One factor that contributed to the Miami Dolphins' decision to name rookie Tua Tagovailoa as their starting quarterback was the fact that Miami owns the Houston Texans' first- and second-round picks in next year's NFL draft, league sources told ESPN.
The Dolphins need to know what they have in Tagovailoa as they enter the 2021 draft with two picks in each of the first two rounds, courtesy of their trade last year that sent left tackle Laremy Tunsil to the Texans.
"That's definitely a part of it," one source close to the Dolphins' thinking told ESPN, regarding Miami's recent decision to replace popular veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick with Tagovailoa. "Whoever told you that is right."
Those extra picks from Houston, which both could potentially be high selections within their respective rounds, made it as important as ever for Miami to get a read on Tagovailoa. Houston is one of five NFL teams with only one win this season, and those teams are vying with the league's only winless team, the New York Jets, for the No. 1 pick.
Because they have Houston's first-round pick, the Dolphins could be in prime position for one of the draft's top-rated quarterbacks, be it Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State's Justin Fields or North Dakota's Trey Lance.
Miami turned to Tagovailoa during its bye week, with 10 more games left in this season, at a time when Fitzpatrick had been shining. Everyone knew Tagovailoa eventually would get his turn; the surprise was that it came when it did, after Week 6.
Tagovailoa will make his first career start Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams. The former Alabama star made his NFL debut on Oct. 18 in the closing minutes of the Dolphins' victory over the Jets, completing both of his pass attempts.
Dolphins coach Brian Flores, when explaining the organization's reasons for the quarterback change, cited Tagovailoa's improvement in practice and readiness as well as an overall feeling within the organization that it was time.
"We feel like through practice meetings and walk-throughs that he's ready, and that's how we're going moving forward," Flores said on Oct. 21. "[Fitzpatrick] has done a great job. ... It's not an easy decision for me or us as an organization, but we felt like for the team now and moving forward, this is the move we needed to make."