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NFL Draft

Lawrence vs Tagovailoa: What If Texans Gift Dolphins No. 1 Overall Pick?

  • The Draft Network
  • October 8, 2020
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As the saying goes, you're always one play away. If you're a player on the bench, you're always one play away from getting into the game. An untimely injury can prompt changes to the lineup and push you into action. The Houston Texans are, in 2020, a completely different kind of one play away. The team, at 0-4 and facing the next 12 games being played with interim head coach Romeo Crennel, is one play away from a complete collapse. Yes, making wholesale changes to the coaching staff and the front office (all in one single firing, no less) should help to alleviate the toxic buildup that has been brewing in Houston. But firing Bill O'Brien isn't going to boost Houston's startling issues on run defense. It also isn't likely to solve the ongoing riddle of protection issues for quarterback Deshaun Watson. Which brings us to "one play away."

The Texans are one play away from being the worst team in football. Should Watson fall victim to a season-ending injury, the Texans will lose their identity as a team and face a brutally difficult end to their already miserable 2020 NFL season. And there will be no silver linings for the Texans if they finish as football's worst team—no consolation prize that can be pointed to in an effort to prompt optimism of the post-Bill O'Brien era—because the Texans don't own their first-round pick this season. Heck, they don't own their second-round pick, either.

Those assets are now property of the Miami Dolphins courtesy of last year's trade for tackle Laremy Tunsil, Houston's $22 million per year man.

And while Houston's dilemma/identity crisis will continue well after the end of the 2020 season, the Dolphins would have a very different kind of conflict on their hands.

What the heck do you do with the No. 1 overall pick?

The Dolphins spent the No. 5 overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft on former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, a brilliant left-hander who rewrote the passing records at Alabama and completely changed the identity of Alabama's program during his three-year stay. You'd think they'd be set at quarterback. And while it would be extremely short-sighted to try to read anything into Miami's slow-play approach with Tagovailoa thus far in 2020 as he simmers behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, the presence and promise of Clemson prodigy Trevor Lawrence gives Miami a very difficult proposition in this hypothetical scenario.

Do you remain committed to Tagovailoa and trade away from the signal caller that has been widely considered the best pro quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck? Do you stay in the top spot and pick someone other than a quarterback? Or do you "Josh Rosen" the quarterback who replaced Josh Rosen as the young quarterback of the future in Miami by drafting Lawrence and move on from Tagovailoa all together?

If this were any other quarterback, with no disrespect to Ohio State's Justin Fields and North Dakota State's Trey Lance, this is an open and shut case. You either pick another position or trade out of the No. 1 pick. The last time we saw something similar to a trade-out was in 2015-16, when the Tennessee Titans drafted Marcus Mariota with the No. 2 pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, finished with the top pick in 2016 and traded it to the Rams, who then drafted Jared Goff. Ensuing collateral collected by the Titans (such as running back Derrick Henry) served as key pieces to the Titans' rise to relevancy in the AFC. The amount of assets you could pool for trading the 2021 NFL Draft's first overall pick would be life-changing

But this would be Trevor freaking Lawrence we're talking about here. And, for as good as Tagovailoa was at Alabama, he was available at No. 5 for a reason—mainly the questions about his durability as a football player.

So while Dolphins fans are itching to see Tagovailoa take the field for the Dolphins this season to get a glimpse of their presumed new franchise quarterback, the Dolphins organization should have some eagerness to see Tagovailoa play with live action as well—but more so to get as complete of an evaluation of his competency and ability behind center as possible at the pro level. Because until the Texans start piecing together even just a handful of wins, this is a possibility that remains on the table for the Dolphins to see materialize. And if you're going to trade away from Lawrence, you better be damn well sure of who you've got in your quarterback room already.

While we think we know what they have in Tagovailoa—he was my 3rd-highest graded quarterback prospect since 2017, you don't know until you see it. Which means the Dolphins' remaining 12 games this season will be an important piece of the puzzle in the event that this hypothetical come to life. And if Tagovailoa is who we think he is and the Dolphins choose to trade away from Lawrence, you'd be hard pressed to blame them. The return for moving on would likely feature three first-round draft choices and then some, setting the Dolphins up to continue their NFL draft splurges of 2020 and 2021, helping them build one of the deepest rosters in the league a few years down the road.

But then, on the other hand, I have not completed a full 2021 NFL Draft assessment of Lawrence just yet. But I have seen enough to know he will be a higher graded prospect than Tagovailoa. And every other quarterback since 2017 as well. And Miami would still have Tagovailoa as a tradable asset. Presuming he plays well, he could also be worth multiple first-round picks in trade value for a team looking to extend their window and transition away from a veteran, aging quarterback. Miami's hypothetical conflict stems to this simplified question.

Which is greater:

  • The sum of Tagovailoa and the assets that could be acquired for trading away from Lawrence


  • The sum of Lawrence and the assets that could be acquired for trading away Tagovailoa

Quarterbacks are king in the NFL. Getting the best possible one at any turn is something that we've seen normalized by the Arizona Cardinals with the Josh Rosen and Kyler Murray saga. And, thanks to the rookie wage scale that was implemented back in the 2010s, it is financially feasible to be flexible with unexpected upgrade opportunities arise. So while Tagovailoa may very well be as great as we all thought he was, if the Dolphins find themselves in the position to draft Lawrence, they'd be wise (in my personal opinion) to do so.

Of course, all of this is just hypothetical. The final 2021 NFL Draft order will look only vaguely similar to the one we see today, as there will be plenty of changes and team improvements—including presumably from the 0-4 Texans. But as the saying goes:

We're only one play away. So are the Texans from utter collapse and the Dolphins from an agonizing decision (and an incredible payout).

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