Home Sports Could Tua Tagovailoa still be a top-10 pick? NFL scouts weigh in – AL.com

Could Tua Tagovailoa still be a top-10 pick? NFL scouts weigh in – AL.com

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Even for Alabama, there was initial concern about Tua Tagovailoa’s long-term prognosis.

While the team knew the circumstances were different than with Bo Jackson’s famous hip injury, there was enough uncertainty early on that Nick Saban said of Tagovailoa on Saturday, “Godspeed to him … and (we) hope this isn’t so serious that it has any long-term effect on his future as a player.”

A few days later, the outlook is much better regarding Tagovailoa and his injured hip.

Not only in terms of his recovery timetable but also his NFL draft stock.

While Tagovailoa’s injury — a dislocated and fractured hip — will be concerning for NFL teams, the Crimson Tide’s junior quarterback could still end up being taken in the top-10 of next year’s draft if he chooses to turn pro, according to NFL evaluators who spoke to AL.com on the condition of anonymity.

Three longtime NFL personnel guys told AL.com that if they had to bet on it, Tagovailoa would still go somewhere in the first half of the first round even after suffering the hip injury. Possibly even still in the top-10.

“Before Saturday, I would have said top-five for him with a good chance at going No. 1 overall,” one scout said. “Right now, I’d still say top-15 for him. Every year, you have 15 blue-chip players, and he’s one of them. … So assuming that it goes great with his rehab, yes, he has a chance of going high still because he’s so talented. He’s a really, really, highly talented guy who teams are going to want to give every benefit of the doubt to try and get.”

The early belief at Alabama, according to sources, is that Tagovailoa could be cleared to return to football in six-to-eight months and that he has a good chance of playing football next season. Even with those positive early indications, the medical evaluations at the NFL scouting combine would be critical for Tagovailoa, who has also dealt with two high-ankle sprains, a broken left hand and a sprained knee over the last 20 months.

The hip will be by far the biggest concern for teams, though.

“In my whole career, I’ve only had exposure to two hip injuries, one of which didn’t work out well and the other did,” former NFL general manager Bill Polian said. “The one that worked out well was a labrum and not a dislocation. … Bottom line is that I would be much more concerned with the longevity than I would short-term stuff.”

If NFL team doctors are comfortable with Tagovailoa’s health, it’s still a possibility the 2018 Heisman finalist could go as early as the top-five of the draft.

“Let’s just say he did fall out of the top-five or top-10,” a longtime NFL evaluator said. “I think there would be a pretty big scramble to take him, even if you had to redshirt him next year. Maybe it’s a team like the Chargers or the Saints — since by that time they’ll know whether Teddy Bridgewater’s there or not there. Or, heck, maybe even New England. But my thought is that he would still easily be a first-round pick. May not go top two or three just because there’s uncertainty there and some reservations with all the injuries. But, like Miami and ‘Tanking for Tua,’ they’ve won a couple games and are going to be picking third or fourth probably. Would he get past a team like that? I don’t know.”

While some in the media have thrown out the possibility of Tagovailoa returning for another year at Alabama, a source close to the family still expects Tagovailoa to turn pro.

That doesn’t mean he needs to go through the normal draft process, though.

One NFL evaluator said it could benefit Tagovailoa to forgo the main NFL Draft, continue rehabbing at Alabama throughout the spring and then — citing a hardship — enter the NFL supplemental draft held in July.

His logic is that Tagovailoa would be able to keep rehabbing with a medical team he’s comfortable with and — considering the projected timetable for his recovery — possibly be in a position to work out for teams in the summer prior to the supplemental draft.

“No question I’d be looking into that if I were him,” that evaluator said.

With the supplemental draft, which has typically been for players with college eligibility issues, it would essentially be like the NFL’s waiver claim process. Teams have picks based on where they selected during the main NFL draft and submit something to the NFL that indicates which round they’d choose a player in.

The player then goes to the team with the earliest pick that wants him. The contract for a player would be the same as if they were picked during the normal draft and the team would simply have to forfeit its pick for that round in next year’s draft.

“For Tua, he could delay his decision under the pretense that: Hey, I may end up staying in school,” the evaluator said. “But then once he’s cleared and makes all this progress, he could raise his hand and declare a hardship and come out for the supplemental draft. Then, the Bengals and some of these other bad teams at the top would have maybe taken other quarterbacks and he protects himself from having to go to a bad team perhaps. I’m almost certain that he would be able to do that.”

Still, it’s unlikely Tagovailoa would opt for that route.

There have only been three players chosen in the supplemental draft since Josh Gordon in 2012. Notably, a player hasn’t been picked during the first round of the supplemental draft since the New York Giants selected quarterback Dave Brown in the first round of the 1992 supplemental draft.

Whatever Tagovailoa decides to do, he is still in position to be a first-round draft pick even after his latest injury.

Despite all of the initial concern that Tagovailoa’s injury could significantly hinder the rest of his career, NFL insiders still expect him to be highly coveted come draft time.

“There’s three teams that are going to be picking in the top-five that could use a quarterback,” a separate longtime NFL evaluator said. “And I wouldn’t be surprised at all if all three QBs — Joe Burrow, Tua and Justin Herbert from Oregon — go in the top-five or top-10.”

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