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What if Tua Tagovailoa decides to wait until the Supplemental Draft?

With his 2019 season over, Tagovailoa has an option that many have not considered, but Bengals fans should be intrigued by.

Alabama v Mississippi State Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

With the Bengals currently in position to hold the first overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, there has been much debate amongst fans about who that pick should be.

Most fans are in favor of drafting a quarterback. With the benching of Andy Dalton, this seems like an obvious move. There are some, however, who favor drafting the best available player, who is widely considered to be Ohio State defensive end Chase Young.

The Bengals only have one pick, so they have to choose... Or do they?

There is actually a way that the Bengals could have their cake and eat it too, and Tua Tagovailoa is the answer.

Tagovailoa was the favorite to be the top pick in this spring’s draft heading into the 2019 college football season, but his injury in last week’s game that resulted in season-ending hip surgery has thrown his future into question.

Everything we have heard since his injury sounds promising, but as Albert Breer talked about in a piece for Sports Illustrated this week, Tagovailoa will not be able to throw for NFL scouts prior to the 2020 NFL Draft.

Breer goes on to discuss the quarterback’s options moving forward. Obviously, Tagovailoa could declare for the draft this season or as an underclassman he could wait until next year, but Breer points to another option. Tagovailoa could declare for the 2020 supplemental draft.

Why would Tagovailoa do this?

The deadline for an underclassman, like Tagovailoa, to declare for the draft is January 20th. That is only two months away.

Given Tagovailoa’s injury, Joe Burrow will likely be the first quarterback selected. At the beginning of the season, Justin Herbert was neck-and-neck with Tagovailoa for the top slot. If his stock rises over the remainder of the season, and teams seem fearful of Tagovailoa’s health, there is a chance he could choose not to declare.

Per Breer:

NFL rules dictate that players have to prove changing circumstances to gain entry into the supplemental draft and, theoretically, Tagovailoa could claim improved health prompted him to enter the July version of the draft. This option would allow him to stay at Alabama, or go out on his own, to rehab, then work out for teams in June. And if a team with a top five or top 10 pick in April passes on a quarterback, maybe Tagovailoa’s health prompts them to pick him, and make up the money he’d have lost going into the draft in April.

By not declaring for the draft, Tagovailoa would keep his options open. If he feels that without working out for teams he may slip in the draft, costing him on his rookie contract, he could wait until he is able to throw for scouts.

So the Bengals could draft Young and still have a chance at Tagovailoa, but this is a risky game to play, and not just because of Tagovailoa’s injury.

The supplemental draft does not work like the regular draft. Just because the Bengals (may) have the first pick in April’s draft, does not mean they will have the first pick in the supplemental draft. The draft order is determined by lottery.

Teams bid a certain round pick for a player they wish to take. If multiple teams bid on the same player, the winner is determined by a lottery. The lottery has three tiers, with the top tier consisting of teams that won five games or less in the previous season. Last year, there were seven teams who fell in that category.

Of the teams that finish this season with five or less wins, a handful will already have young quarterbacks and a couple will likely have already drafted Burrow and Herbert.

Most teams, however, do not select players in the supplemental draft. Last year only one was selected. The Bengals haven’t used a supplemental draft pick since Ahmad Brooks in 2006. No player has been selected in the first round of the supplemental draft since the New York Giants selected Duke quarterback Dave Brown in 1992.

Why are more players not selected? Because the pick that a team uses in the supplemental draft is forfeited in the following year’s NFL Draft. So if a team employed this strategy they would be essentially choosing Tagovailoa over Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who is the odds-on favorite for the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

For this to work, a lot of things would need to happen, most of which are beyond the organization's control, but it is a possibility and a very intriguing one. The Bengals could select Young first overall and still have arguably the best quarterback in college football behind center in 2020.