Why I don't believe the findings from team doctors will change Tua Tagovailoa's draft stock
If you’re waiting on pins and needles to hear what NFL teams have to say about Tua Tagovailoa’s hip as he recovers from surgery, let me give you some advice.
Instead, spend your time doing something else to get your draft juices flowing. Go read another mock draft. Go break down more film of that defensive end from Louisiana Tech who just isn’t getting enough love. Go do something that doesn’t involve waiting on the most relevant medical opinion as it relates to Tagovailoa’s health.
Yes, the diagnosis from NFL doctors is relevant in terms of what Tagovailoa can do in the near future. It’s more relevant than a pre-combine report with his doctors declaring that his hip fracture has fully healed.
The three-month CT scan for #Bama QB and coveted draft prospect Tua Tagovailoa was as positive as possible, sources say. The fracture has healed. The hip and its range of motion is good. It’ll likely be another month before he’s cleared for football activities, tho, as expected.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 10, 2020
If he progresses and his rehab does allow him to check those boxes, obviously the likelihood of him playing in 2020 increases.
But really, should that change how we discuss Tagovailoa’s draft stock? No. The risk is still the same.
We’re still talking about someone who had 3 significant lower-body surgeries in the past 15 months. Even if reports come out from doctors that Tagovailoa looks healthier than ever, that “how is he going to hold up for 16 games” question isn’t going anywhere.
Let’s say the opposite of that happens. The worst-case scenario is obviously that all 32 NFL doctors evaluate Tagovailoa and determine that he’s not going to be ready to start the 2020 season. If a team is drafting him, it isn’t because they expect him to be the guy in Week 1. And if it is, well, that’s more faith in Western medicine than one should probably have.
It’s not like the Lions are sitting there at No. 3 thinking, “our willingness to draft him comes down to what our doctors tell us.” Now if they say that the guy suddenly looks like he’s never going to play football again, sure, that would matter. But in terms of whether a team like the Lions wants to draft Tagovailoa, it’ll be because they fell in love with the talent and the person, which was ultimately worth whatever injury risk lies ahead.
What no doctor can tell a front office is how Tagovailoa is going to react the next time there’s the possibility of multiple 300-pound defensive linemen falling on him. Shoot, Tagovailoa can’t even tell a team how he’ll handle that because the next time that can happen is in a full-speed NFL game.
What we’ll hear from NFL team doctors — there’s an important distinction between them and the doctors the Tagovailoa family has been going to — might simply give a front office piece of mind to justify the pick. It might help them sleep at night knowing that their future franchise quarterback wasn’t still trying to beat the odds to come back from a rare hip dislocation.
But I bring all of this up because in this era of mock draft 12.0, it feels like there are going to be a lot of knee-jerk reactions to whatever comes out. If he still has a long way to go in the recovery process or there’s any sort of pre-draft setback, the debates will suddenly turn into how many quarterbacks should go ahead of him. They shouldn’t, but they will.
As the draft nears, we’re going to continue to hear “the medicals” discussed with Tagovailoa. Mel Kiper Jr. said that if not for “the medicals,” Tagovailoa would be the No. 1 pick in the draft. There are a lot of what-ifs about that, but there would at least be a strong case to be made even though Joe Burrow had as good of a season as we’ve ever seen.
That, however, isn’t reality. No team will draft Tagovailoa believing that his health is where Burrow’s or Justin Herbert’s is.
Colin Cowherd made the argument that he’d take Tagovailoa No. 1 despite the medicals because there are franchise quarterbacks like Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson who have both suffered serious injuries and still made their teams relevant.
I don’t care about Tua’s injury history in college. He’s still my number one pick. pic.twitter.com/EiEbSGVogC
— Colin Cowherd (@ColinCowherd) February 12, 2020
While I completely disagree with Cowherd’s justification — he said he’d just need a competent backup to take over for Tagovailoa after he gets hurt and he’d win the division — I actually respect that he’s not making that opinion based on what those team doctors have to say in the coming weeks.
Cowherd actually said that a day after Ian Rapoport’s report from Tagovailoa’s doctors came out. Never mind. That’s exactly what you shouldn’t do.
And again, I’m not saying the team doctors are irrelevant. Barring a scenario in which they say he could easily re-injure the hip every time he gets out of bed in the morning, the team that drafts Tagovailoa will already have its mind made up.
They’ll draft him in hopes that the beautiful deep ball he drops from the heavens will still be there. They’ll draft him in hopes that his Russell Wilson-like instincts to avoid pressure in the pocket will still be there. They’ll draft him in hopes that the level-headed, coachable personality will still be there.
Ignore the knee-jerk reactions that #DraftTwitter will inevitably have when those team medical reports are leaked. Don’t be the person who hears a report about Tagovailoa’s healed hip and suddenly talks themselves into him as a better prospect than Burrow. And don’t be the person who hears a report about his still-injured hip and suddenly talks themselves into Tagovailoa not being first-round worthy.
His reality isn’t drastically changing based on these team doctor reports. Neither should our opinions of his NFL potential.