The NFL Draft is an exciting world of controversy, dramatics and people working to get a very high profile job. In this world comes many reports, sometimes from people trying to make a name for themselves. Because of this, lots of “smoke” comes out, sometimes straight from NFL teams using the media to confuse other franchises.
This being said, many of these types of reports are normally blown off without a lot of a thought process. Sometimes, they are worth another look.
Hence, the report that I am bringing forward from a “twitter friend” of mine. The SEC Machine reported that Alabama has held a team meeting to break to the players that star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa would not be playing in one of the teams biggest games of the year, against LSU.
Breaking News: Confirmed with a source inside Bama that a team meeting was called today to inform the players it is highly unlikely Tua will play against LSU. They discussed a plan to proceed without him. You heard it here first, Tua out against the Tigers. #RTR #GeauxTigers #SEC
— The SEC Machine (@SECbias12) October 21, 2019
Tagovailoa suffered a high ankle sprain in action in Alabama’s match-up with Tennessee last week. Early reports indicated that he would miss the teams game this week, against Arkansas. Apparently, Alabama is preparing to play without Tua three weeks from now, after the Arkansas game and a bye week.
Why would we believe this about Tua Tagovailoa?
The first thing I did was check with my sources. Was this a real thing and what is the motivation behind it? My source wasn’t able to confirm that such a meeting had taken place, but that Tua was considering sitting against LSU. Coach Nick Saban and Tua’s father, Gala, will make the decision later this week depending on how Tua recovers.
This isn’t the normal deal with a high ankle sprain. Tua came out of surgery on Monday, which makes the diagnosis seem a little bit strange.
Next, people have to understand Hawaiian culture. Tua has explained this in multiple interviews. His father makes all of the decisions for him related to business and life until he see’s Tua as fit. Gala is a very smart man, he’s the man that has coached and trained Tua up even through his time in Alabama. He’s watched how the past few drafts have faired.
The rise of “focus on the NFL Draft.”
We’ve been seeing a large rise in highly talented players sitting games to “focus on the NFL Draft” in the past few seasons. Most of the time, players are skipping bowl games, or conference championships. It’s usually done when a prospect believes that they have sunk every bit of work into their draft stock that they can at their school, and want to protect themselves from injury.
Last season, Ohio State’s EDGE rusher, Nick Bosa, who was a preseason favorite to be the first overall draft pick, left the school three games into the season after struggling with a nagging ankle injury to “focus on the NFL Draft.”
Is there a problem with athletes sitting and spending time honing their skills with a professional trainer? Never. The only people who really are upset by this are fans of the school who want their star players to stick around forever.
The fact of the matter is that these athletes are preparing to begin making professional careers on the gridiron. They need to do what they believe, and are advised, are the right decisions. Sometimes, it’s good to step away and focus on a professional career.
The stakes of the LSU/Alabama game
We are seeing yet another thing we have never witnessed before. The rise of LSU quarterback Joe Burrow has been unprecedented for years. His NFL Draft stock has risen from a barely draft-able prospect to a first round selection, possibly the first overall pick. Time and time again, he has performed very well this season and continues to impress scouts.
The LSU defense is loaded with NFL Draft prospects. My first mock draft of the season saw four LSU defenders projected in the first round. They are crazy good, and will be by far Alabama’s most difficult test so far this season.
What if Burrow outplayed Tagovailoa in this game? What would that do to Tua’s Draft stock?
In theory, Burrow could dethrone Tagovailoa as the best quarterback prospect in the NFL Draft – unanimously. The Tagovailoa’s can’t throw “ankle-limitations” and “injuries” around, because that can add to the speculation, and franchises will wonder if Tua can be “healthy enough” to carry their franchise.
This is a business decision… and a damn good one.
Let’s face the facts: Lately, NFL Draft prospects have not been hurt by missing time on the gridiron. Leonard Fournette missed most of his junior season and still went in the top five of his draft class. Nick Bosa left school three games into the season and was still selected second overall.
The wise decision would be to allow his ankle to heal, start training for the NFL Draft, and leave behind the college career. Tua’s outstanding performance says it all. The numbers that he has produced have been outstanding: A career 70.1% completion percentage, 200.4 efficiency rating, 81 touchdowns to 10 interceptions.
Would Coach Saban approve? Probably. What can Tua improve before going pro? There isn’t much left that he can change by playing games.
It’s a good thing that players have the freedom to move on and perform their professional careers. It’s a good thing that the NFL doesn’t punish players for protecting themselves. Let Tua focus on the NFL, let him heal up and get ready for the rigorous NFL Draft grind.