For the second time in two weeks, the football landscape has been rocked by news revolving around the University Of Alabama.
Last week it was the Crimson Tide’s loss to LSU, re-framing the college football playoff picture to exclude Alabama for the first time ever. This week it is the injury to ‘Bama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Tua has long been expected to be QB-1 in the 2020 draft class, showing all the traits of a franchise quarterback after a historic career in Alabama.
Granted, that status was facing a serious challenge from LSU passer Joe Burrow who has blossomed in the Tigers’ new pass-centric offense. But if Tua didn’t go off the board with the first overall pick, he was not expected to drop out of the top five.
But now the picture is incredibly muddied as Tua suffered a dislocated and fractured hip in Saturday’s game against Mississippi State. That is going to directly affect the decision making processes of several quarterback-needy teams.
And yes, this does concern the New York Giants and their future.
The Giants are (incredibly) unlikely to be in the market for a quarterback this spring. However, quarterbacks set the draft board for everyone. If you don’t have one, you have to prioritize getting one, and that can force prospects down to draft slots well below where they should go. What happens with one top quarterback prospect could have profound effects on a draft.
Just think, had Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert not returned to school to live out the dream of playing football for the Ducks with his little brother, it’s possible that he would be the Giants’ starting quarterback right now.
So let’s take a look at a couple scenarios and see how this all might play out for the Giants.
Scenario 1 - Nothing changes
The good news in all of this is that as scary as Tua’s injury is, he is scheduled for surgery today (Monday) and is expected to make a full recovery. Hopefully that means he will be able to resume football by the beginning of the 2020 season and have a great career in the NFL.
If that is the case and Tua enters the 2020 NFL draft like he would have, he will likely get selected by the Miami Dolphins at fourth overall. We can’t pretend that Tua’s injury didn’t happen — nor can we pretend that he doesn’t already have a fairly lengthy injury history — so it would be highly unlikely for the Cincinnati Bengals to risk the first overall pick on him. Nor would it be likely that another team would risk trading up for Tua, but otherwise this doesn’t change much for the Giants.
Scenario 2 - Chaos
To me, this scenario should always be in play for underclassmen quarterbacks. There is, obviously, always the potential for injury when a player passes on the NFL and goes back to school, but I will always prefer senior quarterbacks to juniors. I believe the extra experience and maturity (by which I mean literally another year of physical development and brain maturity) before entering the NFL has a tangible benefit.
Regardless, Tua may decide to go back to school and make sure his hip is fully healthy, try to win (another) National Championship, and re-establish his draft value before making the jump to the pros. And considering the nature of the injury, that wouldn’t be a bad decision.
There is also the possibility that teams would knock Tua down their board and lump him in with the other quarterbacks with significant flaws.
Either way that would make a mess of the quarterback depth chart.
As it stood Friday, it was Tua and Joe Burrow, then everyone else. Now it’s Burrow and a gaggle of passers including Herpert, Jacob Eason (Washington), Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma), Jordan Love (Utah State), and Jake Fromm (Georgia). Will any of these players separate themselves, or will they remain in a pack?
We’ve seen in the past that a glut of quarterbacks there can be a feeding frenzy in the first round, particularly when there are questions regarding the next year. We saw that in the 2011 draft in which Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton, and Colin Kaepernick were drafted in the midst of the lockout and CBA negotiations. We can’t ignore that the next CBA is being negotiated now and teams don’t know what the future looks like.
Scenario 2b - Guys go where they should
For a second let’s just assume that the various quarterbacks separate themselves some and general managers hold their water.
Scenario 2b - A run on quarterbacks
Last year we saw the Washington Redskins jump around the draft board, and as it stands now, they hold the second pick in the draft. It is possible that if there is a clamor to get one of those quarterbacks, a team could try to jump up to second overall and secure their pick of the non-Burrow quarterbacks.
We could see the Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Chargers, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, and Carolina Panthers all look for quarterbacks this off-season, and that has the makings for a chaotic first round of the draft.
Assuming the Giants don’t move ahead of Washington in the draft order before then, this would be a dream scenario for the Giants.
It looks incredibly likely that, if they stand pat, Washington would draft Georgia left tackle Andrew Thomas to replace the (understandably) disgruntled Trent Williams. While the Giants would be thrilled to get Chase Young as a consolation prize, they would likely rather have their choice than take whoever Washington doesn’t pick. The Giants could decide that finding an offensive tackle who can be a building block for the future is even more important than an elite pass rusher.
Scenario 2c - The Giants do something un-Giant-like
No, I’m not going to predict that the Giants decide to adopt the “Arizona Plan” this year, send a fleet of Brinks trucks to convince Lincoln Riley or Matt Ruhle to be their next head coach, let them pick their quarterback, and trade Daniel Jones.
There is, approximately, NO chance the Giants would voluntarily transform themselves the way Arizona or Baltimore has.
But there is the possibility that they might trade down. The Giants’ haven’t made a significant trade back since 2006 when they dropped from 25 to 32 and drafted Mathias Kiwanuka. While the Giants would certainly miss drafting an elite prospect like Andrew Thomas or Chase Young, adding multiple really good prospects in the first, second, and third rounds like Tyler Biadasz (OC, Wisconsin), A.J. Epenesa (DL, Iowa), Julian Okwara (EDGE, Notre Dame), Yetur Gross-Matos (EDGE, Penn State), Alex Leatherwood (OT, Alabama), Monty Rice (iLB, Georgia), Ashtyn Davis (S, Cal), or Collin Johnson (WR, Texas).
The Giants trading back should be considered the most unlikely option with Dave Gettleman at the wheel. He doesn’t hesitate to trade draft assets for a player he wants — he did so for Leonard Williams, traded up for DeAndre Baker, reportedly tried to trade into the second round for Lorenzo Carter. But he has never traded down to acquire more assets and get more bites of the draft pie.
But just because he never has, doesn’t mean that the Giants never will. As much as the Giants need elite players on their roster, they also need to fill out their roster and get more starting caliber players as starters. Every year is its own story, with unique circumstances and decisions made.
One thing we do know is that while it comes in one of the worst ways possible, the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft has suddenly gotten more interesting. Right now the only thing we can do is try to prepare as best we can, anticipate what might happen, and try to enjoy the ride.