During the college football season, it became pretty clear that Joe Burrow is the frontrunner to go No. 1 overall, especially after the Cincinnati Bengals wound up with the top pick. Tua Tagovailoa's season-ending injury likely solidified it. Tagovailoa has been connected to the Miami Dolphins, who wound up at No. 5 in the draft, since before last season.
Not so fast, says Mel Kiper Jr. The ESPN NFL Draft analyst thinks another quarterback is on the rise, and combined with uncertainty about Tua's health, could put the "second quarterback off the board" spot in jeopardy as well.
Oregon's Justin Herbert is coming off of a big Senior Bowl week, during which he impressed in practice and took home the game's MVP award. Kiper believes Herbert could be in play for that spot, depending on how Tua's medical report looks.
He and fellow draft analyst Todd McShay discussed where the quarterbacks stand on the most recent episode of their "First Draft" podcast for ESPN.
From Kiper, via 247Sports:
"That’s the one that’s tricky, and I’ll tell you what. Tua and that medical report coming out on Tua is going to be important,” Kiper said. “There’s some concern about, ‘hey if you’re not durable in college, can you expect to be durable once you’re in the NFL?’ There’s going to be a chance for Justin Herbert to jump over Tua. It could very easily fall where Herbert is the second quarterback taken and Tua is the third. That’s not etched in stone right now that it’s going to be Tua then Herbert. Herbert is putting a lot of pressure to be (ahead of Tagovailoa)."
McShay didn't mention the Herbert factor, but agreed that Tua Tagovailoa's health is the biggest factor at play:
"Tua just comes down to medical,” McShay said. “If your medical staff thinks that he’s going to get that twitch back and the hip is not going to be an issue moving forward - I’ve heard all sorts of different things. At the end of the day, if you just sum up all of the information I got out of Mobile, some people are a little bit more scared than others. But it really is a wait-and-see game. Everyone wishes that they had six months instead of three months to figure out what they want to do. … If he was healthy and he didn’t have the hip injury, we would be discussing Tua versus Burrow."
Conventional wisdom has been that Tua won't get past the Miami Dolphins at No. 5, though the Detroit Lions could be a threat at No. 3, if they decide to make a move on their quarterback to replace Matt Stafford. Obviously, other teams could jump ahead of Miami as well, though the Dolphins have the draft capital to make a move of their own.
The Dolphins are reportedly doing their due diligence on Herbert and other quarterbacks as well though. There's plenty of time for things to change between now and late April.