BOSTON (CBS) –It’s no secret that the Patriots will be looking at add to their quarterback depth chart in this week’s NFL Draft. While it’s unlikely they’ll take a potential QB of the future in the first round, one draft pundit believes Bill Belichick won’t hesitate to trade up should Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa start to slip.
Despite coming off season-ending hip surgery, Tagovailoa is still projected to be an early pick, potentially at No. 5 to the Miami Dolphins. The L.A. Chargers (No. 6) and Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 9) are also in need of a quarterback. But if Tua starts to slip into the middle of the first round, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. believes Belichick could call an audible and trade up for the talented — but injury prone — quarterback. New England has already done their “due diligence” on Tua, and Belichick is good friends with his now former head coach, Nick Saban.READ MORE: 'Strangers Helping Strangers': South Boston Parking Accident Leads To Act Of Kindness
“It’s going to be the million dollar question,” Kiper said of where Tagovailoa will be drafted during his Friday appearance on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni & Fauria” show. “That’s the whole intrigue and the element of the draft that you just can’t figure is these types of things. You hear people, and I know everyone is screaming that Tua has to go high, you have to take that risk. And then you hear people in the league saying he could fall and everybody is doing their due diligence, including the Patriots. You can rest assured, if he gets into the middle of the first round and you’re sitting there at No. 23, wouldn’t you jump up and maybe get him? You know the connection with Bill Belichick and Nick Saban. And I know how Nick feels about Tua.”
Tagovailoa’s 2019 season ended in November when he had to undergo hip surgery, but he has since been cleared by his doctor. Still, he carries a lengthy injury history during his college years, having a procedure on his left ankle in 2018 and his right ankle in 2019, so durability is a major concern for the 22-year-old.READ MORE: 'Your Dad Was A Hero,' President Biden Pays Tribute To Slain Capitol Police Officer Billy Evans
“Now, that is the thing — can you keep him healthy? People say, ‘Well, everybody gets hurt.’ Quarterbacks don’t get hurt,” Kiper argued. “Brady had the one injury when (Matt) Cassel came in. (Dan) Marino had the Achilles one year. Most of these quarterbacks, Eli (Manning) played forever, (Philip) Rivers, (John) Elway, (Jim) Kelly, when do these guys get hurt? The quarterbacks, when do they get hurt? This guy has had significant injuries, so to me, if he starts slipping a little bit, sliding down, where it happened with Aaron Rodgers not that long ago, and he was projected to be No. 1 two weeks before that draft and he went in the 20s, yes, if it did happen, I would think New England would be aggressive to try and go up and get him.”
Injuries aside, Tua showed that he can lead a team throughout his collegiate career — in a big-time program at that. Under Saban, Tagovailoa won a national title as a freshman in 2017, completing 63.6 percent of his passes while tossing 11 touchdowns to two interceptions over eight games.
He finished second in Heisman voting as a sophomore in 2018 when he threw 43 touchdown passes (to just six picks) and racked up nearly 4,000 passing yards, completing 69 percent of his passes. He was on his way to another standout season in 2019 before the hip injury, throwing for 2,840 yards, 33 touchdown passes and only three picks while completing 71.4 percent of his attempts over nine games.MORE NEWS: What To Know If You Have Received The Johnson & Johnson Vaccine
With veteran Brian Hoyer and 2018 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham making up their quarterback depth chart, the Patriots are going to draft a QB sometime during the NFL Draft. We’ll find out if Belichick is able to get “aggressive” and trade up — with a trio of third-round picks but no second-round selection — should Tua start to fall Thursday evening. It seems highly unlikely, but without Tom Brady leading the franchise anymore, the Patriots may change up their usual playbook.