After weeks and months of speculation, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has decided to forgo his senior season and enter the 2020 NFL Draft. There were reports early on that with the combination of Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban trying to convince some underclassmen to return and his serious injury, Tagovailoa might return to Alabama for his senior year. However, Pro Football Network’s Draft Analyst and Insider Tony Pauline has repeatedly reported that all signs were pointing towards Tagovailoa entering the draft.

Last week on our NFL Draft Insider’s Podcast, Pauline discussed what he had been hearing from his sources.

“If his heart was set to come back, I don’t think he’d push the date back to January 6. I think you’d announce right away that you’re coming back,” said Pauline. “…everything I’ve heard early on when people in Tua’s inner circle said he was leaning towards entering the 2020 NFL Draft…and last week when I was talking to people, they had said his team had been talking about representation and it looked like they were going to split agencies – one was going to do the contract while the other agency was going to handle marketing…no one I’ve talked has told me that his actions lead them to believe that he is going to return to Alabama. Everything seems like he is going to enter the draft.”

However, there was one more medical appointment for Tagovailoa – the final benchmark before he made his decision final. According to reports on Friday, Tagovailoa flew to New York to meet with a specialist. While no one knows what the prognosis was, it appears that Tagovailoa got the news he was looking for. On Sunday evening, Pauline reported the following

“After conversing with almost a half dozen sources over the course of the day, it’s anybody’s guess as to what Tua Tagovailoa will announce at Monday’s press conference, scheduled to take place at 12 Noon EST with Nick Saban.

The big variable according to people in the know is the recent medical feedback Tagovailoa received on the hip injury – and no one seems to know what the updated prognosis is, or at least no one seems willing to talk about the latest medical updates.

The general feeling is if reports say Tagovailoa will be healthy enough to play this season, then he should enter the draft, which many believe he will do.

The one question I asked every source was this – why make the decision tomorrow and not wait until the underclassmen deadline, which is January 20? A decision on Monday would lend itself to the belief Tagovailoa will return to Alabama for 2020 but one source close to the situation told me they believe the January 6 deadline was set by the Alabama program so as to not interfere with recruiting.”

Tua Tagovailoa declares for the 2020 NFL Draft

This afternoon, Tua held a press conference alongside Saban and surrounded by a myriad of reporters. In the crowd, we could also see members of Tua’s family. Saban took to the podium first to introduce Tua. He also took the time to praise the young quarterback for all of his accomplishments with the university.

“Tua has probably had as much of an impact on our football program here as anyone we’ve ever had,” Saban said.

When Tua took to the podium, he did so without any crutches. A good sign for those hoping for a complete return to normal. Without much hesitation, Tua then announced his decision.

“With lots of prayers, thoughts and guidance I have decided that I will enter the 2020 NFL draft” 

Tua took the time to thank his coaching staff, the medical staff, his family, and the numerous religious council that he sought during the decision process. When thanking his family, there was genuine emotion heard in his voice.

“It was a hard decision all around, taking into consideration the pros and cons of both sides of the situation and the decision. I got to seek guidance from my family; we prayed a lot about it. This is a decision I’m going to have to live with. I made it, and I’m good with it,” Tagovailoa said.

Before taking questions, Tua made a reference to his favorite Tim McGraw song, Humble and Kind. In what can be seen as a nod to his younger brother, Taullia Tagovailoa, who will be competing for the quarterback position with Alabama next year.

“When you get where you’re going, don’t forget to turn back around and help the next one in line. Always stay humble and kind.”

There were a number of questions regarding what Tua thinks will happen now that he has made his decision. He made it clear that before the three to four month evaluation of his injury, he doesn’t know what the situation will be. This past weekend, Tua had received an evaluation from doctors in New York. The signs were positive.

“They cannot tell what will happen in the foreseeable future. But, from what they see in NY everything looks good but can’t tell before the three or four month mark.”

When asked if he has spoken with any general managers or owners, he joked about having discussed with “too many”. From what he has been able to gather, he believes owners are treating his hip injury similar to a knee.

“It is obviously a unique situation, a lot of the GMs and owners I’ve talked to said they look at this injury as like a knee injury almost. Are we going to take a chance? Can I do a pro day before the draft? Obviously, they will want to see if I can move and be back to how I was before the injury.”

The most glaring question was asked near the end of the press conference. Will he be ready to play football next season?

“I am optimistic I will be able to play in the upcoming season. More so worried about getting better as soon as possible. Whether or not I will have a pro day. It is all dependent on what the doctors have to say.”

Tua ended his press conference with the same words we have heard him say throughout his collegiate career.

“Thank you, guys. One last time. God bless and Roll Tide.”

The injury that started it all

The speculation surrounding Tagovailoa’s decision began several weeks ago when the highly touted quarterback spoke to the media.

“There is a risk and a reward if I stay and a risk and a reward if I go,” Tagovailoa said during his press conference. “The risk if I stay is obviously, ‘Do I get hurt again?’ The reward is that I could come back and have another good year like my sophomore year and elevate myself back to the very top of the (NFL) Draft. If I leave, I think the risk is a little higher. That risk would be how far do I drop in the draft.” 

In a game against Mississippi State, Tagovailoa was injured during the first-half routing of their SEC opponent, 35-7. Tagovailoa was scrambling to his left and threw the ball away as he was chased by two Bulldog defenders. He landed awkwardly on his right leg. Ultimately, he suffered a right hip dislocation and posterior wall fracture. Tagovailoa underwent surgery to repair his hip in November. 

Originally feared to be similar to former running back Bo Jackson, it has since been reported that the injury wasn’t as severe. Forecasts have been positive since his surgery, but there are still quite a bit of questions regarding the timeline for his recovery. Back in November, Pauline explained how even positive forecasts from his doctors might not be enough.

“The surgery was successful by the surgeon’s standards. But is it good enough for NFL teams and their standards? There’s going to be plenty of speculation and talk. It doesn’t matter until he gets to the NFL Combine medical exams because Combine medicals are a different beast altogether and they vary by team.”

Pauline went on to say that we’ll have a better, clearer picture once the teams conduct their medical exams.

“After the teams conduct their medical exams, maybe some leaks will come out. His doctors can say now that everything is going to be OK and he’ll make a full recovery but until the team doctors look at the hip, the X-Rays, do their diagnosis, and then give their opinions to the scouting staff and general manager – nothing matters.”

One thing is for sure – Tagovailoa will likely be the most scrutinized player in the NFL Draft for teams who are interested in drafting him.

Where will Tagovailoa land in the NFL? 

One of the reasons why several Alabama players will be returning for their senior season is because some received lower draft grades than anticipated. According to Saban, they received grades from about 20 NFL teams in mid-December. However, only one player graded out as a possible top-15 selection. 

“We only had one guy that has that high of a grade and he’s not going to be playing in the [bowl] game because he’s injured,” Saban said. “And that injury may affect his grade, unfortunately, for him, right now.”

Obviously, Saban was referring to Tagovailoa. 

When Tagovailoa spoke to the media after his injury, he made it clear that he was worried about falling in the draft. The lower you fall in the draft, the less financially viable it becomes. The best example that we can use would be comparing Mitchell Trubisky and Deshaun Watson, both drafted in 2017. Trubisky was taken second overall and shortly thereafter signed a fully guaranteed $29 million contract with a $19.2 million signing bonus. Watson, on the other hand, was drafted 12th overall and signed a fully-guaranteed deal worth $13.8 million with an $8.2 million signing bonus.

The difference is clear and for Tagovailoa, who was nearly locked in as the first overall pick before his injury, it may cost him millions. However, there are a number of ways that Tagovailoa could still be selected in the early part of the first round.

If he is being told he will recover and return to normal, Tagovailoa will definitely be a top-10 pick, if not top-5. If there is a positive outlook but still some questions to be answered, several teams picking in the top-20 may be tempted to select him if he experiences a fall towards the bottom of round one.

He has been linked to the Miami Dolphins for a while, who have three first-round picks, including the fifth overall. The Los Angeles Chargers, Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Falcons and Las Vegas Raiders are all at least possibilities.

The reality of the situation is that if the positive medical reports are to be believed, it is unlikely that Tagovailoa falls out of the first round. Deciding to declare means that he believes in himself and is looking to get paid now, instead of later.

We will continue to monitor and update the situation as more becomes available. Make sure to follow us on Twitter: @PFN365