Tank for Tua: How Tagovailoa's Season-ending Injury Could Change the 2020 NFL Draft

Tua Tagovailoa may have played his last game for Alabama, but the repercussions of his season-ending injury stretch far beyond the Crimson Tide's campaign. Tagovailoa suffered a dislocated hip and posterior wall fracture late in the first half of Alabama's 38-7 road win over Mississippi State on Saturday.

The junior quarterback had to be transported by helicopter to a hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, for CAT scans and MRIs.

Tagovailoa will undergo surgery on Monday in Houston, Texas.

"For the past 24 hours our medical team has consulted with multiple orthopedic experts across the country, who specialize in hip injuries and surgeries," team orthopedic surgeon Lyle Cain said in a statement, as per The Athletic.

"Based on that research, Tua is being flown to Houston tonight to be evaluated and is scheduled to have hip surgery Monday."

Tagovailoa's injury could have a crucial impact on Alabama's hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff this season. The Crimson Tide fell to No.5 in the CFP rankings last week following its 46-41 loss to LSU and its chances of a being one of the four teams competing for the national title appear even slimmer without Tagovailoa.

From a more long-term perspective, however, the quarterback's injury could significantly alter the 2020 NFL draft. Up until Saturday, it was widely assumed the 21-year-old would forego the final year of his college career to declare himself eligible for the NFL draft. The injury, however, could at the very least put that scenario on hold.

Cain suggested the 21-year-old is expected to make a "full recovery" but without a detailed timeline for his recovery, it remains to be seen how long Tagovailoa would need to be back fully fit.

Should he opt to return to Alabama, Tagovailoa would give himself the chance of making a full recovery without having to shoulder the pressure of playing in the NFL.

The former attribute, however, could have a limited shelf life. In the past two seasons, Tagovailoa has undergone "tightrope" surgery to address high-ankle sprains on both ankles—the second of which came earlier this month ahead of the game against LSU—and his durability could come into question after another serious injury.

Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama Crimson Tide
Tua Tagovailoa #13 of the Alabama Crimson Tide is helped off the field after being injured on a play in the first half of a game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium on November 16 in Starkville, Mississippi. Wesley Hitt/Getty

A final season with the Crimson Tide would also give him another shot at winning a second national title and the Heisman Trophy. Conversely, it would also expose Tagovailoa to the risk of suffering further injury without getting paid an NFL salary.

Throughout the season, Tagovailoa has dominated the conversation surrounding the upcoming NFL draft.

The Alabama signal caller has long been considered a first overall pick in waiting, so much so that "Tank for Tua" became a headline before the NFL season had even begun.

Tagovailoa's athleticism and accuracy—he completed 69 percent of his passes last season and threw with a 71.4 percent completion rate this year—made him the first name on the draft board for a host of franchises.

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow and Oregon signal caller Justin Herbert are also at the top of the 2020 list—as are Ohio State defensive end Chase Young and Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas—but Tagovailoa was considered a leading candidate to be the No.1 overall pick.

His injury, however, has dramatically altered the forecast.

Tagovailoa has dropped out of the first round in Pro Football Network and Sporting News' mock drafts, falling to 15th in USA Today's prediction.

The 0-10 Cincinnati Bengals and the 1-9 Washington Redskins are the favorites to finish with the worst regular season record and land the first overall pick, but Tagovailoa may no longer be top of their draft board.

Tank for Tua may soon become Tank for Joe or Tank for Justin.

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