Alabama has been on a tear when it comes to putting former players into the NFL. In the last three years alone, the Tide has seen 31 of its players drafted, including 11 who went in the first round. To put that number into perspective, in-state rival Auburn has only had 10 players drafted on Day 1 since 1999!
What’s even more impressive is that the 2020 NFL Draft could have anywhere from six to 10 former Alabama stars taken on its first day. So, who are some of those players? Today we’re starting a series that will include Alabama’s top 10 draft-eligible prospects for 2020.
No. 1 - Tua Tagovailoa, Quarterback
2018 passing stats: 245/355 (69.0%), 3,966 pass yards, 11.2 yards/attempt, 43 TDs, 6 INTs
2018 rushing stats: 57 attempts, 190 rush yards, 5 TDs
Why Tagovailoa could come out:
When evaluating Tagovailoa’s skillset, there’s obviously a lot to love. The rising junior has shown on more than one occasion that he’s capable of standing in the pocket and beating defenses with a rare combination of anticipation, ball placement and touch. When that fails, he’s able to improvise by extending plays with his legs and allowing Alabama’s talented group of receivers the needed time to get open.
So, how do defenses combat that? Well, that’s a great question. Very few defenses have managed to slow down the Alabama quarterback for any extended period. But to be fair, Clemson did do a nice job in the title game of creating confusion with a lot of movement before the snap, which leads to the hard part of Tagovailoa’s analysis.
The Honolulu (Hawaii) native, while having some elite traits, isn’t the perfect prospect – at least not right now. He’s shown that he possesses impressive pre-snap recognition, but he’s somewhat inconsistent in this area. Combine that with spotty mechanics – at times – and questionable ball velocity, it’s easy to see areas where the eldest Tagovailoa could stand to improve.
In other words, those good aspects mentioned regarding Tagovailoa’s game doesn’t mean he comes without a few knocks either. With that said, the elite traits in his arsenal should translate nicely to the next level. NFL greats such as New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees have made a living beating defenses with elite-level pre-snap reads and pinpoint accuracy. And the good news about his weaknesses? They’re all correctable.
Could he return for his senior season?
It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Tagovailoa decides to return for his final season in Tuscaloosa. Granted, that’s not to say it’s outside the realm of possibility. But there are too many likeable traits, and the schedule – for the most part – is set up for him to carve up subpar defenses all the way until late November or even December.
To add, the rumor amongst NFL draft pundits is the Miami Dolphins are all in on the “Tank for Tua” sweepstakes unless the newly-acquired Josh Rosen makes a favorable impression during Year 1 with the team. Rosen is certainly talented enough to turn his young career around, but will there be enough protection in place to keep him upright? If not, the front office may not be able to properly gauge his fit as the future, potentially opening the door for the Alabama quarterback.
One thing Tagovailoa is going to need to prove this upcoming season is that he can stay healthy. He did manage to play in all 15 of Alabama’s games in 2018, but multiple lower-body injuries prevented him from playing several of those contests at full strength. If he can put those injuries behind him — both mentally and physically — then we should see him return to his Heisman-caliber form.
Like with a lot of other high-profile prospects, Tagovailoa’s game is going to continue to be picked apart by draft pundits as the upcoming season approaches. It’s a foregone conclusion at this point, and it has already started. That’s just the nature of the punditry business.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that a lot of the criticisms that analysts might find could be beneficial for Tagovailoa, as it would give him things to focus in and improve on. Bringing to light a player’s deficiencies rarely hurts the player’s development.
With all that being said, Tagovailoa should still be a first-round lock, and perhaps the first overall pick, if he chooses to come out for the 2020 NFL Draft — regardless of what weaknesses may be found. Be sure to enjoy your star quarterback this season, Alabama fans. It could certainly be his last in a Crimson uniform.
Assuming he stays healthy, Tua’s most likely draft status is...
This poll is closed
Top three pick. Enjoy Miami!
First round lock.
Second round or lower
Stunning the nation, Tua comes back for his senior season.