With the NFL Draft set to start later today, it should come to no surprise the New England Patriots will look to fill out their quarterback depth chart. However, the player they pick could be quite the surprise. New England currently has 12 picks in this year’s draft, and they could use that capital to trade up in round one — specifically for Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.
Entering the 2019 season, Tua was regarded as the clear-cut No. 1 overall pick until hip surgery shut his season down. His talent is certainly there, but the injury concerns appear to have teams hesitant. He still projects to be an early pick, with the Miami Dolphins (No. 5), Los Angeles Chargers (No. 6), and Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 9) all in need of a quarterback, but could begin to slide into the middle of the first round.
If that happens, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Bill Belichick and the Patriots made a deal to trade up and take Tua. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. reported New England has done their “due diligence” on the lefty, while NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport believes the Patriots will use a “premium pick” on a quarterback. Rapoport added he “imagines” the pick New England will use is one they currently do not own, implying a trade up could be in play.
The decision on Tua is the draft’s million-dollar question, where nobody knows how it’s going to end up – even the oddsmakers. In the Patriots’ case, odds about them landing Tua as their next quarterback is all over the board. While some oddsmakers have priced the potential fit as +800 (8/1), others have it as long as +3300 (33/1).
“It’s very interesting and unusual to see a disparity that large across major legitimate oddsmakers,” Oddschecker spokesman Pete Watt said. “[It] definitely suggests that some know something that others don’t.”
With just Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer currently on the roster, Tua could immediately become the best quarterback in Foxboro; while perhaps being the best prospect they’ve ever had at the position.
“It would be foolish to compare anybody to [Tom Brady] but Tua comes into the Draft a more polished player than Brady was,” Watt added. “If there’s a chance the Patriots could snag Tagovailoa then there’s a chance they’ll be aggressive and get their man.”
Throughout Tagovailoa’s collegiate career, he proved he can lead a big-time program. Tua won a national championship in 2017 as a freshman, completing 63.6 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns in eight games. As the full-time starter his sophomore season, Tagovailoa finished second in Heisman voting while throwing 43 touchdowns (to six interceptions), almost 4,000 passing yards while completing 69 percent of his passes.
Tua was again having a strong season his junior year before the hip injury. In nine games, he threw 2,840 yards, 33 touchdowns, and just three picks. His completion percentage also raised to 71.4 percent. The talent is clearly there, but the injury history is worrisome. Besides the November hip surgery, Tua had procedures on his left ankle in 2018, along with his right ankle in 2019.
“Now, that is the thing — can you keep him healthy? People say, ‘Well, everybody gets hurt.’ Quarterbacks don’t get hurt,” Kiper said on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni & Fauria” show. “Brady had the one injury when [Matt] Cassel came in. [Dan] Marino had the Achilles one year. Most of these quarterbacks, Eli [Manning] played forever, [Philip] Rivers, [John] Elway, [Jim] Kelly, when do these guys get hurt? The quarterbacks, when do they get hurt? This guy has had significant injuries, so to me, if he starts slipping a little bit, sliding down, where it happened with Aaron Rodgers not that long ago, and he was projected to be No. 1 two weeks before that draft and he went in the 20s, yes, if it did happen, I would think New England would be aggressive to try and go up and get him.”
It is also worth noting the relationship between Bill Belichick and Nick Saban, Tua’s coach in college. Saban has long said how he loved Tua’s competitiveness and his drive throughout his Alabama career, which he would surely pitch to Belichick. With Saban’s word and assurance, it could be the final straw needed for Belichick to pounce.
Trading up hasn’t been the style for the Patriots under Bill Belichick, but it’s a new era in Foxboro. If Tua does begin to slide, we’ll see how aggressive Belichick decides to be.