Alabama QB Tagovailoa likely high on Dolphins’ wish list despite injury
Injured Alabama standout quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is entering the 2020 NFL draft, and believes he could return from his hip injury to play as a rookie next season.
Tagovailoa announced his intention to leave Alabama after three seasons during a news conference Monday afternoon alongside coach Nick Saban, officially becoming one of the draft’s top quarterback prospects despite his recent hip injury.
Now, NFL teams like the Miami Dolphins will await updates on Tagovailoa’s recovery process while tabling the idea of selecting him in the draft, which begins on April 23 in Las Vegas.
“It pretty much boils down to one thing: faith,” Tagovailoa said. “It boils down to that. Coming from a family that has a lot of it, I’m definitely willing to take that challenge.”
Instead of returning to school, Tagovailoa will test the NFL waters where his potential draft status is relatively difficult to predict because of the hip injury that further raises concerns about his durability.
Tagovailoa was in consideration with LSU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow for the No. 1 pick before he suffered the injury on Nov. 16. He had surgery two days later in Houston.
Tagovailoa, who had his hip evaluated in New York last weekend, said doctors will be able to gauge how his recovery process has come along at the three- or four-month mark, which would be February or March.
Tagovailoa may not be healthy enough to participate at the NFL scouting combine, which begins February 23. But he is hopeful about having a pro day workout at Alabama in March before the draft.
“I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to play this upcoming season,” Tagovailoa said, “but I think for me right now, I’m more so worried
about getting better as soon as possible and see what I can do — if I can do a pro day or if I can’t do a pro day. And then, it’s really all dependent on what the doctors have to say to the teams.”
Tagovailoa lightheartedly said he spoke with “too many” NFL general managers during the lead up to his announcement, and shared their overlying message to him.
“It’s a unique situation for sure,” Tagovailoa said. “With my hip, a lot of the guys, the general managers, the owners I’ve got, talked to have said the same thing. They kinda look at this as a knee injury although it’s not, in a way that ‘are we going to take a chance on this guy? Or would he be able to possibly do a pro day before the draft and what not?’
“Really, the biggest thing they want to see is if [I] can move and be back to how [I was] playing prior to the injury,” he added.
Tagovailoa did not have a loss-of-value insurance policy, which could have made up some of the difference in his rookie salary. Now, Tagovailoa hopes entering the draft pays off.
If Tagovailoa is a top-five draft pick, his rookie contract could be valued around $41.3 million at No. 1, $39.4 million at No. 2, $38.2 million at No. 3, $36.8 million at No. 4, and $34.4 million at No. 5, which is where the Dolphins will be selecting.
Despite his injury, most NFL draft analysts still have the Dolphins selecting Tagovailoa with their top pick.
Potential rookie salary projections, according to OverTheCap.com, drop significantly as the first round continues — the No. 10 pick is valued around $22 million, No. 15 at $16.7 million, No. 20 at $14.5 million, No. 25 $13.5 million, and the last pick in the first round at $11.5 million.
The Dolphins will likely get more background information on Tagovailoa’s injured hip during the NFL scouting combine in February, where he will be evaluated by NFL doctors and information from those evaluations will be communicated to all 32 NFL teams.
Hopefully by then, teams will be able to have a firmer timetable for Tagovailoa’s rehabilitation process, and when he will be able to begin participating in football activities. But a team that drafts him could consider allowing Tagovailoa to recover through the 2020 season before he plays in the NFL.
Along with examining Tagovailoa’s health and whether to draft him, the Dolphins must also consider the expected competition from other NFL teams considering him.
The Los Angeles Chargers at No. 6, the Carolina Panthers at No. 7 and the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 9 could headline that group among top 10 picks alone.
The Dolphins must work during the Senior Bowl, combine, and league meetings in March to identify teams that could jump ahead of them in the draft order. They could also gauge whether teams are shying away from Tagovailoa and consider trading down from No. 5 to land him with a later pick.
With the emergence of veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins could afford for Tagovailoa to sit out the season.
Before Tagovailoa announced his decision, Dolphins owner Steve Ross, vice chairman, president and CEO Tom Garfinkel and general manager Chris Grier were in attendance for the Alabama-Michigan bowl game in Orlando where they stood several feet away from Tagovailoa before kickoff.
Ross, the largest donor to the University of Michigan, giving $378 million to his alma mater, and Garfinkel, also a Michigan alum, enjoyed the game, while Grier likely used the experience to evaluate other players in the bowl game while gathering information on Tagovailoa.
The Dolphins are well underway with their extensive rebuilding process under Grier and coach Brian Flores, finishing their first year together with a 5-11 record this past season and entering the offseason with 14 picks in the draft and more than $100 million to use in free agency.
Could Tua be a part of the Dolphins’ future?
“I’m content with the decision I’ve made,” he said. “It’s more of what’s next that I’m thinking about in this process.”
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa announces his intentions to declare for the 2020 NFL draft on Monday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Tua Tagovailoa announced he would leave Alabama for the NFL draft.