If the Dolphins are interested in drafting Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, then there's a question that is surely nagging at general manager Chris Grier ahead of the 2020 NFL draft. What are the chances he is still available at No. 5, when Miami is on the board?
Well, we're here to help. ESPN's new NFL Draft Predictor tool answers exactly those sorts of questions. It uses mock drafts from industry experts, Scouts Inc. grades and team needs, while also mixing in the possibility of draft-day trades, to determine the probability that any prospect is still on the board at a certain pick.
When ESPN senior analytics specialist Brian Burke, the creator of the Draft Predictor, was consulting for NFL teams, these were questions they dealt with. The sort of information that the predictor provides is quite useful in informing teams' decision-making around trades. How likely it is that you need to trade up for a player and whether you have a high chance to get the same player later can be key (looking at you, Raiders, picking Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 in 2019).
So through the lens of the ESPN NFL Draft Predictor, let's take a look at some crucial questions teams have to be pondering right now, starting with the Dolphins and Tagovailoa.
If the Miami Dolphins want Tua Tagovailoa, do they have to trade up to get him, or can they bank on him still being available at No. 5?
Miami, you should probably go get him. Our model estimates there is only a 33% chance that Tagovailoa lasts until No. 5.
The key here, of course, is trading. While many mock drafts don't allow trades, any probabilistic prediction of what will actually happen absolutely has to consider that possibility. And for Tagovailoa, that's a big factor. At pick Nos. 2, 3 and 4, we have three teams that presumably are not shopping for a first-round quarterback (the Redskins, Lions and Giants). And then at Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 9 are teams with a need (the Dolphins, Chargers, Panthers and Jaguars). Mix in that Tagovailoa is a highly regarded QB prospect and generally considered the second best in the class behind LSU's Joe Burrow, and there's a fairly strong likelihood of a trade up.
The NFL Draft Predictor believes the most likely spot Tagovailoa is selected is actually at No. 3 (45%).
There is one important caveat to consider here: Some of the 67% chance scenario in which Tagovailoa is selected ahead of No. 5 is a result of Miami trading up. So for the Dolphins, the true question is still slightly unknowable. What percentage of the time that they don't trade up does Tagovailoa last until No. 5? Regardless, the answer to the question is reasonably clear. If Miami feels strongly about Tagovailoa as its QB, no, it cannot bank on him lasting until No. 5 on draft night.