The Dolphins and Chargers must internally ask, and answer, two questions key questions between now and the NFL Draft:
▪ Do they have the will and the ways move up to the third or fourth pick to ensure they land Tua Tagovailoa?
▪ Should they do it, considering the growing list of risks?
We can partially answer question 1.
Both teams need their quarterbacks of the future, even if the Chargers sign Cam Newton.
With three first-round picks and two more in the second, the Dolphins (who are picking fifth overall) have the most draft capital in the league. They could surrender a couple of first-round picks to move up to 3 and still be OK.
The Chargers, meanwhile, only have four picks in the top 115, starting with No. 6 overall. They would need to surrender a far bigger share of their stockpile to move up three spots.
Now on to question 2, which will probably be the biggest story line of the draft.
Put another way, is Tagovailoa — with three surgeries in two seasons — worth the risk?
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr., who projects the Dolphins take Tagovailoa with the fifth pick of the first round in his latest mock draft, on Wednesday seemed to suggest he is.
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“Getting your docs to sign off on him is so critical,” Kiper Jr. said. “I think you medically redshirt him. ... [Patrick] Mahomes didn’t plays as a rookie. Lamar [Jackson] played late in his rookie year. .... The addition of sitting and watching and learning helped all of those quarterbacks. I think if you medically redshirt him, it doesn’t make [his current physical condition] as important. As long as the medical people sign off, you have realistic expectations of what he’d do as a rookie.”
So let’s translate: If you have conviction in Tagovailoa’s surgically repaired hip and time on your hands, a trade-up is fine. (The Dolphins have Ryan Fitzpatrick as their likely Week 1 starter.)
But how will teams get that conviction without a pro day or facility visit? Both are on hold for at least a couple more weeks due to the coronavirus.
“This is the year he needs all the medical [testing] he can get, all the meetings he can get,” Kiper Jr. said.
Kiper Jr. went on to call Tagovailoa “the most intriguing” quarterback prospect in the draft because of all of the unknowns.
“Limited ability to see [him work out] and limited knowledge of the medical,” Kiper Jr. explained. “If everything would have been perfect and done the way things had always been done, you’d still have the durability concern. Three separate injuries. Can he take hits? Can he sustain hits and come back? Durability would still be a question for Tua even if everything was [this offseason].”
But things aren’t perfect. In fact, things are so imperfect that NFL general managers want the league to delay the draft, NFL Network reported Tuesday. Not going to happen, the league responded. Expect it to go forward April 23-25, as planned.
“I would move forward with it,” Kiper Jr. said. “Everybody needs normalcy. ... The draft can be done without having everyone together. Everything’s going to be different; we have to adjust to it. There are a lot more important things going on than the NFL Draft. The NFL can get through it. It gives people to focus on and occupy their minds. It’s an escape during this trying time.”
▪ Assuming the Dolphins do not trade up for Tagovailoa (or Justin Herbert or Joe Burrow), they will own the 18th and 26th picks along with the fifth. Kiper Jr. has the Dolphins taking Georgia running back D’Andre Swift at 18 and Houston offensive lineman Josh Jones at 26.
”What sets him apart is the completeness,” Kiper Jr. said of Swift, but adds if the Dolphins or Buccaneers don’t take him in the first round, “where else is going to prioritize running back? Finding a fit for a running back [is tough] when most teams are very fortified at that position.”