See if this storyline sounds familiar: The whole NLF draft could turn with the selection of a Alabama quarterback, who many question is worthy of a top pick.
That was the talk heading into the 2020 NFL Draft, regarding Tua Tagovailoa.
Critics questioned his durability, especially after suffering a season-ending hip injury in November. Unable to perform at the NFL combine or before scouts due to the coronavirus pandemic, he was left sending videos to teams to demonstrate his progress.
The Miami Dolphins still took him with the fifth pick of the 2020 NFL Draft.
“It was awesome," Tagovailoa said. "It was very emotional for me and my family.”
What made the pre-draft talk about Tagovailoa so different was that it went both ways. Some thought Miami was making a mistake, while others felt the Dolphins should trade up to make certain they didn't miss out on making him the team's quarterback of the future.
Just about everyone weighed in.
“That’s a franchise that’s changed identities at quarterback for a long time, and if he falls on their lap and they pass on him, I don’t know how you do that," Kirk Herbstreit said. "Any time you get to the draft and you start speculating on quarterbacks, a lot of times you’re throwing darts against the board and hoping that it hits. But I think with Tua, there’s enough there to really like. There’s so much ability with his ability to throw the ball, but what I love is the intangibles that he brings to the table, his ability to process, get through reads from A to B to C.
“There are parts of his game that he’s going to have to fine-tune. His inability to give up on a play. I think a lot of his injuries have come because he keeps fighting and trying to keep a play alive and in the NFL that's not going to work. He’s going to have to learn to throw the ball away, to slide, to get out of bounds and just do things where he doesn’t take too many hits. But if that hip is solid, which all the reports seem to say that it is — he might be a guy that’s a redshirt. Like that first year, maybe he’s kind of like [Patrick] Mahomes, sitting back, watching and learning and taking it in just to be safe. But man, his upside on the back end is very, very high and, to me, too tough to pass up on if you need a quarterback.”
Kevin Hanson of Sports Illustrated had Tagovailoa listed fifth on his final Big Board rankings.
He wrote: "Tagovailoa says he 'feel(s) 100 percent' and looked good at his virtual pro day. Even so, how team doctors assess his recovery and durability risk amid the current travel and team visit restrictions adds plenty of uncertainty to where he will be ultimately be selected. When healthy, however, Tua has a quick release and throws with elite accuracy, anticipation and touch to all levels of the field."
A year later, and some still questioning the decision, and Tagovailoa's future with the franchise.
Tagovailoa made his NFL debut appearance in a Week 6 game against the New York Jets, a 24–0 victory during which threw two passes for nine yards. He finished the season with a career-high 361 yards, but also with an uncharacteristic three interceptions during a 56-26 loss to Buffalo.
Overall, the Dolphins went 6-3 in games he started. He was 186-for-290 passing (64.1 percent), for 1,814 yards, with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.
There were some offseason rumblings about possibly trading Tagovailoa for a more proven quarterback, but most of the talk in South Florida about this year's draft has been about getting him some offensive help.
“He’s been working with the receivers," Dolphins general manager Chris Grier recently said. "He’s a very competitive kid as you know. I think coming off the injury last year with no OTAs, no minicamp and just being thrown in right away, that is a hard transition, especially with the rehab part he was doing.
“He’s healthy now. I’ve seen a couple of videos – I’m not on social media very much. He’s been working very hard. Our guys have been around and popped in and out here. He’s been great with the players and the receivers have been working. Like I said, he’s going to take the next step. He’s been a winner everywhere he’s been and I’m really excited for him, especially to have an offseason under his belt. I think that will be really important for him.”