101 Reasons To Buy, Hold, & Draft Tua
10 years ago if I told you that a rookie QB coming off of a career-threatening injury with a bottom 4 OL (per PFF) and a below-average receiving core that was notorious for dropping passes that were also bottom 5 for YAC/R STILL ended up throwing for 1,814 yards, had 14 total touchdowns, 5 interceptions and a 64.1% completion percentage who also led 2 comebacks with 2 game-winning drives (one of which coming against former ROTY Kyler Murray) in just 10 games while only attempting 290 passes how would you react? I’m guessing you would acknowledge that there is room for improvement, but that the QB has something going for him and he needs time, especially with such a dysfunctional off-season. Unfortunately because of Social Media and the ideology that left-handed QBs, as well as Alabama QBs, don’t pan out in the NFL, “we” have written off Tua Tagovailoa. By we I absolutely 110% do not mean me. What if I put it into the following perspective; Tua had a higher completion %, a higher TD %, a higher rating, and a lower interception % than the following QB’s their rookie years: Andrew Luck, Josh Allen, and Ryan Tannehill just to name a few.
Now, there are more QBs I could have added to the chart, but it would just further prove my point, and that point is that rookie seasons are not do-or-die like a lot of you suggest. The three aforementioned QB’s have gone on to be not just AMAZING starting QBs, but top 10 fantasy assets. Luck hasn’t played since 2018, but in his final year as a Colt, he finished as the QB5 on the year. Allen and Tannehill finished as the QB1 and QB8 this past season. Do I believe Tua can be a top 10 NFL AND Fantasy QB? Absolutely. I think even more than that. I believe he can be a top 5 NFL and Fantasy QB, and I’ll live and die by that take.
Now Twitter GM’s biggest complaint about Tua is his “lack of arm strength” when the reality is that’s just not true. There are a plethora of reasons why this narrative is false, with the obvious being that we, meaning anybody who has actually watched him play, has seen 65 air yards in college, and then 55 air yards at the next level, but let’s look at numbers if you don’t believe me. Tua’s Y/A were .2 behind Josh Allen their rookie years, as shown aforementioned and shown above. Yet the most intriguing stat that you will ever find out there regarding this situation is that Tua’s IAYA/A(Intended air yards/attempt / 7.2) was actually higher than ROTY Justin Herbert’s (7).
As you can see in the above chart, Tua is all the way to the left, and right behind him - but further down, is Herbert.
Let’s talk about this for a second, because you might not think so yet, but it’s actually quite an impressive stat. Ex-Miami Dolphins Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey was brought out of retirement in 2019 to serve as OC with Fitzmagic playing. His scheme, which was poor in and of itself, was a poor fit for Tua, and whenever Tua was named starter there was an obvious change of play calls for Tua than there was for Fitz. “We just wanted to pick up the pace a little bit. It was efficient.” Said Flores in reference to the second half of Miami’s Week 13 Game against the Bengals, where Tua completed 14 of 20 pass attempts for 185 yards and a touchdown (an average of 9.25 Yards an attempt). Take it as you may, but watching film Gailey was notorious for very conservative play calling in the first half of games, and often adjusted to an up-tempo, Tua-fit offense too late.
Obviously, Tua’s poor play in some quarters of his first 10 starts isn’t all on the Offensive Play Calling and the lack of up-tempo plays. In today’s day and age of social media, a top-5 pick has a lot of pressure to produce immediately. Expectations are set high with the likes of Patrick Mahomes running the league, but let’s be honest, Tua’s play wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great, but there was a lot of promise all things considered. A lot of blame can be put on the “weapons” that he had, as DeVante Parker, the teams touted “WR1” had an average separation of 1.7 yards, which was tied for worst in the league amongst qualified receivers (A.J. Green being the other). In fact, Parker wasn’t the only receiver who didn’t give much help with separation, as Mike Gesicki averaged 2.0 yards of separation, which ranked dead last amongst TEs. This on top of the fact that Tua threw into tight coverage (where a defender was within 1 yard of the receiver) on 20.3% percent of throws is quite depressing. Not only that, but as aforementioned Miami’s receivers were bottom 5 in YAC, and they weren’t the 5th worst either. They ranked 30th amongst receiving rooms in the NFL, averaging just 4.4 yards after the catch. DeVante Parker, who averaged 2.7 YAC, was 173rd/197 NFL receivers, and second-worst among players targeted at least 100 times, ahead of only Marvin Jones Jr. Preston Williams, who had a strong connection with Tua, was 177th in YAC at 2.5. Isaiah Ford (who?) was tied with Williams at 177th. Jakeem Grant was the ONLY Dolphins receiver who was in the top half of the league average at 5.1 YAC. The problem with that? Grant has bricks for hands and couldn’t catch a baby if he was handed it. While he was good after the catch, he had a big problem with actually catching the ball.
Of quarterbacks who started at least 8 games, only Mitchell Trubisky and Joe Burrow threw into tight windows more often. What’s even more disgusting is that of quarterbacks who threw at least 290 attempts, Miami’s receiving core dropped 18 of Tagovailoa’s passes. No quarterback had as many dropped passes on 290 attempts or more. None. Not a single one. Of the 29 deep passes attempted by Tua throughout his first 10 starts, 3 were dropped. Only 8 quarterbacks in the league had more deep passes dropped. The only relatively positive thing about that? Had those passes not been dropped, Tua would have completed more deep passes than Ryan Fitzpatrick - destroying the narrative that Fitzpatrick is a better deep passer. But Chance, only 29 deep pass attempts? That’s because he’s a noodle arm and too scared to throw deep. Unfortunately for THAT narrative, Tua threw deep on 10% of passes. For comparison, in Kyler Murray’s rookie year he threw deep (20+ yards) on 11% of his attempts, and in 2019 Dak Prescott ALSO threw deep on 11% of his attempts. Out of all the qualified quarterbacks (At-least 18 deep passes attempted), Tua ranked 21st amongst qualified quarterbacks for deep-passer rankings PER the Deep Ball Project. How about our friend Burrow? Finished 31st, completing only 1 of his first 19 deep pass attempts.
Yes, Joe Burrow attempted more deep pass attempts, but he also attempted 404 total passes to Tua’s 290, while also having a deep pass % of only 9%, which was less than Tua’s 10% as stated before. Now, Justin Herbert had the greatest rookie campaign for a QB that any of us had ever seen, but of his 595 pass attempts, only 51 of those were deep. The percentage? Less than that of both Burrow and Tua, coming in at 8.6%. The charts above show all deep passing statistics and from each distance in addition to left, middle, right and showing how many were completed to how many were accurately placed. You’ll notice only 23 deep pass attempts are accounted for Tua, and not the 29 aforementioned, and that’s because the Deep Ball Project focuses on 21+ yards, not counting anything 20 yards. Of these 23 accounted for deep passes, Tua finished 9th amongst qualified quarterbacks for accuracy in tight-windows. Now let’s back-pedal to that once-mentioned egregious offensive line.
Starting guard Ereck Flowers relinquished 5 sacks; only five other guards for all 32 NFL franchises gave up more. Rookie offensive tackle Austin Jackson and rookie guard Solomon Kindley both surrendered 4 sacks, but Jackson yielded 38 quarterback-pressures - which ranks 9th-most amongst all qualified guards, but 1st-most amongst guards with as few pass-blocking attempts as he had. We could get into the rushing stats for Miami, which falls on both the offensive line and running backs, but I promise you don’t want to see that, as it’s just as ugly, if not worse, than that of their pass-blocking abilities.
The bright side of everything? Miami is committed to Tagovailoa, as they should be. There have been A LOT of trade rumors circulating Miami and DeShaun Watson, but of recent events, everything is pointing right back to Tua. You could start with the fact that both Brian Flores and GM Chris Grier came out publicly and endorsed their belief in Tua and even went as far as stating that he’s their starting quarterback for the 2021 season. If that isn’t enough for you, look at the recent hirings. Charlie Frye was brought in as the QB Coach, who happened to be Tua’s 7 on 7 coach back in high school and has a very strong connection with Tua. On top of that, Miami became the first franchise to appoint TWO Offensive Coordinators. You might be wondering what this has to do with Tua, but both Tua’s national championship year and his Heisman-finalist year he played under two offensive coordinators - at the same time. This could be a coincidence, but being the first franchise to implement this college-like strategy with a rookie QB who played in a two-OC system seems more than likely NOT a coincidence. What does all this mean for Tua? Again, as aforementioned, this means that they are confident with their young QB and are going to build around him. This means rehauling the entire offensive skill positions, not only during the draft but during Free Agency as well.
(Photo Credit: South Florida Sun Sentinel)
If you aren’t a fan of analytics. numbers, or quite frankly just not a fan of my writing/analysis, I suggest you also go back and watch the film. It’s obvious Tua didn’t play like the Tua of Alabama, and that’s thanks to his hip not being 100% AND this covid off-season which he used to heal and progress his hip instead of primarily focusing on his craft and getting better. Expect this off-season to be much different for Tua. More than a year removed from said career-threatening injury with more chemistry with his team as well as a front office who is committed to building around him and acquiring the necessary pieces to help elevate not only his game but the offense as a whole. Just as the title of this article suggests, I’m buying in on Tua everywhere, and perhaps now is the lowest his cost will ever be. In SF or 2QB leagues I would be willing to part with any 1st round pick, except possibly the 1.01 - but I am exceptionally high on Tua. In startups, I have seen Tua fall to the 5th round for SF/2QB leagues, and I am smashing the draft button there EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I myself have drafted him and will continue to draft him in the 3rd round for startups.
All in all, Tua wasn’t perfect, and he had his flaws, but to write him off after 10 games and claim he’s a bust when on paper, and on film is just silly. Tua himself will take a HUGE step forward this upcoming season with an extra off-season under his belt, one that isn’t ruined by COVID or that is spent nursing and strengthening a previously-dislocated and fractured hip. Now we have to rely on the front office to be aggressive in free agency and improve the positions that need it most, which is every skill position as previously mentioned. I will die on this hill as I am all in on Tua Tagovailoa, and you should be too. Don’t miss the rocket as we fly Tua to the moon. Get it? TO(A) the moon? No? I’ll see myself out.