As any sports fan can tell you, nothing can derail an athlete’s career like injuries. Whether you’re Robert Griffin III or Greg Oden, you can only go as far as your body will take you. Hopefully, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t follow in their footsteps.
While Tagovailoa had apparently recovered from his hip injury in time for the NFL draft, things now seem much less rosy. In fact, the quarterback’s injury issues may have scared away at least two general managers.
Tua Tagovailoa’s injury history at Alabama
During his time at Alabama, Tua Tagovailoa established himself as a dynamic quarterback, capable of filling up the box score. At the same time, though, he also suffered at least five separate injuries.
As laid out by Forbes, Tagovailoa suffered five “notable” injuries during his three years with the Crimson Tide. He broke his finger in March 2018; later that year, he sprained his right knee, followed by his left ankle. The quarterback then sprained his right ankle in October 2019 before suffering a season-ending dislocated hip and posterior acetabular wall fracture in November.
While all of those injuries only cost Tua four games, they do paint a distinctive picture. On one hand, Tagovailoa threw for 7,442 yards and 87 touchdowns during his college career; on the other, he spent plenty of time in the trainer’s room, even he didn’t miss many starts.
Injuries are already hurting the quarterback’s NFL chances
According to Michael Lombardi, the pre-draft process hasn’t been kind to Tua. “Two teams I’ve talked to have flunked him,” he explained on his GM Shuffle podcast. “They flunked him on not just the hip. It’s the multitude of injuries. The risk far outweighs the reward.”
“It’s not just his hip,” Lombardi continued. “It’s his ankle. It’s his wrist. He broke his wrist the first day of spring ball one year. … He’s brittle. He is brittle. You can’t deny it.”
Lombardi added that one of the teams concerned about Tagovailoa’s health held a top-ten draft pick. It is worth noting, however, that this year’s pre-draft process has been quite different due to the coronavirus pandemic; it’s unclear how these teams evaluated Tua and decided to flunk him.
Where will Tua Tagovailoa start his NFL career?
Regardless of his injury concerns, Tua Tagovailoa is going to end up on an NFL team; he’s simply too talented drop off the face of the (footballing) earth. But where will the quarterback start his NFL career?
Even if we take Lombardi’s comments at face value—it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that someone like the New England Patriots could be creating a smokescreen—there are still three teams looking for quarterbacks within the top-10 picks. Joe Burrow to the Bengals seems like a foregone conclusion; the Dolphins and the Chargers, however, both need a signal-caller. Anything is possible on draft day, but it seems like those teams will end up with either Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa.
Even if Tagovailoa falls beyond the top-10, though, that isn’t an automatic death sentence. The young quarterback has plenty of talent and potential; he’s going to get a shot somewhere. At that point, it will be up to him to show he can stay healthy and thrive at the NFL level.