Miami Dolphins rookie Tua Tagovailoa made his first career start against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday after supplanting veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on the team’s depth chart. And while his perceived status as Miami’s QB of the future factored into the move, the team’s abundance of high draft picks in 2021 — one of which could be used to pivot to another promising signal-caller — also played a role in the decision, per a report.
Specifically, the Dolphins are reportedly looking to get as much data as possible on the former No. 5 overall pick and 2018 Maxwell Award winner in order to make an informed decision on whether to attempt building around him or explore other options in the draft next spring.
This is according to ESPN‘s NFL insider Adam Schefter, who late on Saturday shared a response from a source close to the situation. The source reportedly said “That’s definitely a part of it,” and “Whoever told you that is right” when asked if the franchise’s ability to quickly change course was a motivating factor in the switch to Tagovailoa.
Before he was benched by head coach Brian Flores, the 38-year-old Fitzpatrick had performed well under center for the team. Through six games this season, he completed better than 70 percent of his passes and threw for 10 touchdown passes, logging a passer rating of 95.0, as tracked by Pro-Football-Reference. As such, his demotion incurred the wrath of some fans who lamented the decision to switch things up just as the team had appeared to be building some positive momentum.
While Flores stated his belief that Tagovailoa is ready to assume the starting role, they have a clear path to altering course if the former Alabama star ultimately isn’t equal to the task.
As a result of their move to send offensive tackle and future Pro Bowl selection Laremy Tunsil, as well as a fourth-round pick, to the Houston Texans in 2019, the Dolphins find themselves entering the 2021 NFL Draft with two picks in each of the first two rounds. With the Texans scuffling to a 1-6 record through seven weeks of play, one of those selections could end up in the top five.
In other words, the organization will likely be in a prime position to pick Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State’s Justin Fields or North Dakota’s Trey Lance, all of whom have been labeled as potential franchise QBs.
Tagovailoa’s first start was a mixed bag for Miami, as the 22-year-old complete 12 of 22 passes and threw for one TD and no interceptions while losing a fumble. However, the Dolphins ultimately defeated the Rams to improve to 4-3 on the year.