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Is Tua Tagovailoa in the right place at the right time?

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The future of Tua Tagovailoa was one of the major talking points heading into the 2020 NFL Draft. The Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback starred in the college game for Nick Saban’s men, but the hip injury that ended his 2019 campaign loomed large, knocking him out of contention for the number one spot.

Speculation continued up until the evening of the draft about how far the 22-year-old could fall if he dropped out of the top 10, making the NFL Draft entice viewing from fans of all 32 teams. Tagovailoa’s leading suitors were the Miami Dolphins, although the AFC East outfit were said to have doubts over his fitness ahead of the selection process.

However, it proved to be a smoke and mirrors ploy from Brian Flores’ side who snapped up the Hawaii-native with the view of becoming the face of their franchise for the next 20 years. The pressure is now on Tagovailoa to justify his selection – by first proving his fitness for the 2020 campaign – and then that he can deliver for a team that has been starved of success since the retirement of Dan Marino.

Tua was nothing short of outstanding during his college career. He made an impact under the brightest of lights in the 2018 National Championship Game, replacing Jalen Hurts at half time with the Crimson Tide trailing the Georgia Bulldogs. The quarterback rallied Alabama from a 13-point deficit before making the play of the game, connecting with DeVonta Smith for the championship-winning touchdown in overtime.

He sustained that level of excellence during the following campaign, throwing 43 touchdowns to just six interceptions, in the process of leading the Crimson Tide back to the title game. On this occasion, Saban’s men were outduelled by the Clemson Tigers and Trevor Lawrence, suffering a humbling 43-16 defeat. The early signs were positive in the 2019 campaign, with many pundits already scheduling Tua into the first pick of the 2020 Draft – the only question was where his destination would be.

However, the 22-year-old suffered an ankle injury in week six against the Tennessee Volunteers that required surgery. He highlighted his resilience by returning just three weeks later and continued to operate at a high level. Disaster then struck against Mississippi State when Tagovailoa was sacked and dislocated his hip. All projections of the number-one pick were halted, while the rise of Joe Burrow saw the LSU Tigers quarterback displace the Alabama man as the leading contender for the top spot.

The Tigers’ victory in the 2020 National Championship and Burrow’s stellar performance all but confirmed those predictions. It was no surprise to see Burrow selected ahead of Tua by the Cincinnati Bengals first overall. Despite concerns over his health, the Dolphins took the plunge in what could be a defining moment in the history of the franchise.

Flores’ team displayed fight in the 2019 campaign amid a lack of talent on the roster – perhaps too much as it knocked them out of the race for the top pick in the 2020 Draft. Fortune was on their side as Tua was available, but they may have to wait to see their quarterback in action as he continued to undergo rehabilitation for his hip injury.

Tagovailoa will not only be battling his injury problems in Miami but also having to raise the talent around him. In Alabama, he was blessed with an outstanding defense and truly elite players in his receiving corps – most of whom followed in his footsteps as 2020 first-round picks. The Dolphins are building their team from the ground up.

Fortunately for them the departure of Tom Brady from the New England Patriots has opened up the AFC East for the first time in 20 years as a free-for-all. Tagovailoa may just have landed in the right place at the right time, although he needs to remains healthy and deliver on his potential to end Miami’s years of strife.

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TrevStone

Blogging since 2011. Founder of ProSportsExtra.com, founded in 2012. From the beautiful Upper Peninsula. Real name is Trevor Uren.
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