While the Detroit Lions remain the lynchpin for the draft beyond the first two picks, no prospect is drawing more attention than Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Due to his devastating hip injury in 2019 but stunningly-good film, opinions have varied wildly on the potential franchise quarterback. Some believe he’s the best prospect in this draft. Others view him as too big of a risk to take highly in the draft.
Lately, we’ve heard mostly positive things regarding his health. He’s posted video where he looks completely ready to go. He’s undergone physicals from an independent doctor and reportedly passed with flying colors.
But according to one NFL insider, Tagovailoa’s health has already earned a failing health grade from at least a couple of teams.
Michael Lombardi, former Browns general manager and Patriots assistant (who worked alongside both Lions general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia) said on his podcast—”The GM Shuffle”—that a couple teams have been scared away from Tagovailoa’s long injury history, including one team picking in the top 10.
Here’s the full transcript of the segment, which begins right around the nine-minute mark (emphasis is mine):
Co-host Adnan Virk: “You’ve had reports, one team in the top 10 has failed Tua Tagovailoa’s physical. Now, I’m sure you’re going to protect your sources, so don't tell me the team, but that’s at least one team that has said, ‘Listen, this guy is not kosher. He is not up to speed. He is not ready to go.’
“What do you think they saw? Obviously, he’s coming off a serious injury here, but that’s got to get around. If you’ve got at least one team that’s failed the physical on Tua, others have to be concerned now as well.”
Lombardi: “What they saw, AD, is they saw the fact that there’s more than just one—it’s not just his hip. It’s his ankle. It’s his wrist. He broke his wrist the first day of spring ball one year, and then they fixed it, and he came back and re-broke it again. I mean, he’s brittle. He is brittle. You can’t deny it.
“You can say he’s a really good player, but it’s easy for Mel (Kiper Jr.) and Todd (McShay) and everybody else to turn the card in and say, ‘He’s a good player,’ because they don’t look at this list of busts in front of them. They don’t look at the Mark Sanchezes, the Josh Freemans, the Jamarcus Russells, the Brady Quinns, the Jason Campbells, the J.P. Losmans. They don’t look at these names. They all were hot picks.
“I can remember J.P. Losman was represented by Gary Wichard, who Mel Kiper was very close to. They were talking about J.P. Losman like he was going to be the next coming of Jesus Christ.
“And we all make mistakes, we all make mistakes. I’m not disputing the evaluation. I’m saying that if you’re picking a quarterback, it’s really hard to pick a good one. It’s even harder with a guy who can’t stay healthy. That’s my point. So, yeah, two teams I’ve talked to have flunked him. They flunked him on not just a hip, on the multitude of injuries. The risk far outweighs the reward.”
Now just because one or two teams have failed Tagovailoa doesn’t mean that opinion is widely felt. In fact, all it takes is one general manager to fall in love with Tagovailoa, and they could, in theory, offer the Lions a tremendous haul for the third overall pick.
The Detroit Free Press has another theory on what this moves means. Dave Birkett believes it could increase the value of Detroit’s pick because less-risky quarterbacks are now a little more rare in this draft class. Once Joe Burrow is gone after (presumably) the first overall pick, suddenly there’s more urgency to go and get Justin Herbert or Jordan Love.
Of course, given that we’re now just two weeks away from the NFL Draft, it’s certainly possible none of this is true. Things being leaked to the media this late in the process should always be met with some criticism, but it certainly makes things a little more interesting this time of year.