I’ve been making pretty much one bold draft claim over the last two months, and that’s that Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is a prime candidate to be the major “fall” guy in this draft. And that was only partly due to his injured hip. This week, former NFL GM Michael Lombardi put even more fuel to that fire as April 23 approaches, saying on his podcast GM Shuffle that at least one team in the top-10 of the draft has failed Tagovailoa on a physical.
And it’s only partly due to his injured hip.
“What they saw is ... it’s not just his hip. It’s his ankle. It’s his wrist. He broke his wrist the first day of spring ball one year, then they fixed it, he came back, and broke it again. I mean, he’s brittle! He is brittle. You can’t deny it. He’s a really good player,” said Lombardi on the podcast, noting that Mel Kiper and Todd McShay don’t look at the long list of busted QBs in the first round of the draft like Brady Quinn, Mark Sanchez, and JaMarcus Russell. “They all were hot picks ... JP Losman was the next coming of Jesus Christ.”
Lombardi then says that it was actually two teams that he’s talked to who have flunked him on the physical and that it wasn’t just the hip but on a multitude of injuries. “The risk far outweighs the reward.”
The Las Vegas Raiders hold picks 12 and 19 in the draft, which was thought by many to be out of the range to draft Tagovailoa. I didn’t think so though and if the injuries — and the lack of follow-ups because of the pandemic and the ban on teams giving any physicals to anybody at this point — scare some teams away, then it’s more reason to believe that Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden will have to evaluate if they’re the team who wants to take that risk.
If Joe Burrow goes to the Cincinnati Bengals at one, then it may only take a player like Justin Herbert or Jordan Love getting over Tagovailoa for him to start to slide. The teams thought to be looking at QBs are the Miami Dolphins at five and the LA Chargers at six. That’s maybe it as far as teams ahead of Vegas. Of course, trades could happen and other teams, such as Washington, the Detroit Lions, the Carolina Panthers, or the Jacksonville Jaguars could opt to select a QB without too much shock and awe.
But Tagovailoa being available at 12 may be as simple as the Dolphins picking Herbert and the Chargers taking an offensive tackle or a defensive player. If the Raiders didn’t pick him at 12, then it’s not that far to get to 19.
The only question is: If Tua Tagovailoa falls out of the top-10 for a myriad of injuries that took place over a relatively short career at Alabama, do you really want it to be the Raiders to take that chance? When a player is falling, it is often for a reason. In the case of Aaron Rodgers, where the reasons for falling weren’t quite so obvious or understandable, it worked out for that team. In many other examples, it did not. In the case of Jaylon Smith, it was a fortunate return for the Dallas Cowboys. With Myles Jack and the Jaguars, injury concerns did arise again in 2019.
My concerns for Tagovailoa do go beyond the injuries. It’s not that I think he’s a bad QB prospect. It’s just that I believe he ate up easy competition at Alabama, struggled against most of their better opponents, played with way more future professional football players than average, and also has the injury concerns. So I don’t see him as a top-10 pick and maybe not as a first round pick. That’s just me.
If the rest of the league doesn’t see him that way, it could come down to how Mayock and Gruden feel about him and if they disagree.