Tua's Decision to Declare for NFL And What It Means For USC And The Chargers

Chris Dufresne

Tua Tagovailoa hails from Hawaii so he knows all about waves, tides and changing currents.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the Alabama quarterback’s Monday decision to declare for the NFL draft would come with a significant ripple effect.

Tagovailoa’s announcement immediately altered the universe of Alabama football, obviously, which will have to move forward without a generational talent.

First, good for Tua and his family. His decision to leave Alabama after a serious hip dislocation, which required serious surgery, was probably prudent and wise.

Tagovailoa’s projection as a pro player, definitely less dire than originally thought, is still a mystery.

He likely won’t be allowed to start physical training until mid-February and he’ll be scrutinized like a lab rat in advance of the NFL draft this spring.

The choices were these: return to Alabama to prove to NFL teams he is 100% and then battle Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence for the top pick in 2021.

Or, take guaranteed millions now knowing several NFL teams are going to take a first-round chance on Tua even if can’t play right away, or at all, in 2020.

Tagovailoa’s decision has repercussions that extend far and west-coast wide.

Monday’s announcement certainly was good news for USC, which opens next season against Alabama on Sept. 5 in Arlington, Texas.

Playing a Tua-less Alabama is certainly better than the alternative. The Crimson Tide is also losing star wide-out Jerry Jeudy and four starters in the secondary.

This may be the best, and final chance, for Clay Helton to score the signature victory he needs to keep his job.

If he does not beat Alabama, the howls for his dismissal will be full-throated starting Week One.

Tua’s decision also impacts Bryce Young, the star quarterback at Trojan feeder-school Mater Dei, who de-committed from USC to attended Saban State.

While seen as a treasonous act by some in So Cal, Young actually made a smart business move. Alabama, not USC, afforded Young the better chance to play sooner.

Kedon Slovis just completed a phenomenal first season at USC and because he is a first-year player cannot enter the draft for two more seasons.

You think Bryce Young didn't know this?

With Tua out of the picture, Young has a chance to start next fall in Tuscaloosa if he can win a bake-off against returners Mac Jones and Tua’s younger brother.

And how about the delicious possibility of Young starting against USC next September?

Tua’s call also could change the fortunes of the Los Angeles Chargers, who have the No. 6 pick in this year’s NFL draft:

Here is the draft order as it stands now:

1: Cincinnati. Slam-dunk likely to take LSU’s Joe Burrow.

2: Washington. Doesn’t need a QB with Dwayne Haskins at the helm.

3: Detroit. Matthew Stafford, at 31, is (seemingly) still in his prime?

4: New York Giants. Not likely since they benched Eli Manning this year to play rookie Daniel Jones.

5: Miami: Needs a QB.

6: L.A. Chargers: Need a QB.

Tua’s decision seemingly assures that the Chargers will get a chance at drafting Tagovailoa or Oregon’s Justin Herbert.

Miami could take Tua and let him work in slowly under the tutelage of veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, coming off a season-ending win at New England.

Miami could take Herbert and pass on Tua to the Chargers, who could similarly let him develop behind one more year of Philip Rivers.

Tagovailoa’s decision Monday put a lot of things in motion. Where he might land on the NFL board will depend on his ready-for-play condition in the coming months. Teams could trade up, or down, based on a medical report.

Tua's announcement altered the balance of power in the SEC West, where resurgent LSU is loaded moving forward but has to replace Burrow.

Another deft grad-transfer acquisition by Ed Orgeron, however, could keep LSU one step ahead of the Tide with next year’s showdown in Baton Rouge.

Mondays are often slow news days in sports.

Not this Monday.


Chris Dufresne