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Tua Days in Miami

In his debut article for TNFF, Nate Williams (@TrueNorth_Nate) takes a look at a QB in Miami who is truly one of the polarizing players in fantasy football this upcoming season and, what to expect from the former Alabama Crimson Tide player.

If you ask analysts or fans within the fantasy football community about their opinion on Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa, it would surely vary from person to person. There are some who would have little to no interest in the sophomore QB. Others see potential, particularly from a dynasty and/or keeper outlook. One analyst will tell you to sell while the next will tell you to hold. The opinions on Tua are drastically different. So what should we do with him for this upcoming season?

That’s what we’re going to try to figure out!

College Pedigree

Before entering into the NFL, Tua had ample draft hype due to his play in college. Playing at the University of Alabama, he was no rookie in terms of success. However, things took a sudden change in November of 2019 when Tua suffered a pretty severe hip injury vs Mississippi State that would ultimately end his final season in the NCAA.

The hip injury wasn’t his first. Before the aforementioned day in November , Tagovailoa already had the dreaded words, “injury-prone” attached to his name. Those two words are something that I personally do not care for when talking about any professional athlete. The fact of the matter is however, there have been a string of injuries suffered by Tua early in his collegiate career. They included a broken index finger, sprained knee, sprained ankle, high ankle sprain, and then of course the hip.

His pre NFL draft stock went from the possible No. 1 overall pick to now wondering how far he will fall in the draft?

Rookie Season

In the 2019 NFL draft, with the 5th overall selection, the Miami Dolphins ended up turning in their card in with Tagovailoa’s name on it. From that point, the new question became: “When would he play?” How would he perform after the horrendous hip injury?

Tua would eventually start his first professional game in Week 8 against the Los Angeles Rams. NFL journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick had performed pretty well during the first half of the season and the QB change midway through the season was puzzling to many.

While many were excited to have Tua start and to finally see what he could do, things did not ultimately go well. He finished his first start only throwing for 93-yards on 22 attempts. The remainder of his inaugural NFL season didn’t see much improvement either as he would be benched one time and finished the year with 1,814 passing yards, 11 TDs and five interceptions.

Considering how he performed last season for Miami, skepticism towards Tua heading into 2021 is understandable and perhaps warranted. However, Miami continues to improve and add playmakers around their franchise QB.

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Free Agency & the 2021 NFL Draft

Miami started their off-season with an under the radar move in free agency. WR Will Fuller was a much-needed addition to the Dolphins receiving unit after spending his first five NFL seasons with the Houston Texans. 2020 was the best year of his career, despite only playing in 11 games. Fuller can provide Miami with the potential to develop a potent deep passing game while also being able to add yards after the catch. He’s a productive wideout with his abilities outlined well by Matt Harmon of Reception Perception.

Miami also added Tua's former Alabama teammate, WR Jaylen Waddle. When the smoke settled from this year’s NFL Draft, it appeared that Miami got their guy all along, despite dropping back from No. 3 overall, and then back up to No. 6 in the first round via a trade with the San Francisco 49ers and, the Philadelphia Eagles.

Waddle’s acclimation to the pro-level will have a distinct advantage and edge over many other rookies and that is established chemistry with Tua. In his collegiate career with the Crimson Tide, the 5-foot-10, 182-pound Waddle totaled 17 TDs while also finding the endzone three times on special teams.

He recently told the Miami media that “Tua is a natural leader,” and he’s looked electrifying as always during rookie mini-camps.

Miami also took some of the correct steps to improve their offensive line, signing free agents center Matt Skura and tackle D.J. Fluker. Both have NFL experience and look to be depth players in the trenches. Left tackle Liam Eichenberg was added in the draft and although there are questions about his ability to handle speed rushers on the edge he's clearly a developmental player. Another tackle in Larnel Coleman and a promising young TE in Hunter Long from Boston College were also added via the draft.

Prior to the start of free agency, Miami was a favorite landing spot by many for free agent RB Aaron Jones, or rookie RB Najee Harris out of Alabama. In the end, they pursued neither, and instead opted to sign former Rams RB Malcolm Brown. It was not the big-name splash many had hoped for, but Brown has shown he’s a capable ball carrier to share the backfield with Myles Gaskin and newly added rookie Gerid Doaks.

All in all, Miami is clearly doing all they can to support their franchise QB heading into his second season by adding to their offensive line and weapons in the passing game.

Those Calling the Shots

Things become murky when we start to discuss the coaching staff in Miami. Head Coach Brain Flores is entering his third season with the Dolphins, possessing a 15-17 overall record despite going 10-6 in 2020. He’s one of many that have come from the Bill Belichick coaching tree, after spending eight seasons with the New England Patriots on the defensive side of the ball.

Having a defensive-minded Head Coach has worked for many franchises over the years, but it’s crucial to also have a solid offensive coordinator calling the plays. Out is Chan Gailey, a well-respected NFL coach. There is clear evidence to suggest ousting Gailey from his play-calling duties was the right move to make, as he has not been responsible for a top-10 passing offense since 1998.

So who is taking over the offensive coaching for 2021?

It’s actually a two-headed operation. Having two coaches share offensive responsibilities is a bit unorthodox, and not the norm in the NFL, but it is the route the Dolphins will go for in Tua’s second pro-year. Eric Studsville and George Godsey are now in charge of pointing this offense in the right direction, although it is currently unknown who will be calling the plays into Tua from the sidelines.

What Are We Doing With Tua?

What do we make of Tua for fantasy football in 2021? First, let’s take a look at his ADP. Tua is currently being drafted as the QB17 on DLF and QB16 on FantasyPros. Despite this, I’ve seen him drafted as far back as the early twenties, going behind other QBs such as Baker Mayfield, Kirk Cousins, and Matt Ryan.

In a dynasty league, drafting Tua in the early twenties is outstanding value. For your re-draft teams, odds are you can get a better QB unless you’re in a very deep league. Long-term, however, I like the direction the Dolphins and Tua are headed in. If you’re a dynasty manager, especially in Superflex and 2QB leagues, I recommend buying in on Tagovailoa.

As do most QBs, Tua performs better with weapons around him. Looking back to last season, Tua averaged over seven more fantasy points per game when DeVante Parker was healthy and playing. With his best weapon on the field in Parker, Tagovailoa had more passing TDs, passing yards, and a better completion percentage in each game the two played together in.

Parker is back in Miami this year and the team has also added offensive line help as well as the previously mentioned WRs Fuller and Waddle. The pieces are in place for this offense to continue its upward trajectory.

With his concerning hip injury now over a full season behind him and, with a full offseason being healthy to prepare, Tua can work on the things that he has struggled with in the past such as reading defensive schemes. He has good size at 6-foot-3 for the pro-level and should perform better with improved protection and added weapons.

Now that Fuller and Waddle are wearing the Dolphins colors, Tua should be able to complete passes of 40-yards or more and improve his 6.3-yards per attempt average from 2020. There is also a good chance he improves on his 64.1 completion percentage last year that was already respectable. Add in a top-10 established TE in Mike Gesicki and the potential is there for 250-plus passing yards and scoring 2-3 TDs per game. He even has the coveted rushing upside fantasy owner’s love.

Tua is currently being drafted as a mid-to-late QB2. At that price range, he is absolutely worth drafting because the upside is there for a possible QB1 season in 2021.

Thank you for reading my debut article for TNFF! Agree or disagree with my take on Tua Tagovailoa? Please leave a comment or message me @TrueNorth_Nate

Editor: Joe Simonetti (@joesimonetti77)

Graphic work: Dan Made Graphics (@DanMadeGraphics)