The Alabama basketball game started late on Saturday night and the heavyweight championship fight started even later, but one thing was 24/7, and will be for a couple of months into the future — NFL Draft conversation, most particularly when the talk is Tua Talk.
The NFL Combine begins on Sunday in Indianapolis and while Alabama will have a large contingent of 10 players, the focus from the outset will be on Tagovailoa. The former Crimson Tide quarterback won’t be doing much in the way of drills but he will be discussing medical reports all week and teams will watch his every move, literally, wondering if they can spot some almost-imperceptible limp as he walks to the cafeteria. He will be at the center of that attention in a perfect storm of publicity. The NFL remains the No.1 attraction in American sports. The NFL Draft attracts that audience, plus the college audience. What’s more, quarterbacks are the most recognizable stars in the most popular league, even among casual fans, and 2020 may be the most explosive year ever in terms of quarterback movement. Tom Brady is a free agent, for crying out loud. There are future questions about Cam Newton, Phillip Rivers and Jameis Winston, and that’s just the ones with state of Alabama connections.
Right in the middle of it all is Tua. And in his usual innocent Tua style, he raised eyebrows again this week when asked if he had a preference of destinations.
“If you’re saying to me, if I can choose what team I want to play on, as far as my favorite team growing up, then I probably tell you the Cowboys,” Tagovailoa told NFL Network’s Steve Wyche in an exclusive interview.
The Cowboys are, arguably, the highest profile franchise of them all. Their owner, Jerry Jones, faces a decision on whether to spend between $35 million and $40 million to extend the contract of current starter Dak Prescott. Now Tua — who says he’d be happy to sit behind Prescott for a year — is progressing his love for Dallas.
At the moment, Dallas doesn’t have the right draft choice to take Tua, who (assuming good medical reports) will be long gone at No. 17 in the first round. That seems more like Henry Ruggs III or Xavier McKinney territory. But ESPN’s draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. opened yet another can of worms this week when his latest mock draft deviated from the most common of the Tagovailoa scenarios — No. 5 to Miami — and instead had Tua going to the Detroit Lions at No. 3 overall.
Kiper expounded on that speculation on his Saturday radio program on ESPN Radio.
“Detroit could take (Tagovailoa) or they could the No. 3 pick,” Kiper said. “That’s where the Chargers, Carolina, the (Las Vegas) Raiders and other teams, even New England, might get involved.
“Teams give up so much for quarterbacks. If Tua is medically cleared, I think you’ll be blown away with what teams will offer and Detroit is a team with a lot of needs. Or they could go with (Matt) Stafford for one year and Tua could medically redshirt. Even if you feel like his hip is fine, you could let him sit a year and learn, like Kansas City did with Pat Mahomes.”
Joe Burrow from LSU still figures to be the No. 1 pick in the draft. But in terms of mystique, no one tops Tua Tagovailoa.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or via Twitter, @cecilhurt
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