Trent Dilfer knows a thing or two about quarterbacks. After all, he played 14 seasons in the NFL and even won Super Bowl XXXV as the starting quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens. Dilfer has been around the game his entire life, so when it comes to talking about future prospects, his opinion certainly matters.
For many years, Dilfer helped run the Elite 11 program, which is the nation’s premier quarterback competition for top high school prospects. The 47-year-old has even seen many of today’s young NFL stars before the rest of the country even knew their name. But when it comes to the best, only one stands above the rest: former Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
In April 2019, prior to last season and before the season-ending hip injury, Dilfer was asked where he would rank Tagovailoa in the last two NFL Draft classes on The Rich Eisen Show. His answer was quick and simple.
“No. 1,” he said. “He’s the finest prospect I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Trent Dilfer Praises Tua Tagovailoa
Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick in 2018? Nope. Forget first-round picks Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson, too. Oh, and while you’re at it, throw away Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Kyler Murray, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, Missouri’s Drew Lock, and everyone else.
When it comes to the best quarterback prospect, Dilfer, who was named the head football coach at Lipscomb Academy in Nashville, Tennessee after a successful run at ESPN, had no doubt in his mind that Tua Tagovailoa is the best and gave him some ridiculously high praise.
“No. 1. He’s the finest prospect I’ve ever seen in my life. I was with Aaron Rodgers when he was in college, threw with him in the offseason. Not even close to Tua at that stage in their careers. Now Aaron has progressed rapidly when he got into the NFL.Advertisement
“I’ve never seen, besides Dan Marino and Aaron Rodgers to this day, throw a ball better than Tua. He checks all of the other intangible boxes. He’s got a thick body, thick joints. He needs to learn to play on timing better. He does have the Superman complex where he thinks he can make a Superman play out of every play like Cam Newton. I think that can be trained out of him. I know we trained it out of him in one summer.
If I was an NFL GM or if I was a head coach in the NFL, I’d be begging on my knees for my management to draft Tua and find a way to draft him…He’s a one-percenter. He’s a one-percenter human being, talent, leader, anything you want to say, he’s a one-percenter.”
— Former NFL Quarterback Trent Dilfer
For whatever reason, Dilfer, the former No. 6 overall pick in the 1994 NFL Draft who played for five NFL teams — the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers — compares these quarterbacks as ice cream. They are all good, but Tagovailoa, the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder from Honolulu, Hawaii is the best flavor of all.
In plainest terms, Alabama football and head coach Nick Saban were in good shape with No. 13 under center.
Sure, at the time, the last impression anyone had of Tagovailoa might be his worst game of his entire college career. The Alabama quarterback completed just 22 of 34 passes for 295 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game against the Clemson Tigers.
However, when you looked at his talent level then, Dilfer didn’t think there was another NCAA quarterback in the country that compares to the guy fans in Tuscaloosa, Alabama saw dominate the SEC on college football Saturdays.
To some, things obviously changed with Tagovailoa’s hip injury, and the rise of LSU’s Joe Burrow, but not to Dilfer. He actually doubled down on it.
Tua Tagovailoa: Hall of Fame Quarterback?
Since the moment he declared for the 2020 NFL Draft, Tua Tagovailoa’s health has been a big question mark. He suffered hip, wrist, and ankle injuries during his days at Alabama. Is he durable enough to play at the highest level? Is it only a matter of time before he gets hurt again? Dilfer wants to put all of that to rest before this year’s virtual draft.
“Tua’s 100 percent. He can play in a game tomorrow and be completely safe,” Dilfer told the Washington Post.
For the past couple of months, Dilfer has been secretly working out Tagovailoa, getting him ready for the NFL. “The Rebuilding of Tua,” as Dilfer called it, took place in Nashville. He used Rocky IV references and put him through intense workouts. It was a grind, no doubt, but the results proved to Dilfer that his praise is more than accurate.
“If he would have never gotten hurt there would have been no discussion about who the best player in the draft is. He throws the football better than anyone throws the football. He throws better than Aaron Rodgers and Dan Marino. Whoever gets him wins the draft because you are getting a Hall of Fame player…
“…There are some really, really good quarterbacks in this draft, but the best one is Tua.”
Tua Tagovailoa has been medically cleared to get back to football and he’s been putting in the work. Only time will tell where he lands in the NFL Draft.
However, if it were up to Dilfer, any team that doesn’t take him is making a big, big mistake.
This post was originally published on April 11, 2019 before updating.