It is expected to be a big night for Alabama as the first round of the NFL draft rolls on, but Nick Saban already has one of his most elusive conquests squared away. Tua Tagovailoa became the first quarterback coached by Saban to be drafted in the first round of the NFL draft.
Tagovailoa was drafted by the Miami Dolphins with the fifth overall draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday night.
For all the success Saban has had at Alabama, including in the NFL draft, a first-round quarterback was more a dream than a reality until now. Prior to Tagovailoa, Alabama had just two quarterbacks drafted by an NFL franchise since Saban took over as head coach of the Crimson Tide. AJ McCarron went in the fifth round in 2014 to the Cincinnati Bengals. Greg McElroy, who now is a college football analyst for ESPN, was a seventh-round selection of the New York Jets.
Saban has now successfully coached a first-round draft pick at every position, with the notable exception of a specialist position (Alabama kickers, am I right?). This makes Saban the first coach to have coached a first-round draft pick at every non-specialist position, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
The last time Alabama had a first-round draft pick at the quarterback position was in 1976 when Richard Todd was taken sixth overall by the New York Jets. Two others have played quarterback for Alabama and gone in the first round. The first was Harry Gilmer in 1948. Gilmer was chosen first overall. Joe Namath was taken 12th overall in 1965. For those curious, Bart Starr, who went on to have a hall of fame career in the NFL, was a 17th round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in 1956 (take THAT, Tom Brady).
Alabama could potentially tie a draft record with the most first-round draft picks. The record of six first-round draft picks is currently held by the Miami Hurricanes in the 2004 NFL draft.
Former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow has helped to make some NFL draft history. By being named the No. 1 overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night, Burrow was the third consecutive Heisman Trophy winner to go No. 1 overall in the following draft. This is the first time in draft and Heisman Trophy history that the No. 1 overall draft pick won the Heisman Trophy the previous season.
Burrow was chosen with the top overall pick one year after 2018 Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray of Oklahoma was selected with the top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. The previous year, in 2018, Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma was selected with the first overall pick by the Cleveland Browns. Mayfield took home the Heisman Trophy in 2017.
Burrow is the 23rd Heisman Trophy player to go No. 1 overall in the NFL draft. Another LSU icon, Billy Cannon, pulled off the accomplishment in 1960 after winning the Heisman Trophy in 1959. The only other schools to have multiple Heisman Trophy winners that were chosen first overall in the draft are Oklahoma (4), Notre Dame (3), USC (2), and Auburn (2).
Heisman Trophy Winners Drafted No. 1 Overall in NFL Draft
- 1935 – Jay Berwanger – Chicago (Philadelphia Eagles)
- 1940 – Tom Harmon – Michigan (Chicago Bears)
- 1942 – Frank Sinkwich – Georgia (Detroit Lions)
- 1943 – Angelo Bertelli – Notre Dame (Boston Yanks)
- 1949 – Leon Hart – Notre Dame (Detroit Lions)
- 1956 – Paul Hornung – Notre Dame (Green Bay Packers)
- 1959 – Billy Cannon – LSU (Los Angeles Rams)
- 1961 – Ernie Davis – Syracuse (Washington Redskins)
- 1962 – Terry Baker – Oregon State (Los Angeles Rams)
- 1969 – O.J. Simpson – USC (Buffalo Bills)
- 1970 – Jim Plunkett – Stanford (New England Patriots)
- 1977 – Earl Campbell – Texas (Houston Oilers)
- 1978 – Billy Sims – Oklahoma (Detroit Lions)
- 1980 – George Rogers – South Carolina (New Orleans Saints)
- 1985 – Bo Jackson – Auburn (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
- 1986 – Vinnie Testaverde – Miami (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
- 2002 – Carson Palmer – USC (Cincinnati Bengals)
- 2008 – Sam Bradford – Oklahoma (St. Louis Rams)
- 2010 – Cam Newton – Auburn (Carolina Panthers)
- 2013 – Jameis Winston – Florida State (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
- 2017 – Baker Mayfield – Oklahoma (Cleveland Browns)
- 2018 – Kyler Murray — Oklahoma (Arizona Cardinals)
- 2019 – Joe Burrow, LSU (Cincinnati Bengals)
Murray and Mayfield completed a pretty rare feat as the top picks of the draft in back-to-back years. The 2018 and 2019 drafts marked the first time the top overall picks in consecutive seasons had come out of the same school since 1968 and 1969. USC’s Ron Yary and O.J. Simpson went No.1 overall in those years, respectively.
So, the pressure is on for whoever ends up winning the 2020 Heisman Trophy. The bar has certainly been raised.