The 2020 NFL Draft, like every draft before it, will spawn many storylines yet to be determined. But one thing we know for sure is that the Tua Tagovailoa watch will be the most dramatic aspect of the early portion of Round 1.
Tua’s draft stock has fluctuated all draft season. There was a fleeting moment when the Washington Redskins were rumored in play for the former Alabama standout at No. 2 overall, and the more recent trending narrative has the oft-injured lefty potentially dropping outside the top 10.
The Miami Dolphins have long been considered the favorite for Tagovailoa. The ‘Tank for Tua’ campaign began in South Beach way back in September, after all. They hold the fifth pick and might be the only team in the way of a Tagovailoa slide.
But with concerns about his hip and questions about his long-term durability, Tagovailoa is now neck and neck with Oregon’s Justin Herbert to be the second quarterback selected after LSU’s Joe Burrow comes off the board to the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 1 overall.
ESPN’s Stats and Information Group’s NFL Draft predictive model is a good tool to help solve the Tua riddle. Is a freefall likely for the one-time top prospect in the class?
Not really. According to the model, Tua still projects as a top-five selection, with his best odds to hear his name called at No. 3 overall (45.4%). The next most-likely slot is No. 5 (cough, Dolphins, cough), with a 17.8% chance.
The Detroit Lions currently hold the No. 3 pick and it’s unlikely they’ll use it on a quarterback. Instead, they’re a prime candidate to trade with a quarterback-needy team, hence the highest odds Tagovailoa comes off the board third. If the Lions hold onto the pick, Tua will leapfrog the New York Giants at No. 4 and land in Miami.
There’s a less than 1% chance, according to ESPN’s model, that Tagovailoa slips outside the first eight picks.
So while the 2020 NFL draft will begin with all eyes fixated on Tagovailoa, the drama should end quickly. And whoever ends up picking him will have their franchise quarterback in place for the next 10-plus seasons.