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Chargers

Do Chargers like Tua Tagovailoa or are they one of teams that reportedly flunked him?

Chargers general manager Tom Telesco.
Chargers general manager Tom Telesco says the team has sufficient medical reports on players in the NFL draft.
(Los Angeles Times)

No one is questioning his arm or his legs.

But Tua Tagovailoa’s hip? It is simply the most-dissected body part of the 2020 NFL draft.

And the fact that so few doctors have been able to actually dissect it has only added intrigue to an exercise that’s never lacking in the stuff.

Armed with the No. 6 pick in Round 1 Thursday, the Chargers might have the option of drafting Tagovailoa, the former Alabama quarterback and most electric name on the board.

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Conflicting reports out of Miami have the Dolphins either sold on Tagovailoa or sour on him, with ex-Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert instead the team’s priority with the fifth selection.

Either way, that hip will continue to be a focal point, one Chargers general manager Tom Telesco suggested might not be as mysterious as everyone believes.

The 2020 NFL draft is on Thursday, and NFL team beat writers have made their first-round picks in The Times’ annual reporters mock draft.

Despite the COVID-19 restrictions governing the pre-draft process, Telesco said he’s confident the Chargers have the necessary medical reports to make informed picks during the three-day event. He pointed to the league’s combine in late February in Indianapolis, where more than 300 prospects were available for poking and prodding.

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“We got our hands on every single one of them and did a physical on all of them,” Telesco said. “So, we feel like we have enough medical information on every player going into the draft.”

The bigger issue than Tagovailoa’s health today is his health in the future. Along with the hip dislocation that required surgery and ended his college career in November, he has suffered injuries to both ankles, a broken finger and a concussion.

When drafting a potential long-term solution at the most crucial position in football, forecasting injury risk is paramount, particularly when the selection lands inside the top 10.

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagvailoa runs away from LSU defender Marcel Brooks in  November.
No one can be sure if Tua Tagovailoa’s skills will be the same since his severe hip injury at Alabama.
(Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)
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Telesco said he was incapable of even estimating how much time the Chargers put into their medical evaluations of possible picks. He labeled as “very, very high” the importance of a player being durable.

“You do have to make some projections moving forward … as far as injuries are concerned,” Telesco explained. “We do that with every single player. Football is a collision sport. When you get to this level it gets even faster and bigger and there are more collisions.”

Most projections have the Chargers taking a quarterback with their first pick. The idea is that the rookie would begin the season behind veteran Tyrod Taylor and learn on a team that is built with more immediate plans of winning.

But there are no guarantees Telesco will go that way or that the Chargers have Tagovailoa rated over Herbert. In fact, there are reports that multiple teams have flunked Tagovailoa medically and the Chargers could be among them.

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The Chargers need a quarterback, and Tua Tagovailoa could be there when they pick at No. 6 in the NFL draft, but they have other needs that could be addressed.

This is a team that also has an obvious need for a left tackle or could be tempted by former Clemson linebacker/safety Isaiah Simmons, the most dynamic defender in the draft.

Cincinnati is expected to select quarterback Joe Burrow first overall, with Washington then likely to go with pass rusher Chase Young. Beyond that, nothing appears certain, other than Detroit would be on the clock and rumors will intensify.

Things can change quickly in the NFL, where, just Tuesday, Rob Gronkowski went from being a retired New England Patriot to being an active Tampa Bay Buccaneer.

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“When you get this close to the draft, it’s hard to believe anything that you hear,” Telesco said. “Sometimes, what you hear in January, February has a little more substance to it. At this point, I’ve heard everything about everybody.”

That certainly includes Tagovailoa, who has spent the last several weeks training in Nashville with former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer and former Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.

The trio recently put together a virtual pro day featuring Tagovailoa, an exercise followed by a mini-promotional tour during which Dilfer did several interviews and touted his pupil.

He likened Tagovailoa to, among others, Brett Favre and Patrick Mahomes. Dilfer also suggested Tagovailoa could one day be a Hall of Famer.

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The Chargers unveiled their new uniforms Tuesday morning. They feature numbers on the helmet, larger bolts and updated fonts.

“He has that magic in his game,” Dilfer concluded, steep praise for a player whose medical history reportedly has led to his name being removed from some teams’ draft boards.

The Chargers, coming off a disappointing five-win season and moving into the new SoFi Stadium, still are attempting to establish themselves in their new Los Angeles home.

Drafting a magician, surgically repaired and all, could help. If he’s still there at No. 6, Tagovailoa might have the opportunity to perform his best trick yet. He could make the Chargers suddenly appear.

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Tua Tagovailoa showed at Alabama he can excel in big games, but questions about the quarterback’s injury history has drawn extra scrutiny from NFL teams.


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