*Our QB grades can and will change as more information comes in from Pro Day workouts, leaked Wonderlic test results, etc. We will update ratings as new info becomes available.

Well, we have two issues to wrestle with here… (1) Is Tua Tagovailoa a legit NFL prospect, a franchise QB? and (2) How does Tua’s major hip injury factor in? Let’s address the talent first and then see if/how his hip issue matters.

Tagovailoa is a difficult prospect to wrap your scouting mind around…difficult for me to wrap my scouting mind around. I’m never super-impressed by what I see as I watch Tagovailoa on tape. I know he is ‘good’. He’s not incompetent. But he’s spoken of as a mythological figure, and when I’ve watched him in glimpses over the years, leading up to my official scouting studies – I don’t see it. Also, note…I’m only watching Tua against top competition. It has little impact me as a scout when Alabama throttles weaker SEC and mid-major teams and Tua, surrounded by an all-star cast, goes off.  I watch Tua against equally talented teams, and when I do…I see a different Tua.

See if you would agree…

In Tua’s time as the full Alabama starter, I pay attention to his 2018 SEC title game against Georgia, his 2018 season CFB title game against Clemson, and his two LSU matchups in 2018 and again in 2019. His numbers from those games…

2-2 record, and really could be 1-3 because the 2018 SEC title game Alabama/Tua were getting smacked around by Georgia before Tua got hurt and Jalen Hurts came in and led the comeback win.

Tua’s numbers in those four games might come as a shock:   

55.3% Comp. Pct. – he was under 60% in three of those 4 games.

2.25 TDs/1.5 INTs per game – at least one pick in every game, and two picks in two of the games.

293.0 passing yards per game – solid.

3.5 rushing yards per game – three of the four games with negative yards rushing.

Those are not the numbers of an elite NFL passing prospect… that’s ‘red flag city’ – but no one seems to want to notice the issues here.

The professional scouting and analyst sentiment on Tagovailoa that the football intelligentsia sends our way can best be summed up by two back-to-back plays from his 2018 season title game (loss) to Clemson. It always seems to me that football scouting is 98%+ emotional and TV/radio/print analysts’ scouting is 101% emotional/follow the crowd, and the Tua vibe ahead will be a lot like the following…

For background, in 2018 season, Tua became the full starter over Jalen Hurts. Tagovailoa had just relieved Hurts midgame in the national title game and won the prior year’s national title game over Georgia. He was considered the star of stars by analysts and NFL teams were (supposedly) already planning to tank for the next two seasons just to get a chance at Tua…no, really -- that was the media’s made up sentiment to whip up the fans. That’s how god-like the perception of Tua was after one season.

So, in the 2018 season title game, very early in the game, Tua drops back and throws a timing pattern pass to his right. A nice, simple play where the WR runs straight for 5+ yards and then cuts to the sideline and the QB has already thrown the ball before the cut because it’s a timing play. Well, Tua hits one of those 1st-quarter and ESPN game analyst Kirk Herbstreit sells it as the most amazing thing a quarterback has ever done. You would’ve thought no QB had ever done such a thing and while Herbstreit is raving about Tua’s amazing intuition and passer skills to do such a thing, I’m thinking…I’ve seen like a thousand quarterbacks at every level make that throw, who cares? Why is Herbstreit making such a big deal?

With everything based on emotion (and ‘selling’/hyping the product)… whenever the guy we are supposed to/told we are to pre-love does something it’s the greatest and the viewers get hyped because the announcer is hyped. If it’s someone for whom we don’t have those emotions doing the same exact thing…no one notices, the analysts are talking about other things during the same exact kind of play and the viewers roll on without any emotions stirred.

Now, after that play, the very next play, Tua tries to do the same thing…this time to his left. He takes the snap, plants quickly, fires without really reading and it goes right to a waiting Clemson defender for a pick six. Now, what’s Herbstreit to do? He literally called the same play 30 seconds ago the greatest feat in modern quarterbacking. Will he criticize Tua here? Will he point out he’s throwing blindly too much? Of course not! He’s the hero of our story. The words have to be shaped to protect the hero…football analysis is often parallel to pro wrestling coverage – everything is geared to sell an emotion to the fans to get a reaction and/or sell some t-shirts. Herbstreit goes into how smart the Clemson defense was in fooling Tua (said in a manner implying that Tua is so holy it could only be a lucky act of God that a defense could pick him off).

In my opinion, football people have made up their mind about Tua without even really studying it…which is 99.9% of what happens on every player, so it’s not unusual. For fans, it’s OK. For professional scouts and analysts, it should be career suicide, but it’s not…it’s the norm and if you question the herd – that’s the real career suicide.

I came into this study open-minded. I had previewed Tagovailoa this past summer. I thought he was good, but I had questions/things that bothered me. It felt like Tua was another prospect the media was going to push down our throats and be wildly wrong about…almost unfair to Tua because it would be impossible to live up to that level of hype.

When I look over my notes from watching several Tagovailoa games, when I see them in total…I don’t know how we’re all just rubber stamping him for greatness. I’m not sure why the experts are pushing so hard. Tua, in a lot of ways, is the anthesis of what scouts look for…

Tua is short…might be 6’1” at best.

Tua is not overly fast…he’s probably a 4.7+ runner. He had negative rushing yards in a game (and I realize sacks are rushing yards in college) in eight of his last 15 games. He never registered a 50+ yard rushing game in his college career. He’s not slow, but he’s nowhere near ‘fast’… and doesn’t show any proclivity to run the ball anyway.

He’s got ‘average’ arm strength with a big hitch in his throwing motion, almost looking like he is pushing the ball out versus a whip-like dart throw. His sideline throws to the far side of the field…nothing special, and a little scary for the NFL level. The ball gets there too slowly, or at least not as fast as scouts would like.

Most of Tua’s throws are him getting a shotgun snap and taking a step or two and firing a predetermined pass to one of his all-star, top NFL prospect wide receivers. He runs the spread offense with a top O-Line and top weaponry, and he runs it very well. Working in a muddy pocket and reading the progressions and throwing tight window darts (rare to have to do that has QB of Alabama in this era)…it’s not his best game.  

With Tagovailoa, there should be a TON of question marks about his skillset, before you even get to his problems with injury and his major hip surgery.

What I will promote, what I understand is – Tagovailoa is a very smart, confident, efficient QB prospect. He knows the position and he makes plays. I respect his abilities…it’s what makes him a legit NFL prospect. He’s got good QB instincts and skills. He’s an NFL starter talent…with questions how high his ceiling is. He’s talented, but I’m not sure how he can be universally accepted as a sure-fire franchise, mega-star NFL QB in waiting.

Compare him to these recent top QB prospects…

Lamar Jackson is a thousand times better. Lamar’s rushing ability is unparalleled, while Tua is not a runner at all. Jackson also has a faster release on his passes…much quicker delivery/arrival, whereas Tua’s passes tend to float to their destination. Tua is a better traditional pocket passer, more accurate thrower but Lamar’s running game strikes fear in opponents, which opens up the passing game for him. Tua and Lamar should not even be mentioned in the same sentence.

Kyler Murray has 10x the arm talent that Tua does. Murray is an assassin throwing the ball and a 4.3-4.4+ runner who can get up and go if needed. Tua has nowhere near the arm talent, reading the field experience, or foot speed. Kyler is superior in every way.

Baker Mayfield is a far better pocket passer, reader of the field and at zipping passes into the tightest of windows under duress. Tua is more like Mayfield…neither runs well, but they move around enough to extend passing time. Mayfield can carve defenses apart in the quick passing game, but also throws into danger too much (at least he has so far in the pros). Tua excels in the quick passing game too but doesn’t have the arm or field reading experience/acumen of Baker, to me.

Patrick Mahomes…Tua is nothing like Mahomes, in any way. Mahomes is a pocket passing machine making throws that leave you scratching your head. Tua plays smart within the offense and his WRs help him make big plays. Mahomes could succeed with any group of WRs, I’m convinced. If Tua were on Ole Miss or Wake Forest, let’s say…I don’t think anyone would think he’s more than a 2nd-3rd-day draft pick.

Joe Burrow, with lesser surroundings, was far superior to Tagovailoa in seasonal output and better when they went head-to-head in 2019. You watch them both in the same game…you could see which one was the superior prospect.

So, who is Tua like? When I give the comp that comes to my mind, you’re going to laugh…but if it’s true, then we may have some problems here.

I think Tua Tagovailoa reminds me of Deshaun Watson. Now, before you get excited…hold on. I didn’t love Watson coming out of Clemson. I would have said many of the same things about Watson in my scouting as I do Tua – not a great arm, not a great pure pocket passer, a lot of one-step and fire throws. I didn’t love Watson for the pros, but I was also looking at him translating to an NFL not likely allowed to run a spread offense. I can see now the error of my ways on Watson – a master of running a spread offense, he just makes plays…not huge passer numbers but good ones with blip games of ‘wow’, and his running ability is the special sauce. Watson strikes fear, holds defenses back because they are afraid of him running…and then Watson uses that within the spread to pick defenses apart. Watson is the quintessential ‘good/great football player’ who is confident in the spread and can run the ball/escape at a higher level as needed.

Tua is like Watson…but, with one MAJOR problem – he’s like Deshaun without the foot speed. Tua is probably a better pure passer than Watson in the spread offense, apples-to-apples… but Tua cannot run like Watson. He just can’t. You can see it on tape…Tua might not even be a Daniel Jones-like runner. Watson also has a stronger arm.

What would Deshaun Watson be worth if he lost his legs/lost his ability to run/escape at a high level? Still of some value running the spread properly; successful but not the ‘wow’ franchise guy we all love today. To some degree, Tua is like a small Carson Wentz. Wentz is a smart QB who isn’t a great passer, but is good enough and has a sixth sense for moving around in the pocket to make plays…but add a couple of years of major injuries (including a hip injury), and a lowering mobility…and a few years later, now, people aren’t sure Wentz is a franchise QB. They know he’s good…but is he a championship QB? Maybe?

So, what is Tua worth if he is a 20+ pounds lighter, 3-4+ inches shorter, but just as injury-prone version of Wentz?

What is Tua worth if he is a Deshaun-like spread QB, but a few inches shorter and with nowhere near the foot speed, and also an injury risk like Deshaun?

What is this Tua worth with current major hip surgery and rehab already on his record…and possibly not fully ready for his 2020 rookie season? Is Tua worth waiting a year+ for…given his pros and cons? Is he a high-end franchise QB?

In my opinion, considering the flood of talented QB prospects hitting the NFL the past few years and the rise of guys like Tannehill-Fitzpatrick-Foles, who play just fine if given the chance…why would you tie up a high draft pick, a big payroll spot on a guy who might be ‘good’ – when you have plenty of other QB options these days if you decide not to take the risk. In the end, I just don’t believe Tua is that great for a high draft gamble.

I do think he’s a good QB prospect, a nice ‘B/B-’ talent (with a lot of injury questions), and I’d love to work with him. He has talent. His character is first-rate. I just see a lot of ‘B’ talents flooding the NFL, and if I don’t believe Tua is an ‘A’…and if I question his size, lack of speed, lack of arm strength, and faltering college numbers when facing equal opponents – why would I try to build everything around this player, and take on this cost and risk?

I know many NFL teams would take that risk, but I’m just saying…if I were the GM, looking at the big picture – I don’t see Tua as a generational talent, not even close…so, why would I bet everything on him? NFL GMs will bet big, because they love ‘Alabama’ and they are the easiest prey for the emotional pleas/praise from CFB analysts.

I’m a Tua fan, to a point…I just think he’s been made into a giant mythological QB prospect and he’s going to have a hard time living up to it. I think Tua can start and be solid in the NFL and even win a Super Bowl in a perfect spot – but we’re in an era where we can say that about 20-30-40 (and the numbers are growing fast) NFL QB options. ‘Good’ and ‘great’ QB in the NFL are not the rare species they used to be. I hope Tua comes back 100% healthy and is great…but I just look at all the data and scouting I have, and I wouldn’t pay the price for this stock that others are willing to pay. I’d rather overtrade for Joe Burrow or Trevor Lawrence among others.  

Tua Tagovailoa, Through the Lens of Our QB Scouting Algorithm:

It’s worth noting again the stats I showed prior…

In Tua’s time as the full Alabama starter, I paid attention to his 2018 SEC title game against Georgia, his 2018 season CFB title game against Clemson, and his two LSU matchups in 2018 and again in 2019. His numbers from those games are…

2-2 record, and really should be 1-3 because the 2018 SEC title game Alabama/Tua were getting smacked around by Georgia and then Tua got hurt and Jalen Hurts came in and led the comeback win. 

Tua’s numbers in those four games might come as a shock:   

55.3% Comp. Pct. – he was under 60% in three of those 4 games. 

2.25 TDs/1.5 INTs per game – at least one pick every game, and two picks in two of the games.

293.0 passing yards per game – solid.

3.5 rushing yards per game – three of the four games with negative yards rushing. 

Why would Tua’s numbers be down in these high-profile games, against more NFL prospect-laden college defenses? Is it possible that his height is another detriment…combined with his WRs getting better coverage/the windows not as big to throw into? 

Also, note – some of Tua’s ‘good’ numbers/output within these troubling numbers against elevated competition came with his team down 2-3 scores and having a little more defensive grace/cushion to throw at. 

In the 2018 SEC title game vs. Georgia, Alabama was down 28-14 at one point in the 3rd-quarter. 

In the 2018 season CFB title game vs. Clemson, Alabama was down 37-16 with 23+ minutes left in the game and would go on to lose 44-16. 

In the 2019 LSU game, Alabama was down 33-13 at the half…with Tua doing nothing. They eventually drew back closer in the 2nd-half and shootout ensured with LSU taking a 12-point lead with 1:37 left, and then Alabama hit in a fortunate 85-yard TD with 1+ minutes left…had that big strike not happened, Tua’s numbers in these select games would be even worse. 

Which Tua is the real Tua for the NFL? The guy that obliterates Duke, South Carolina, Texas A&M 2x, So Miss, Arkansas, Arkansas State but also Auburn and Oklahoma…or the guy who mostly struggled with Georgia, Clemson, and LSU 2x?

Projected Measurables (and we’ll never know the speed and the true arm strength because he should try to hide most of them as best he can/won’t be able to participate due to injury):

6’0-6’1”/210-215 pounds, 9” hands

4.70 40-time with 7.00 three-cone

The Historical QB Prospects to Whom Tua Tagovailoa Most Compares Within Our System:

I don’t love any of the computer model comparison’s here, from a style/look standpoint (I like slower Deshaun as a comp) but Teddy Bridgewater does standout to me…

We forget that Teddy was a stellar college QB talent in his day. Incredibly accurate. Great passer.  People hit on his size and arm strength but didn’t question his college passer skills. I think Tua has a lot of those same attributes but two advantages: (a) he won’t have to do a Pro Day or Combine to get exposed, and (b) he won’t be criticized anyway because EVERYONE agrees Tua is great.

Teddy fell in the draft on the questions…almost like an orchestrated hit by the media. His size/injury fears became reality in the NFL. Teddy lost his ‘franchise QB’ status with Minnesota due to injury, not performance. Today, Teddy is seen as a smart, savvy, capable QB people are rediscovering and are thinking he should be a starter for some team in 2020 after doing a great fill-in job in 2019.

I feel like Tua may end up sharing a lot of Teddy’s career arc… great college player, not as sexy in the pros, gets forgotten somewhat 2-3 years in, but is so solid a QB talent that eventually they lead a team and are considered ‘good’ (never ‘great’).


LJax Rating







Adj Comp Pct

Adj Yds per Comp

Adj Pass per TD

Adj Pass Per INT






























































*’LJax rating’ – new for 2020, as we re-do our grading systems to better identify/reward the spread offense QB prospects…looking for the runner-passer talents.

**“Adj” = A view of adjusted college output in our system…adjusted for strength of opponent.

***A score of 8.5+ is where we see a stronger correlation of QBs going on to become NFL good-to-great. A scouting score of 9.5+ is rarefied air—higher potential for becoming great-to-elite. 

QBs scoring 6.0–8.0 are finding more success in the new passing era of the NFL (2014–on). Depending upon the system and surrounding weapons, a 6.0–8.0 rated QB can do fine in today’s NFL—with the right circumstances…but they are not ‘the next Tom Brady’ guys, just NFL-useful guys. 

2020 NFL Draft Outlook:

The fact that Tua cannot participate in pre-draft activities will probably actually help him in the draft process. I think Tua could have been exposed in the pre-draft process when we saw him standing next to, throwing next to, running next to superior physical QB talents. Now, he gets to live on the pre-hype and gets no real Combine-like comparisons for people to drink in with their eyes, so I think he’ll coast into the top 5 of the NFL Draft picks for sure. Likely a team trading up to get him. Miami very likely to try.

NFL Outlook:   

I think Tua could be the Teddy Bridgewater redux NFL story – promising start, local fans pumped, 2-3 years later is considered ‘boring’ and questioned on ‘how great?’, but eventually settles in as a respected, good, efficient, not-great but a good NFL QB…with physical/injury proclivity risks.