Tua Tagovailoa burst into stardom, and college football history, coming off the bench in 2017 to lead Alabama past Georgia in the National Championship game. The NFL immediately took notice of the left handed gunslinger with a gorgeous deep ball and the pressure packed performance he delivered. He then beat out Jalen Hurts, who had lost only 2 games as a starter for Alabama, in 2018 and has not looked back. I took a deep dive in to the film to see what Tua truly offers as a pro prospect.
Strengths: Listed 6’1, 218lbs, Tua has good size for the position. Alabama’s offense in 2019 would not be nearly as successful without the arm strength Tua possesses. He delivers the ball accurately to all levels of the field and is able to generate plenty of velocity to safely throw quick screens to the boundary as well as thread the needle into tight coverage. While not the runner that Jalen Hurts was, Tua has excellent mobility and the ability to gash a defense if given the space. He consistently eludes pass rushers to turn should be negative plays into positive ones. He has consistently showed the ability to remain poised and confident in big moments, and that is a trait the NFL will love. He elevates his team and gives the belief that they can win regardless of the circumstances. His best trait is undoubtedly his deep ball accuracy. His ability to hit a receiver in stride 30+ yards downfield is uncanny, and deadly. It’s rare to see a guy who doesn’t see his ball placement suffer regardless of where he is throwing, but Tua is deadly short, intermediate, deep and on the run. Given time in the pocket, he shows the ability to decipher a defense and find a weakness. He is able to use his eyes to shift defenders and open up his receivers, and will aggressively attack the middle of the field by throwing his man open. Essentially, Tua shows all of the blue chip traits that the NFL covets.
Weaknesses: Tua takes some really bad sacks due to his tendency to hold onto the ball. Against LSU in the 4th quarter for example, he dropped back for 7 seconds before being taken down. Instead of throwing the ball away, he lost valuable yardage in a critical situation. This is something that happens relatively frequently with him, and he must learn to fight another down and avoid losing big chunks of yards. When under pressure, he has a tendency to throw without setting his feet, which leads to inaccurate attempts that tend to miss high. Not only does this hang his receivers out to dry, but gives defenses an opportunity for a turnover. Typically when he does misfire, even from a clean pocket, it’s not an underthrow. While he has certainly shown the ability to read a defense, zone coverages can still confuse him. Referencing LSU again, LB Queen was able to read Tua’s eyes and get an easy pick because Tua just did not see him. When talking about Tua, you have to discuss his injury history. Both ankles have now been operated on, and he hasn’t been 100% very often due to them. The medical evaluation is critical for him. This leads us to what I call hero ball. Similarly to the sack situation, he is always looking to make something happen, even to a detriment. 2 plays against Duke come to mind as examples. At 11:24 of the 2nd quarter, he scrambles around and ends up taking a shot for just a few yards in a situation where there simply was not much space. Up 28-3 with 3:40 left in the 3rd on first down, against an inferior opponent, he again puts himself at risk for a minimal gain instead of simply throwing the ball away. Given his injury history, I’d like to see him be more situationally aware when it comes to risk taking.
Final Thoughts: Tua is a phenomenal player with a bright future ahead of him. Whatever team drafts him will be getting a genuinely good person, a strong leader, and a franchise quarterback. The concerns are vastly outweighed by what he brings to the field. In my eyes, he is a blue chip prospect worthy of a first round selection.
Pro Comparison: Deshaun Watson
Edit: What I have heard is that Tua is expected to recover from his recent injury. While it will change his position in my mock drafts (stay tuned) it will not change the way I view him as a player. His game will still be largely the same as long as recovery goes smoothly.