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Why Tua Tagovailoa could experience ugly draft-day slide

Jesse Reed
Tua Tagovailoa NFL Draft
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant impact on the 2020 NFL Draft, and it could mean Tua Tagovailoa experiences a draft-day tumble.

The skinny: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, pro days were canceled and teams are unable to have prospects in for visits. Furthermore, NFL team physicians have put all physicals on hold until the health crisis is over. Unfortunately, that’s not happening before the draft begins on April 23rd given the CDC’s guidelines extended social distancing through the end of April

This is particularly impacting players like Tagovailoa, along with some other high-profile defenders.

Why it matters: Tua Tagovailoa underwent season-ending surgery last November for a traumatic hip injury. The injury was not something you’d normally see in football, and the recovery process involves multiple checkpoints.

  • Tagovailoa was scheduled for a Combine medical recheck, but like everything else that was canceled.
  • Teams are flying blind when it comes to any deep evaluation of his recovery. That kind of uncertainty makes a risky selection a far greater gamble.

The good news is, Tagovailoa has gotten excellent reports on his progress every step of the way.

Only one shot: General managers guiding teams that need a quarterback only typically get one shot at this. Draft the wrong quarterback and you’re out of a job.

That’s why it’s in no way surprising to hear that “multiple” teams have Oregon’s Justin Herbert ranked ahead of Tagovailoa heading into the 2020 NFL Draft.

So how far will he fall? If Tagovailoa really does experience an ugly draft-day tumble, a player who had been talked about as a top-3 lock for months could fall into the bottom half of Round 1.

Here’s a look at the teams that need a quarterback and could take one in the first round.

  • Cincinnati Bengals (No. 1): Cincy is taking Joe Burrow. Period. End of story.
  • Washington Redskins (No. 2): Ron Rivera brought in a familiar face to compete with Dwayne Haskins and Washington is reportedly enamored with Chase Young.
  • Miami Dolphins (No. 5): There is plenty of smoke behind the idea that Miami likes Justin Herbert better than Tua Tagovailoa, and Jordan Love has also been mentioned as a player the Dolphins are eyeing.
  • Los Angeles Chargers (No. 6): The Chargers appear to be content to roll with Tyrod Taylor as the starter in 2020, and if that’s the case they could go for a top offensive tackle at this spot.
  • Carolina Panthers (No. 7): There’s a lot of talk that the Panthers could tank for Trevor Lawrence in 2021. This team has stripped its roster during the offseason and has a long-term commitment to rookie head coach Matt Rhule.
  • Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 9): Gardner Minshew was so good last year as a sixth-round rookie that the Jaguars traded Nick Foles to Chicago for a fourth-round pick. They are probably not looking to go quarterback here at No. 9 overall.
  • Las Vegas Raiders (No. 12): Nobody should be shocked if Jon Gruden’s Raiders took Tua Tagovailoa here. But it’s worth noting that Las Vegas just signed former No. 2 overall pick Marcus Mariota to a nice incentive-laden contract to push Derek Carr.

From there, you’re looking at a bunch of teams that either already have a quarterback or are picking for a second time in the first round until you get all the way down to New England at No. 23 overall.

The bottom line: The circumstances of this year’s offseason make it impossible for any team to feel 100% secure about Tagovailoa’s health and long-term outlook. Any team that does draft him would have to rely on a third-party analysis, and when you’re talking about a player that will determine the direction of a franchise, that’s a massive risk.

At the least, it’s not going to be surprising whatsoever if Tagovailoa ends up falling out of the top-10 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft. A worst-case scenario likely would be to see him fall into the bottom-10 of the first round.