It's official: Tua Tagovailoa is no longer a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide and will enter the NFL draft, as he announced in a press conference on Monday. The talent he's shown is obvious to even us armchair general managers, but where exactly he'll be selected come April will largely be determined by how his medical examinations turn out; Tagovailoa suffered a dislocated right hip earlier this season that knocked him out for the year and raised questions about if he would declare at all.
But after throwing for 6,806 yards and 76 touchdowns in 24 games as a starter, Tagovailoa will be a prized prospect who has the makings of a franchise quarterback. The question is where that will be. Here are some likely landing spots for the Alabama quarterback when the NFL draft rolls around.
Miami Dolphins (Pick No. 5)
The Dolphins are the only team in the top five who don't have a starting quarterback of the future other than the Bengals, who will be taking Joe Burrow with the first pick. Washington seems unlikely to take the risk on Tagovailoa after taking Dwayne Haskins 15th last year, so Miami will get the first crack at Tagovailoa, and it's a marriage that makes sense. They soured on Josh Rosen rather quickly and Ryan Fitzpatrick showed he still has enough in the tank to capably helm the QB position should the organization decide to bring Tagovailoa along slowly to avoid a heightened risk of injury. Things could change if a cornerstone defensive prospect falls, but Tagovailoa seems worth the risk for a team that's been looking for a franchise QB this whole century, and thus they're the most likely landing spot.
Los Angeles Chargers (Pick No. 6)
Slotting in just behind Miami are the Chargers, who seem set to part ways with Philip Rivers this offseason after a very disappointing year. It's hard to pin what went wrong this year, but Los Angeles has ready-to-win talent on both sides of the ball between Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Derwin James, and Joey Bosa, so most are predicting they'll lean towards a stopgap option at quarterback and try to win with the team right now. But the smarter decision would be to take advantage of a falling talented prospect in Tagovailoa to solidify their future at the position. They are opening a new stadium next year, and potentially redshirting their top draft pick wouldn't make their already-difficult job of putting butts in seats much easier, but for a player like Tagovailoa it may just be worth it.
Carolina Panthers (Pick No. 7)
It's hard to see Tagovailoa falling past the Panthers, considering both teams before them have good enough reason to take him, and so does Carolina. Kyle Allen was a fun revelation before his turnover issues proved he wasn't the long-term answer, and nobody is holding their breath when it comes to 2019 third-round pick Will Grier. If the franchise decides to move on from Cam Newton, Tagovailoa would be the obvious choice to take the reins at this point in the draft. The direction of the franchise has yet to be determined without a head coach or GM, but if they launch into a full rebuild and are looking years down the road, they'll take Tagovailoa.
Oakland Raiders (No. 12)
Now this would be fun, even if it's the least likely of the options listed. The Raiders are moving to Vegas this offseason, and Tagovailoa's exciting playstyle and potential would be perfectly suited to endear local fans to their new franchise. Derek Carr was good enough last year that the Raiders can be reasonably optimistic for some kind of success next season, and can then cut him with only a $2.5 million dead cap penalty. Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock also have some draft capital to use if they wanted to move up to nab him, which seems like it would be necessary. Like the Chargers, the Raiders are looking to sell tickets their first season, which is a detrimental factor, but this is definitely the most fun outcome.
Indianapolis Colts (Pick No. 13)
The Colts would have to move into the top 10 to even have a chance at Tagovailoa, but they might be willing to do so after GM Chris Ballard didn't seem sold on Jacoby Brissett as the long-term starter. The Colts had the pieces to be a competitive team even after the stunning retirement of their franchise cornerstone, and with elevated quarterback play, would definitely be capable of battling their way into the playoff picture. A lot would need to fall into place for this scenario to come to fruition, but the Colts are looking for their QB of the future and would be ecstatic if that ended up being Tagovailoa.