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Hometown Hot Takes: NFL Draft reactions and analysis of Tua Tagovailoa, Jedrick Wills

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Today, we’re going to begin with some Crimson Tide first rounders, two of the men that were the cornerstone of an historically lethal ‘Bama offense.

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">NFL: New York Jets at Miami Dolphins

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Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins

As I opined in our Draft Predictions piece, the Dolphins already have a blueprint for how to turn a godawful team into a title contender. Too often NFL teams draft a stud QB and just expect their fortunes to do a 180. Not so with the Dolphins. Almost 40 years after the Fish drafted Dan Marino, the Fins are reprising that same script — stud QB first, then rebuild a complete team on both sides of the line to take pressure off him and win games as a team.

This kind of organizational discipline makes me feel a lot better about Tua’s long-term career in South Beach.

Tua Tagovailoa was the sizzle.

But the rest of the 2020 NFL Draft was a big, thick, porterhouse steak for the Miami Dolphins. You want flash? You’ve got the wrong team.

The last three days were about building the team the right way: From the ground up.Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said. “For us, we always talked about … and that’s how you win in this league — with O-lines and D-lines — so we saw great value. We got players that we were excited to have and we feel really good about the picks.”

But, if you want to talk about sizzle? Sizzle there was. Tagovailoa, after undergoing one final 12-hour physical the day before the draft, is nothing short of a “home run,”

#TankForTua had been an ongoing plan for 26 months, and it’s hard to argue with the results:

He is accurate, instinctive, imaginative, poised, with outstanding character and admirable leadership skills.

He brings star traits to South Florida, which needs that. He brings a play-maker gene. He arrives with the type of phenom hype that should lead to billboards and advertisements and, most importantly, more wins.

The Dolphins Tanked for Tua, and I don’t care who doesn’t like the word Tank. They tanked, and they got Tua.

Mission accomplished.

And that faith the franchise showed in Tua is apt to be rewarded; the odds of him seeing field early are excellent. He is “special.”

Tua Tagovailoa makes the Dolphins relevant again. Now the question is how long before we see him taking a snap. There are signs the wait might not be terribly long.

The most-watched moment of the most-watched NFL Draft ever occurred when the Dolphins were on the clock and Tua Tagovailoa was hanging in the balance.

Think about it. It wasn’t just South Florida eager to know if the Dolphins were going to pull the trigger on, they hope, the next Dan Marino.

Everybody wanted to know.

Everybody cared about the Miami Dolphins? When was the last time you could say that and not have to look over your shoulder for the men in white coats?

I have to confess, y’all. I’m thissss close to pulling the trigger on my Bills fandom for the duration of Tagovailoa’s career. I don’t know that I can emotionally root against him for a dozen years.

The national guys, of course, are raving about Tua as well.

The Phinsider collected many more national reactions here.

After months of letting everyone think they preferred another quarterback, the Dolphins were able to land the one they wanted all along without having to trade up for him. If Tua Tagovailoa stays healthy, he has Hall of Fame potential.

All the smokescreens the Dolphins put up ahead of the draft allowed them to snatch their preferred quarterback without moving up. Durability concerns may follow Tagovailoa to the NFL, but his supreme talent and polish is well worth the risk.

Poll

Grade the Pick — Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins

This poll is closed

  • 92%
    A
    (728 votes)
  • 4%
    B
    (35 votes)
  • 1%
    C
    (8 votes)
  • 0%
    D/F
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Incomplete
    (7 votes)
783 votes total Vote Now

Jedrick Wills, Jr., Cleveland Browns

This was a deep tackle class, nevertheless many had Jedrick Wills as the best tackle on the board. Given that he has to move to the left side, that makes Wills probably not quite as pro-ready as Andrew Thomas, nor is he the freakishly-large monster that Mekhi Becton is, but he may have the best overall upside, and is certainly the most athletic. He’s probably also the nastiest one; Jed plays with a chip on his shoulder.

A two-year starter at Alabama, Wills lined up as the right tackle in offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian’s scheme, allowing only one sack over his 39 games for the Tide. He protected Tua Tagovailoa’s blindside in college and while he has the talent to switch over to left tackle, all of his in-game snaps in high school and college came at right tackle, creating an unknown in his evaluation.

A fired-up competitor, Wills looks like a man among boys as a run blocker, driving defenders off the ball and never passing on an opportunity to bury. He needs continued growth as a technician, but he has steadily developed in pass protection, gaining proper depth in his kickslide with fluid steps. Overall, Wills is a balanced, light-footed big man with the explosive power, aggressive mentality and budding confidence that should translate very well to the NFL level, projecting as a long-term NFL starter with All-Pro upside.

Of course, that move to the left side does mean that there are some initial risks for Wills, notably consistency.

Cleveland’s GM described Wills as “the perfect fit,” but also recognized that after two years of playing the right side, “I do think there is going to be some physical reprogramming.”

New coach Kevin Stefanski was over the moon:

“I’m obviously ecstatic adding Jedrick Wills to our group,” Coach Kevin Stefanski said in a Zoom video conference. “There are a lot of things I like about this kid. I like his makeup. I like his tenacity and his toughness and intelligence.

“Not to mention he’s a scheme fit for our team. He has great movement skills and plays with a nastiness. I think we got a winner and I think we got the right person. I keep going back to that and it’s the truth. We’re trying to get some good players and good people in here and he fits the bill.”

There may not even be a rush to get Wills to learn the position though. With Jack Conklin there, Wills may be given a year to develop his LT skills set. The biggest beneficiary though, has to be Baker Mayfield, who has spent his first two seasons in the NFL without a franchise cornerstone protecting his blindside.

Mayfield probably slept like a baby on Thursday night, knowing he’s got Wills protecting his blind side and Jack Conklin at right tackle, providing Wills is ready to make the switch — and the Browns are confident he will be.

“Whether Jack is the right and Jedrick is the left, we will figure that out,’’ coach Kevin Stefanski said. “I like the idea that we added two really smart, tough, versatile football players that will make us better. I’m confident that the coaches will put them in position to succeed.”

Filling Joe Thomas’s shoes isn’t going to be easy, but 1. That is the very clear expectation in Cleveland, and 2. after two years of stumbling in the dark, Wills may be just the man that can do it.

Poll

Grade the pick — Jedrick Wills, Jr, Cleveland Browns

This poll is closed

  • 83%
    A
    (417 votes)
  • 13%
    B
    (68 votes)
  • 2%
    C
    (12 votes)
  • 0%
    D/F
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Incomplete
    (2 votes)
502 votes total Vote Now

Chime in below with your thoughts and reactions. We’ll have some more of these over the coming week, with hometown analysis of the remaining Crimson Tide draft picks. Tomorrow, we finish up the first rounders, with two of Tua’s favorite targets, Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy.

Roll Tide.