Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa announced shortly after noon ET. today in Tuscaloosa that he’s declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft.
After suffering a season-ending hip injury at Mississippi State on Nov. 16, there was some belief that Tagovailoa might decide to return for his senior year since the injury might make franchises hesitate to take him in early in first round.
ESPN’s NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. has Tagovailoa ranked as the second-best QB in this year’s class behind only LSU’s Joe Burrow. Kiper has him as the draft’s No. 3 overall prospect, calling him “a left-handed Drew Brees.”
The Cincinnati Bengals own the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, but they are expected to take Burrow or Ohio State DE Chase Young. Washington (Dwayne Haskins), Detroit (Matt Stafford) and the New York Giants (Daniel Jones) have picks No. 2, 3 and 4, respectively, and they aren’t in the market for a signal caller.
However, Miami and the Los Angeles Chargers at No. 5 and No. 6, respectively, are expected to take QBs. Tagovailoa’s propensity for injuries while at Alabama might make Oregon’s Justin Herbert a more intriguing option.
Tagovailoa rallied the Crimson Tide from a 13-0 halftime deficit against Georgia in the finals of the 2017-18 College Football Playoff. Replacing Jalen Hurts to start the third quarter, Tagovailoa became a college football legend with the rope he threw for the game-winning TD pass in overtime against the Bulldogs.
As a true sophomore in 2018, Tagovailoa appeared poised to run away with the Heisman Trophy until an ankle injury slowed him down in mid-October. The same ankle was injured against vs. UGA in the SEC Championship Game, but Hurts rallied Alabama to a comeback victory.
Oklahoma Kyler Murray ended up beating Tagovailoa out for the 2018 Heisman Trophy. Nevertheless, Tagovailoa completed 69.0 percent of his passes for 3,966 yards with a 43/6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He also had five rushing TDs.
In 2019, Tagovailoa went down with an ankle injury in a home win vs. Tennessee. The next day he had surgery on the ankle, causing him to miss a home win vs. Arkansas.
Twenty days after surgery, Tagovailoa played valiantly on the injured ankle in a 46-41 home loss to LSU. Although he was probably only about 75-percent healthy, Tagovailoa threw for 418 yards and four TDs with one interception.
He clearly wasn’t himself, though. On what was going to be a big gain and perhaps even a TD run on the game’s opening drive, Tagovailoa coughed up a costly fumble while running alone in the open field deep in the red zone. Also, he completed just 21-of-40 pass attempts.
In Starkville the following week, Tagovailoa led the Tide to a 35-7 lead late in the second quarter. At a time when it seemed obvious that Tagovailoa should’ve been pulled from the game with a comfortable lead, Nick Saban chose to leave him in for one last two-minute drive before sitting him.
On that drive, Tagovailoa sustained a serious hip injury that required surgery. His season — and career at Alabama — ended on that day at Scott Field.
In nine games this year, Tagovailoa completed 71.4 percent of his throws for 2,840 yards with a 33/3 TD-INT ratio. He also had a pair of rushing scores.
Tagovailoa finishes his collegiate career third in all-time passing yards (7,442) at Alabama, behind only A.J. McCarron and John Parker Wilson. He has an 87/11 career TD-INT ratio and nine rushing scores.
Mac Jones, a rising junior for the 2020 campaign, started four games this year and played in 12. He connected on 97-of-141 passes (68.8%) for 1,503 yards with a 14/3 TD-INT ratio. Jones ran for 36 yards and one TD.
Jones threw a pair of pick-sixes in a 48-45 loss at Auburn in the regular-season finale, but he showed his grit by orchestrating TD drives on the ensuing possessions after both interceptions.
Alabama lost after a short field-goal attempt to tie the game and force overtime hit the post. Jones threw for 335 yards and four TDs in the losing effort at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
In Alabama’s 35-16 Citrus Bowl win over Michigan last week, Jones completed 16-of-25 passes for 327 yards and three TDs without an interception.