Drafting Tua Tagovailoa Over Justin Herbert Looks Like a Generational Mistake

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It used to be that you didn’t put much stock in what a quarterback looked like as a rookie — if they even played that soon. The Cowboys went 0-11 with Troy Aikman in 1989. The Colts went 3-13 with Peyton Manning in 1998, and he threw the most interceptions in the league that season. That line of thinking has shifted dramatically in the past decade, as rookies come into the league and show almost immediately what they’ve got. To that end, it already looks like the Dolphins made a generational mistake selecting Tua Tagovailoa fifth overall with Justin Herbert still on the board.

The good news for the Dolphins here is that Tagovailoa is not *bad*. They’ve gone 4-2 in his starts. He has nine touchdown passes to just one interception. The bad news is that Herbert already looks like he is going to be incredible at the quarterback position. He makes throws that look effortless, when in reality, the only other humans on the planet who could make them are Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers. (Josh Allen and Kyler Murray can make some of these throws too, but not with the same consistency.)

You can argue that Herbert has better receivers than Tagovailoa. That is accurate. Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, and Tyron Johnson are better than DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki, Jakeem Grant, and Preston Williams. However, my counterpoint would be that Herbert has that ‘it’ factor where, when he really steps into a ball, the receiver is irrelevant. The pass is getting completed. That’s before you even get into Herbert’s gorgeous deep ball and the looming fear that Tagovailoa’s smaller frame will make him more susceptible to injuries.

Here are Herbert’s highlights from last night’s victory over the Raiders:

When I brought this up last night, a reader made another interesting point: The Giants might well also one day regret not selecting Herbert. While they already had Daniel Jones, look at what the Cardinals did when they picked Kyler Murray despite having selected Josh Rosen in the first round the previous year. If you can identify a generational talent at the quarterback position, you have to go for it.

Lots of things can happen in this world so it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that Tua Tagovailoa winds up having a better career than Justin Herbert. But, if you think that, I’d love to bet against you.


Written by Ryan Glasspiegel

Ryan Glasspiegel grew up in Connecticut, graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and lives in Chicago. Before OutKick, he wrote for Sports Illustrated and The Big Lead. He enjoys expensive bourbon and cheap beer.


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  1. Not gonna lie… I thought Herbert would be a bust. Then again I rarely watch PAC12 football. However, we will see over the next few seasons. I think Tua will become one of the better QB’s in the league over the next few seasons.

  2. Sadly, this has become predictable. When the hype outpaces what you seen on the field, this is the result. Tua is one example, but Dwayne Haskins is the prime example. Conversely, Herbert and Burrow all had question marks about various aspects of their game.

    The current hype machine is Justin Fields. We’ll see what the future holds

  3. I think rookies coming into the NFL probably start out for the most part better because of a couple reasons….they’ve had a lot more reps starting at an early age…and the rules have pretty much handcuffed NFL defenses.

    This isn’t the same NFL Troy Aikman or even Peyton Manning came into.

  4. As a Phin Fan I sadly agree with this article. Herbert has been really good. Tua as I feared feels brittle. I watch every Miami game and deep quick strike TD’s never seem to arrive. The team labors down the field. More playmakers help, sure but the great ones make do with doo doo. I hope Tua becomes Ken Stabler (not the off field stuff, c’mon man) but I’m concerned.

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