The No. 1 overall pick is expected to be Joe Burrow, barring unexpected madness from the Cincinnati Bengals. At No. 2 things get more interesting, but it’s expected that Washington takes Chase Young or its favorite non-quarterback, putting the Detroit Lions on the clock with Tua Tagovailoa still available.
Miami sits at No. 5, so the Lions are prime candidates for trading down with any team in need of a quarterback.
There has been talk lately that Tua’s stock is on the slide, with teams less keen on him than previously believed. But, given the proximity to draft day, that would tally perfectly with intentional disinformation efforts to cause him to slide, thus avoiding the need to trade up to secure his services.
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The tape shows a quarterback that should be 1B to Burrow’s 1A, and if injury history wasn’t a factor at all, Tua would force an interesting discussion about flipping those letters. Tagovailoa is a quality quarterback option and should be in play for the first QB-needy team picking. In fact, he should be a trade target for any team in need.
So, who should be calling Detroit and what would it take to get that far?
WHAT IT WOULD LIKELY COST: Pick No. 5 and No. 39
With the New York Giants picking at No. 4, the Dolphins likely don’t have to worry about Tua being picked by any of the teams currently occupying the picks before them, but they do have to worry about somebody jumping above them to do it — particularly because any team that wants a quarterback knows it has to get ahead of Miami. Consequently, if Miami wants Tua — and it should, despite reports — the Dolphins may need to join the race to pick higher just to stave off the competition.
Miami is the team that Detroit should be happiest to trade with, because the Lions can pick up an extra selection or more with very little to lose in the process. Dropping two slots, knowing one of those picks will be spent on Tua, means all the Lions have to weigh is the possibility that the Giants take their man. Given the Lions are most likely coveting CB Jeffrey Okudah — and the Giants… aren’t — that seems like a no-brainer.
The old NFL trade value chart and PFF’s more sophisticated trade simulations both agree that the Lions should take Miami’s second round pick (No. 39) to make this move, but if they can convince the Dolphins they are in a bidding war with others, they may even be able to sneak more out of them, potentially up to pick No. 26.
Miami is uniquely situated to be able to win whatever bidding war takes place by virtue of having the most draft capital. They may end up overpaying, but hitting on a franchise quarterback makes almost any price worthwhile.
Los Angeles Chargers
WHAT IT WOULD LIKELY COST: Pick No. 6, No. 37 and No. 112
One pick further down, the Chargers are well positioned to make a jump above Miami if they believe Tua can be the answer at quarterback. Head coach Anthony Lynn is reportedly legitimately bullish about Tyrod Taylor, but he is likely on that island with a very small population of supporters.
PFF’s grades have been higher on Taylor than many (grading him inside the top 20 of NFL quarterbacks for three-straight starting seasons), but in the AFC West the dynamic changes. Going head-to-head with Patrick Mahomes in the division makes focusing on a run-heavy, game-managing style of offense a long-shot, whereas otherwise it might be good enough to have success. Taylor can’t be that kind of quarterback, but Tagovailoa could, and this roster is too good to allow it to be permanently stuck playing second-fiddle to the Chiefs.
Again, Detroit should be relatively happy to make this move. The scenario is exactly the same as the one Miami faces, except now they have to think about what the Dolphins do with Tua off the board. In all likelihood, their need at quarterback is too great to gamble and wait for their next selection (No. 18 overall), so they’d just select Justin Herbert, knowing they could be back in the same situation a year from now if it all goes south. That would leave the Lions again able to select their likely top candidate, Okudah. They could likely squeeze a little more out of the Chargers and bag an extra fourth round pick in the trade.
WHAT IT WOULD LIKELY COST: Pick No. 9 and No. 20
For Jacksonville, this all comes down to its evaluation of two quarterbacks: Gardner Minshew and Tua Tagovailoa. Minshew was good enough a season ago to let them trade away Nick Foles’ bloated contract, but was he good enough to hitch the wagon to him and believe he can lead this franchise for years to come? Doubtful.
Minshew had three games last season with a PFF grade above 80, but he also had one of 31.6 and four-straight late in the year that were average or below average marks. He definitely surpassed expectations, but his entire season remains a small sample size, and the fact he was a sixth-round pick still carries some weight.
Minshew didn’t do enough to convince that he is definitely a franchise quarterback, even allowing for further growth. That puts Jacksonville in a similar situation as Arizona a season ago — presented with an opportunity for an upgrade at quarterback that is too significant to pass up. The difference, of course, is that the Jaguars would have to not only take that opportunity, but trade up to do so. Arizona just had to avoid making the wrong call at No. 1 overall.
Minshew’s best college season was an 88.1 overall PFF grade in his final year at Washington State. Tagovailoa had back-to-back seasons with a PFF grade above 90, albeit with a superior supporting cast. On the field, he is a significantly better prospect than Minshew was, and if the Jaguars are confident in their medical evaluation, they should absolutely consider being aggressive enough to turn two first round picks into a new franchise quarterback. Because without that guy, none of the rest of the rebuild matters.
WHAT IT WOULD LIKELY COST: Pick No. 12, No. 19 and No. 81
This far down the draft, the moves are getting less likely, but the Raiders are a team that has the capital to make it happen. And they can’t be in love with their quarterback, no matter how many protestations to the contrary. Derek Carr’s best season came in 2016, and though last year was the closest he has come to those heights since, he still has just one season with an overall PFF grade above 80 in his career (85.3 in that 2016 season). Carr’s average depth of target last season was just 7.2 yards downfield, 40th out of 42 quarterbacks that attempted 100 or more passes. He has been steadfastly unable to ramp up his aggression as a passer, and he caps how good this Raiders offense can be with his conservative play.
With the team moving to Las Vegas this season, the Raiders have factors outside of on-field performance that could influence their decision-making processes — marketing and generating fan interest — and nothing does that quite like a new quarterback.
There is a very real football argument that Tagovailoa represents a potential upgrade over Carr, or at least reason enough to move on from him and embrace the new marketing opportunities it brings. The Raiders have the ammunition to make the move happen. They have yet to take full advantage of the Khalil Mack trade, but this trade would be a really interesting way of giving them the final say on it.
New England Patriots
WHAT IT WOULD LIKELY COST: Picks No. 23, No. 87, No. 98 and a 2021 First and Second
This would seem unlikely for the sheer volume of draft capital it would take to jump this far in the first round, and a more likely scenario is the Patriots jumping up if Tua starts to slide in the first round — out of the top 10. But New England does have the ammunition to make it happen and an interesting inside track to information given Bill Belichick and Nick Saban are close friends.
For the first time in two decades, the Patriots have an unanswered question at quarterback and need to decide what their future at the position will be. Rolling into 2020 with Jarrett Stidham at quarterback is an admission that the team has eyes on the QB class of 2021, but they do have an opportunity to move up to grab Tagovailoa this season if they feel confident enough in him being the answer.
The haul of draft picks to make this move is significant, but everything changes in terms of value when the target player is a quarterback. According to PFF’s simulations, the Patriots still win this draft most of the time because the player they took was a potential answer at the most important position in the game.
This would be one of the most era-defining moves possible in this draft and still one that made sense for both parties involved.