As the Miami Dolphins have been studying college talent and meeting to develop an organizational plan for the NFL Combine in Indianapolis next week, the team’s emerging view at the top of the quarterback class might surprise some.
Firstly, the club’s view of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is not of a slam-dunk pick near the top the draft. At least not yet. The Dolphins will go through the process of vetting Tagovailoa at the Combine and beyond, as other teams will, before deciding if he’s worth the No. 5 overall selection, which Miami holds in the first round of the April draft.
Secondly, the club has an increasingly positive view of Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert.
This from sources familiar with the club’s thinking.
And this is interesting for multiple reasons.
Because Tagovailoa has generally been linked to the Dolphins more than any other NFL team, starting as early as January of 2019 when the Dolphins made finding a young franchise-type quarterback the priority for the 2020 draft.
And because Herbert, who had a good but not great college career, has not been a favorite of many Dolphins fans because his play sometimes reminds of Ryan Tannehill, who spent seven seasons in Miami and never played in a playoff game.
Bottom line: Tagovailoa to the Dolphins is not a certainty. And don’t dismiss Herbert to Miami.
One source said the Dolphins are not just concerned about Tagovailoa’s return to full health from the fractured and dislocated hip he suffered last November, but also about his durability in the long-term beyond the current injury.
Tagovailoa suffered multiple ankle and other injuries during his time as the Crimson Tide’s starter and while he has remarkable accuracy and displays other valuable gifts, including leadership, his relative smallish size (approximately 6-foot and 225-230 pounds) and only modest mobility has raised the question about his ability to remain injury free in the NFL.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, obviously aware of the thinking among his personnel men, hinted before the Super Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium that the club was not fully sold on Tagovailoa.
“I’ve been down there to see him. Tua is a great player. I just worry about his health,” Ross said.
He also added: “The coaches really make the decisions on the draft choices. We have to look at what his health is and everything else and see what the alternatives are.”
Herbert is the most obvious alternative and another source said that in meetings among Dolphins personnel people, he has advocates. The Dolphins generally love Herbert’s size (6-foot-6 and 237 pounds), his arm talent, and his mobility, which he displayed in the 2020 Rose Bowl when he ran for three touchdowns.
It must be noted Herbert looks the part but sometimes has fallen short of playing the part. His accuracy, especially on throws outside the numbers, is inconsistent, especially when he’s under pressure.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to like about Herbert. One source noted how Herbert was the star of practices during Senior Bowl week and the fact he attended the game was impressive to scouts who liked what that said about his desire to compete against top competition.
It should be noted all this is a snapshot of the Dolphins’ thinking which may be adjusted or changed after the Combine, Pro Days and visits with the individual players.
But to think the Dolphins are locked in on one player when they have choices is probably not wise.