NFL Draft’s first round is riding on X-factor Tua Tagovailoa

INDIANAPOLIS – Nines are wild for Tua Tagovailoa.

Tagovailoa – the player under the most medical scrutiny at the NFL Combine – said Tuesday he expects to receive full clearance to return to football action March 9 and will hold his own individual pro day for scouts and coaches April 9. He will be “ready to go” during spring minicamp and OTAs for whichever NFL team drafts him.

So, who will that be? The answer depends upon which teams have the most confidence in his health, after two high ankle sprains and hip surgery in a 13-month span at Alabama raised red flags about his durability. He was at the hospital from 10 a.m. until nearly 8 p.m. Monday morning undergoing a battery of tests.

“Nothing surprised me,” Tagovailoa said of his medical results. “I would say it’s all positive.”

But Tagovailoa won’t participate in drills at the Combine or at Alabama’s Pro Day.

“This rehab process has been gradually getting up,” Tagovailoa said. “Just strengthening all the parts around the hip, the glute, hamstring, quad. Once March 9 hits and we’re cleared to go, I’ll be able to do everything.”

Tagovailoa is the X-factor who will shape the first round of the Draft. Eight months ago, he was the favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick – “Tank for Tua!” was social media viral – and, if he is deemed healthy, he could open up trade possibilities for the No. 2 Redskins, No. 3 Lions and No. 4 Giants with quarterback-needy teams like the No. 5 Dolphins, No. 6 Chargers, No. 7 Panthers, No. 12 Raiders and No. 13 Colts.

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There will be teams that write off Tagovailoa as too injury-prone and risky. Especially when presumptive No. 1 pick Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert are available.

“I think going into the interview rooms and these informal interviews, I just feel like I’ve got to be myself,” Tagovailoa said. “If I’m not the person for the organization, then I’m not the person. The right team will find me.”

Tagovailoa’s hip injury in late November initially created fear his football career could be over.

“I think the lowest point was just at that moment when I got hurt,” Tagovailoa said. “I didn’t feel bad for myself when I was on the helicopter going to Birmingham, when I was in the hospital.

“The amount of support I had from my family first off was out of this world. The fan support was out of this world because it wasn’t just people from Alabama sending cards or messaging us. There were people from London, Singapore that were messaging us. I didn’t even know they watched football out there.”

The left-handed passer would’ve been in the running to be the No. 1 pick in 2018 and again in 2019 but NCAA rules require players to spend at least three seasons in college. Returning to school likely cost him millions of dollars.

“I think the three-year rule is good. It’s different with basketball and baseball, I’d say, only because now you’re getting hit by guys of this nature,” Tagovailoa said.

“These are grown men. They have to feed their families. They’re trying to make a living as well. Gaining as much experience, gaining as much knowledge as you can from your college coaches is probably the best thing.”

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