Laura Rutledge: Tua Tagovailoa Could Be Ready to Play By Week 1

Liam McKeone
Laura Rutledge
Laura Rutledge /
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Tua Tagovailoa was the presumptive No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft before the 2019 college football season began. Then Joe Burrow exploded out of nowhere to post the best season by a quarterback in NCAA history and Tagovailoa suffered a dislocated hip in November that sidelined him for the rest of the season. Thus, Burrow is now the top QB prospect and is all but assured to go to Cincinnati with the top pick in the draft. Tagovailoa generally isn't expected to fall out of the top five, but his hip lingers as a potential wrench into any suitor's plans.

The NFL Combine was the league's first chance to poke and prod at Tagovailoa, and by all reports, he was recovering on schedule and wasn't suffering any unexpected complications. Still, the prevailing assumption among pundits has been that Tagovailoa will likely spend a year on the sideline, if only as a precaution. But Laura Rutledge, appearing on Tuesday morning's edition of Get Up, has some news that could change everything: there's a growing belief among teams that Tagovailoa will be ready to go by Week 1 (or whenever the NFL season kicks off).

If this belief takes hold in the minds of teams in the top 10 of the draft, it could change things drastically for everyone. A trade-up by the Dolphins or Chargers becomes inevitable rather than fluctuating between likely and unlikely depending on the day's rumor mill. The question then becomes if it will be Detroit or Washington that decides to move down, opening up a world of possibilities for both franchises.

This report also opens the door for a big potential surprise. To this point, Washington and Detroit are generally expected to either stay put and take a defensive stalwart or trade back with a team looking to pick Tagovailoa. But if either team's medical staff determines Tagovailoa will indeed be ready to go by the season's start, there's an argument to be made they should take the risk and pick him. Dwayne Haskins didn't show anything special in his first season, and Detroit's staff knows they need to win next year or they're gone.

That still remains unlikely to happen, given they can't examine Tagovailoa in person with their own doctors due to coronavirus restrictions. Giving up on Haskins without an extended chance to see his talents in person would be a big risk for Ron Rivera to take in the first major decision of his new job. Matt Patricia is a defense-first guy and taking a player with that kind of injury risk that high in the draft isn't quite the Patriot Way he's trying desperately to emulate.

This development will help either team walk away with a big haul if they decide to trade down, though. Trading up for a version of Tagovailoa that doesn't need a redshirt season (even if whichever franchise he lands with decides to give him one anyway as a matter of precaution) is much more costly than the alternative.

Ultimately, it feels like the Lions are the biggest winner with this news. If Washington decides to trade down to let Miami or the Chargers pick Tagovailoa, Detroit is left with Chase Young. If Washington stays put, the Lions can potentially pick up another first-round pick in a trade-down and still likely end up with their pick of the litter in regards to the elite defensive prospects at the top of draft boards.

This is also generally good news for those who enjoy watching exciting football. Tagovailoa will be a blast to watch in the NFL, provided he stays healthy. We'd all be better off with him under center for whomever come kickoff weekend.

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