 0:51, we can see him beat a defense with his legs. The potential is there, but he is easily a pass first quarterback. At 3:20 we see Tua be able to step up and show his strong pocket presence. He moves out of some light pressure and makes a strong throw on the run. Tua doesn’t have elite arm strength, but at 3:57 he fires in a nice ball on the quick slant. Throughout the video his clean and consistent mechanics are shown. The arm accuracy is the best in the class, and it isn’t really that close either.

Pros

  • Tua Gif 1Arm Accuracy
  • Excels In The Pocket
  • Can Throw On Run
  • Not Afraid To Take Chances
  • Elite Deep Ball Accuracy
  • Vision
  • Hits Receivers In Stride
  • Takes Care Of Ball
  • Mobility
  • Extends Plays
  • Puts Throws Where Only Receivers Can Catch Them
  • Poised In Pocket
  • Excellent In Close Games

Completing nearly 70% of his passes in college is a clear signal of strong arm accuracy. But the fact that he didn’t dink and dunk his way to this 70% completion percentage is really something. He pushed the ball downfield, and was not afraid to take chances either. Tua is a pocket passer that has the ability to run. He can get outside the pocket and make defenses pay, but also throw on the run. What I like most about Tua is that he throws an unreal deep ball. The loft and placement on his deep balls are nearly perfect. He also throws to where only receivers can make the catch, and this has helped keep turnover numbers low. We didn’t see this a ton in the video above, but he can get outside the pocket and make plays there. Tua’s poise in the pocket and in high leverage situations is a strong part of why teams fell in love with him so closely.

Cons

  • Durability
  • Doesn’t Have Elite Arm Strength
  • Could Start NFL Career On IR

There is really only one thing that is weighing Tua down right now. That is the hip injury that was pretty severe, and really we don’t have that clear of a read on it. He also had a few ankle injuries. This is the biggest red flag, and wherever he lands, they will need to have some backup plans. Looking into Miami, Ryan Fitzpatrick would be at least good preparation for year one. Neither Joe Burrow or Tua have elite arm strength, but this is more just a nitpick if anything. His ball placement and ability to get the ball out quick make up for this.

NFL Comparison

Russell Wilson GifRussell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks

Tua Tagovailoa is like a cross between Drew Brees and Russell Wilson. He has the athleticism of Wilson, and the arm accuracy of Brees. He also throws a mean deep ball and makes some truly remarkable throws that make me think of Wilson. They placement is where I see the resemblance the most.

Tua is not as undersized as Wilson was coming out of, and he resembles the same size as Brees being 6’1. While it is looked at being undersized for the position, it has not been a huge knock on some of these prospects.

Best/Worst Fit

We are likely looking at Miami taking Tua with the fifth overall pick. Miami desperately needs to upgrade their line, allowing 56 sacks last season. This is a major concern given his durability. They have some young wideouts, but there is a better place that can land Tua. That is the Los Angeles Chargers, who have a better offensive line, and some loaded receiving options. Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, and then if they hang onto Ekeler/Henry, this would be an excellent situation to jump into. He can thrive in any offense.

Skill Ratings + Breakdown

Tua 2 GifVision – 9 

Tua is extremely well poised, and does not make the mistake many college quarterbacks make, and that is locking onto their receiver. He anticipates where defenders will go, and rarely makes mistakes.

Accuracy – 9

Easily what excites most pro teams about Tua is his accuracy. Whether it is in the short game or on the deep ball, he excels at both. He also puts the ball where his receivers can make plays after the catch.

Arm Strength – 7

There are names with better arms in the draft, but that doesn’t really matter to me here. Tua has still a strong arm and can fit the ball into tight spots with some zip. His deep ball placement is also something that makes us not think twice about not having tier one arm strength.

Pocket IQ – 8

Watching Tua move around the pocket is impressive. He has quick feet, and his footwork also helps him escape when the pocket breaks down. This bodes well if he lands with a team that has a poor offensive line. Tua has no issue sliding in the pocket or stepping up to make a pass.

Mechanics – 8

Watching a lefty quarterback can be a bit weird at times, but not with Tua. I love the quick delivery, and he has a fluid motion when throwing deep balls. He is extremely consistent.

Mobility – 8

NFL teams are going to want him to stay in the pocket and not take a ton of hits. He didn’t give us a ton of rushing production in college, but that doesn’t mean he can’t do it. Every now and then Tua will flash his above average athleticism and beat you with his legs.

  
Jason Guilbault has been writing and podcasting in the fantasy sports world for over five years. You can find his work at Daily Fantasy Cafe. He is an avid Tottenham fan, and follows the Boston sports teams. When he isn’t diving into stats, he is enjoying the outdoors or down at the local brewery.

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