Tua Tagovailoa Does Not Falter Under Pressure (2020 NFL Draft)
Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
Weight: 217 pounds
40-yard dash: N/A
Hand Size: 10.0 inches
There are some who are trying to drum up the drama in the NFL Draft, suggesting the Bengals may go with Tagovailoa at No. 1 overall, though you shouldn’t be buying that. The good news is that his recovery from hip surgery is seemingly going well and his agent said he’ll be able to throw for NFL teams prior to the draft (scheduled for April 9th).
The left-hander is known as one of the most accurate passers entering the draft, and that’s reflected in his numbers while at Alabama. After completing 69.0 percent of his passes in 2018, he ramped it up to 71.4 percent in 2019, though it certainly didn’t hurt that he was throwing to what’s likely three (or four) first-round receivers over the next two years. He took full advantage of that, as his 76 touchdowns to just nine interceptions over the last two years suggest.
Here’s my detailed scouting report on Tua Tagovailoa (ratings out of five stars):
Arm Strength/Throwing Mechanics
Keeps the ball up where it’s supposed to be most of the time, allows for a quick release. He doesn’t have a big arm by any means, though his accuracy will make up for some of that, and he can get the ball downfield. It’s more of a velocity issue than anything. There are times where he’ll throw a ball into the flats and it will seemingly be in the air forever, as he doesn’t step into the throw like he needs to. The windows in the NFL will close much faster than the ones at Alabama.
RATING: ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2
The first thing you’ll hear about him is that his accuracy is second-to-none, though part of me feels like his accuracy is just a tad overrated when throwing down the field. Sure, he makes throws that make you sit up in your chair and think “this guy is ridiculous,” but he also makes throws that miss the mark by quite a bit. You’ll see the ball hang-up in the air at times, allowing defenders to close in on the receivers. The receivers he had at his disposal certainly made life easier on him, as he rarely had to “aim” his balls, but rather get the ball in their general vicinity. There were plenty of times his receivers had multiple yards of separation, but it didn’t look like it at the catch-point due to the ball being slightly behind them. His ball placement needs to be good in order to make up for his lack of elite arm strength. His accuracy under 20 yards is as good as anyone in the class, though. In the end, he’s definitely above-average in accuracy, though we shouldn’t pretend he’s Drew Brees just yet.
When compared to other college quarterbacks, Tagovailoa is more of a traditional pocket-passer. He was used on some designed runs, but nothing that stood out as a strength. He wasn’t fast to begin with. After suffering a dislocated hip, his mobility is only going to get worse. Whichever NFL team drafts him, it won’t be due to his mobility.
RATING: ⭐⭐ 1/2
He’s not someone who panics when there’s pressure around him, and it helps that he’s constantly moving/bouncing to evade defenders in the backfield. He keeps his eyes down the field at all times, too. There are a lot of young quarterbacks who’ll drop their eyes when they see/feel pressure, but he’s not one of them. As Stuart Scott said, he’s as cool as the other side of the pillow.
There are times where he should just accept defeat and take a sack, but don’t tell him that. He’s always willing to throw the ball into tight spaces while under pressure, and that’s something that can get him in trouble at the next level. There were also a few interceptions (and should-be interceptions) where he completely misses a defender, as if he didn’t realize what type of coverage they were running. He’ll also stare down his receivers quite a bit, as if he knows where the ball is going before scanning the field. Again, his receivers were good enough to make this work in his favor but going through his progressions can use some work.
I know it’s a bit redundant at this point, but he had some of the best wide receivers in college football at his disposal who generated a lot of separation, making life easier on him. He didn’t have to throw with a whole lot of anticipation and would often wait until they were well out of their break before letting it rip. One thing he did extremely well is throw with great anticipation on wheel routes, a play that Alabama used quite a bit. He continuously led receivers up the field, which is something that may seem normal and easy, but it’s really not.
RATING: ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2
Potential Landing Spot
If there’s one thing standing in the way of Tagovailoa going in the top-three, it’s health concerns. After multiple ankle injuries and hip surgery, there are durability concerns, though he hopes to answer those for teams before the draft. No matter which way you slice it, he’s going top-10, and likely top-five. The Dolphins and Chargers are the front-runners, though the Raiders and Colts may be dark horses to trade up if they don’t do anything in free agency. The bottom line here is that while Tagovailoa played with what might be the most talented wide receiver group in a long time, he still had to make the plays. That’s going to land him high in the first-round.
There’s not really an NFL quarterback who stands out that Tagovailoa reminds me of, though he did have a little Russell Wilson to his game. Back when he had more mobility, he would always look to throw the ball down the field (and still did even after the ankle injuries) rather than take off running. Tagovailoa is slightly undersized and extremely accurate like Wilson, though I do believe his accuracy dips a bit when he goes to the NFL.
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