Raiders

How Tua Tagovailoa's decision to enter 2020 NFL Draft affects Raiders

Raiders

On Monday morning, a little after 11 a.m. in Tuscaloosa, Ala., one of the greatest college careers officially ended.

Alabama star quarterback and presumptive top-five draft pick, Tua Tagovailoa, officially declared for the 2020 NFL Draft while sitting next to coach Nick Saban.

Tagovailoa is recovering from a serious hip injury he suffered in a win over Mississippi State on Nov. 16. With teammates and projected top picks Dylan Moses and Alex Leatherwood electing to return to Alabama for their senior season, there was speculation Tagovailoa would come back, rehab his hip with the Tide's medical staff and boost his draft stock.

Instead, he made the smart choice. Tagovailoa is expected to make a full recovery and said in his press conference he will be ready to play next season.

Tagovailoa throwing his name into the hat makes him likely to be the second quarterback taken, with LSU star Joe Burrow all but assured to be the No. 1 overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals. 

After the Bengals, Washington, the Detroit Lions and New York Giants all are unlikely to draft a quarterback. The Miami Dolphins own the No. 5 pick and could elect to select Tua or could fill one of their other glaring needs and address the quarterback position later on. At this point, it feels like Tagovailoa won't slip past the No. 6 pick, as the Los Angeles Chargers are in need of a new franchise quarterback with Philip Rivers' future in powder blue uncertain.

 

The Raiders, meanwhile, own the No. 12 and No. 19 picks in the first round. Tagovailoa's decision to enter the draft could have an effect on what the Silver and Black choose to do in the first round.

While Jon Gruden's team has two major needs (wide receiver and linebacker), the Raiders also must decide what the future holds for quarterback Derek Carr. With whispers of a disconnect between the coach and quarterback growing, it feels like a possibility that the Raiders could draft their next QB in the first round.

Tagovailoa's entrance could see enticing quarterback prospect Justin Herbert, who the Dolphins and Chargers both are eyeing, to slide down a bit and be available for the Raiders to take at No. 12. 

Inserting Tagovailoa into the top six of the draft also could mean a non-quarterback prospect the Raiders should covet (i.e. CeeDee Lamb, Isaiah Simmons) slides right into their grasp, which would have Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock doing cartwheels. It feels unlikely Lamb gets past the Arizona Cardinals at No. 8, and Simmons should be gone by the time the draft hits No. 10, but Tua's entrance could throw a wrench into a number of team's plans.

Of course, if Gruden loves Tagovailoa, there's a chance Gruden could try to package his two picks to move up and select the left-handed star. It's a move that might seem unwise given the gluttony of needs the Raiders have. it's also one they have to consider given Carr's struggles and supposed disconnect with the man tasked to bring the Silver and Black back to prominence.

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Tagovailoa leaves Alabama as one of the most transcendent college quarterbacks in history. He burst onto the scene at halftime of the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship Game, leading the Crimson Tide back from a 13-0 deficit to stun the Georgia Bulldogs in overtime on a game-winning, 41-yard strike to DeVonta Smith. 

His generational ability forced Saban, long stuck in the ground-and-pound offensive mindset, to change his philosophy and open up the passing game for Tagovailoa and the most impressive stable of wide receivers the college game has ever known.

He finished his career as the all-time leader in career passing efficiency by a wide margin, threw 87 touchdown passes, was repsonsible for 96 total touchdowns and posted a 93.4 quarterback rating -- the highest since the number was introduced in 2004. His impact on college football forever will be engrained on the sport's marquee program.

 

Now, he enters the NFL. His health will be the topic of conversation for the next nine months. Whoever selects him will be getting a franchise-changing player.

The Raiders are in need of one of those as they move to Las Vegas. If a trade can be made, Gruden has to consider it.

Even if they don't, Tua's decision will have ripples that impact the Raiders' draft plans when they go on the clock at No. 12 in four months.