The Miami Dolphins answered the quarterback question once and for all by selecting Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa with the No. 5 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Despite draft-week smokescreens that suggested Miami might go with Oregon’s Justin Herbert, the Dolphins took the risk that could lead to a franchise-wide reward. Tagovailoa is the most significant quarterback pick the Dolphins have made since they took Dan Marino with the No. 27 pick in the 1983 NFL Draft. At the college level, Tagovailoa had the same brand of star power — perhaps more – as Marino.
That’s how good he was with the Crimson Tide. Alabama coach Nick Saban called Tagovailoa the most impactful player in the program, and the former Dolphins coach issued a warning before the draft.
“I just hope teams don’t make the same mistake that we made at Miami when we didn’t take Drew Brees because we thought he was hurt,” Saban said. “And look what he’s done since then.”
Miami needed a jolt at the quarterback position. The franchise had one winning season in the last decade and five different leading passers in that stretch. Tagovailoa should solidify the quarterback position when he’s ready to take over for veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is 37 years old.
A year behind Fitzpatrick would not hurt Tagovailoa’s development considering his season was cut short by a hip injury. Tagovailoa also dealt with ankle and knee injuries in college, and the durability question will need to be answered at the next level.
Injuries aside, Tagovailoa had one of the more remarkable college careers in recent memory. He finished with 7,442 passing yards, 87 TDs and 11 interceptions, and was the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2019. Tagovailoa was the leader of an offense that averaged 45.6 points per game in 2018 and 47.2 points per game in 2019.
Miami weighed that against the injury risks and chose the upside, and it’s the right call. Tagovailoa might have been the No. 1 pick if not for the season-ending injury. The Los Angeles Chargers went with Herbert with the next pick, and that means that on some level the quarterbacks will be linked throughout their pro careers.
Given the choice between the two, we’d take Tagovailoa over Herbert, too. That’s not a knock on Herbert, who has the arm-talent and mobility to be a successful quarterback in the league. Tagovailoa, however, is a better bet to be a franchise quarterback. He will face the Marino comparisons, too, but that comes with the territory in Miami.
Tagovailoa will have a chance to be a superstar in South Beach.
The talent is there to make it happen.
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