If you ask any NFL evaluator about the quarterback position, they will quickly tell you it's the hardest position to scout because elite QB1s must have the physical tools (size, arm talent, and athleticism) and discipline to make scripted plays come to life while also displaying the improvisational skills to make things right when the designed play doesn't go according to plan. In addition, they must possess the leadership skills, confidence and poise to handle high-pressure moments when the game is on the line.
While it's nearly impossible to find a quarterback capable of checking off all of the boxes on the wish list, you definitely take notice when a young quarterback prospect appears to have all of those traits in his DNA. That's why the football world should be excited about Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa after watching the true freshman come off the bench to guide the Crimson Tide to the national title on Monday night.
Now, I know a one-game showing isn't enough to crown a quarterback as a franchise player, but it's hard to ignore the "it factor" that was on display when No. 13 stepped onto the field in the second half for Alabama, replacing benched starter Jalen Hurts.
The 6-foot-1, 219-pound playmaker put on a spectacular show, bringing his squad back from a 13-point deficit to walk off with the title in overtime. In completing 14 of 24 passes for 166 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, Tagovailoa showed outstanding arm talent (arm strength, zip, velocity and ball placement) while also displaying terrific anticipation, touch, and timing. Although the performance was far from perfect, he made a few "big-boy" throws that will make any coach or evaluator take notice.
Whether it was the scoot-around toss to Jerry Jeudy on a deep crosser or the game-winning dart fired down the boundary against two-deep coverage, Tagovailoa delivered a handful of throws that some NFL quarterbacks aren't capable of making in critical moments.
However, the passing exhibition won't be the only thing that will earn raised eyebrows from evaluators when they review the game tape. Sure, Tagovailoa's passing skills will pique the interest of coaches and scouts looking for the next great flamethrower at the position, but his ability to combine his passing talent with a touch of improvisational playmaking will really make him an intriguing prospect down the road.
He flashed some quickness, balance and body control with the ball tucked under his arm that will remind some scouts of Russell Wilson on the move. While I'm not ready to proclaim the true freshman a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback, I do believe he possesses a lot of qualities that will lead to more comparisons to the Seahawks' QB1 in time.
From his unflappable confidence, poise and composure to his pinpoint passing skills in the pocket or on the move, I feel like I saw much the same when I watched Wilson play at N.C. State and Wisconsin several years ago. Considering how Wilson has grown into a dynamic playmaker at the position in Seattle, I believe you'll see the excitement build around Tagovailoa's potential in the coming years.
To that point, I believe it's important to note that Tagovailoa has played sparingly as a QB1 and he has so many things to work on before we can really call him a big-time prospect. He has to put together a series of a solid performances against SEC defenses that fully showcase his talents as a run-pass threat while also showing his steady growth as a pocket playmaker. From getting to his second and third reads in a progression to displaying better judgment when the defense wins (throwing the ball away when his primary and secondary defenders are covered), he has a long way to go before we can anoint him as the top quarterback prospect in the 2020 or 2021 class.
That said, there's a lot to like about Tagovailoa's game, and his spectacular performance on Monday night has certainly given scouts plenty to think about.