If Tua Tagovailoa falls to the LA Chargers in the first round, injuries and perceived durability will not be the main factors in the decision to take him.
Momentum has seemingly swung in the direction of the Dolphins possibly selecting Justin Herbert. While the LA Chargers could trade up and take the decision out of Miami’s hands, it’s likely they’ll still be picking at six for the time being. That, of course, begs the question of what the Chargers would do with the sixth pick if Tua Tagovailoa was still on the board.
The decision on the sixth pick will ultimately come down to how Tom Telesco and Anthony Lynn have ranked and graded the prospects. It’s possible they pass on Tagovailoa for a quarterback they think could have higher upside or an elite defender.
Some NFL executives have sounded the alarm with the Alabama quarterback’s injury history. Reportedly, a handful of teams have decided to go as far as to take Tagovailoa off their draft boards entirely. Given the history of Telesco’s drafts, it’s unlikely that he is one of those executives.
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Jason Verrett had surgery to repair his rotator cuff and labrum prior to the draft in 2014. The Chargers still took him in the first round. It didn’t work out, but Verrett’s problem wasn’t his shoulder or being injury prone. He blew out his ACL in 2016 and his Achilles in 2018. The Chargers could never have predicted that, given that they were non-contact injuries.
Every pick that is successful comes with some degree of risk. In 2016, Derwin James tore his meniscus and missed almost his whole sophomore season. Nobody would say that the Chargers shouldn’t have taken him in retrospect.
In 2015, Mike Williams partially broke his neck colliding with a goal post. He’s dealt with some back and neck injuries during his tenure as a Charger, but he’s played 31 games in the last two seasons. Jerry Tillery sustained a torn labrum prior to getting drafted.
The takeaway from Telesco’s full draft history is that he isn’t afraid to take risks. Perhaps there’s more pressure when it comes to the quarterback position given that they are more important to franchises, but nothing of the Chargers’ drafting record over the last seven years suggests they’ll be drafting scared.
Injuries are mostly about luck when it comes to football. Sure, there are injury-prone players who’ve sustained too much damage from consecutive injuries. It’s too early to know whether or not that’s the case with Tagovailoa yet, and he’s still fairly young.
How the media and NFL fans talk about injuries to draft prospects varies wildly. Joe Burrow, the projected number one pick, played in the 2020 College Football Playoff Championship with torn rib cartilage. Herbert broke his femur in 2014 and shattered his collarbone in 2017 at Oregon. Jalen Hurts had a similar surgery in 2018 at Alabama when he sprained his ankle. Personally, I’ve never heard one of those guys once described as injury-prone.
Executives are right to be cautious and thorough when it comes to evaluating all draft prospects. However, Tagovailoa’s injury history shouldn’t be a cause for concern to the point of not drafting him. Telesco and Lynn may very well end up liking other quarterbacks and players better than Tagovailoa, but Telesco’s draft history suggests he’s not scared to make a risky pick.
Football is a violent game. One hit can end anyone’s season. As mentioned with previous Chargers’ draft picks and other 2020 quarterback prospects, every football player has an injury history to evaluate. Telesco will take who he believes is the best option and fit for the team at six.