Matt Waldman’s RSP Film Room: QB Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama)

Matt Waldman delivers an in-depth, four-game look at Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, considered one of the top prospects of the 2020 NFL Draft. 

Tua Tagovailoa has the goods to become a productive NFL starter. That’s no shocker to most who follow the college game.

It still needs to be said, because we’ve embarked upon another season of magnified scrutiny, odd-ball narratives, silly rumors, and other forms of (intentional and unintentional) obfuscation of the truth. For someone with my job, it’s strangely comforting to see that even a player who won a National Championship during his two-quarter college debut and followed up with finals and semifinals appearances, that within days of Tua Tagovailoa calling it a career, the pre-draft machine will do its best to raise doubts.

After studying several games, I’m confident that Tagovailoa isn’t an NFL savior at the quarterback position–and there are also compelling arguments that he’s not the best quarterback in this class. However, this four-game examination of Tagovailoa against Oklahoma, South Carolina, Ole Miss, and LSU reveals that, despite clear areas where improvement is vital, he has a lot to offer the right team–and can deliver on the field as soon as he’s healthy:

  • Tagovailoa is the best opposite-field thrower of this class. Pair this skill with his play-action game, and quick and precise footwork, and Tagovailoa has a ton of potential to become a potent weapon in a West Coast Offense that uses a ground game with a wide range of plays.
  • Although Alabama’s offense features a lot of quick-hitting plays, Tagovailoa is a skilled vertical passer who manipulates opponents and attacks with confidence.
  • A mobile enough passer to earn yardage when breaking the pocket, Matt shows why Tagovailoa’s game deteriorates when influenced to move off his spot in an unstructured way and deliver off-platform.
  • When Tagovailoa experiences problems managing a pocket, Matt reveals why the issue isn’t his internal clock for pressure as much as it is his gauge of remaining pocket space and why this difference is important to the quarterback’s evaluation.
  • Tagovailoa’s accuracy when on-platform or moving with his feet under him in rhythm is reminiscent of Tom Brady’s needs, Tagovailoa also has the skill to abbreviate and alter releases while under pressure. Matt shows when Tagovailoa gains and loses accuracy and wisdom as a decision-maker based on his methods of delivering the ball.
  • Why Tagovailoa’s footwork and upper body movement make him a promising manipulator of defenses as well as a great match for offenses that use long-developing play-action passes and other forms of misdirection but he’s also capable of getting rid of the ball fast.
  • Matt shows when Tagovailoa’s desire to protect himself becomes a detriment to his game.

I’m not at the place where I’m ready to make a 1:1 comparison between Tagovailoa and Jimmy Garoppolo, but there are elements of Tagovailoa’s release, pocket behavior, and accuracy strengths and weaknesses that mirror the 49ers quarterback. Both are promising players who need a productive supporting cast and creative scheme to maximize their potential.

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