2015 NFL Draft Preview: QB Marcus Mariota
The Sports Quotient’s annual Draft Preview series marches on! Over the course of the 10 weeks leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft, we will take a look at the top NFL prospects at each position. This ninth week, the focus is on quarterbacks. Today’s QB prospect is Marcus Mariota out of Oregon.
That's all that really needs to be said. He won the Heisman. He won a bunch of other awards. He won a ton of games. He broke the combine. He threw for 104 TDs and 15 INTs. That's a heck of a career.
Marcus Mariota is crazy athletic. When you watch this guy play, when you watch this guy run, you'll be amazed by the physical attributes. He lead all of the quarterback class in drills during the combine. He placed first in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump and much more. His 4.52 40 time was even good enough to put him in the middle of the pack with some of the skill positions.
Mariota is a smart player. He doesn't make many mistakes with the football, keeping his interceptions down over his entire career. He is very elusive in the backfield. He can make defenders miss and extend plays. He keeps his eyes downfield while doing so and is looking to make a play. It kind of reminds you of the abilities of Russell Wilson in that aspect, but maybe not just a bit under that level. Lastly, he has a good arm and throws the ball with good zip.
Some of Mariota's flaws come from his abilities in the backfield. Because he has the ability to scramble around and keep a play alive, he doesn't always stay in the pocket and step up to make the type of throws he'll most likely be asked to make in the NFL. Another issue is that he has not shown much of an ability to make good reads and work through his progressions. A part of this is that he hasn't had to much. That Oregon system is designed and executed so well that his first option is almost always open.
However in a situation like the National Championship game where the Ohio State Buckeyes had a good game plan defensively and tried to take things away from Oregon, you could see that Mariota really failed to located secondary options on several plays. This plus the fact that he is used to scrambling, doesn't throw interceptions and doesn't throw the ball away may mean that he takes a lot of sacks in the NFL. This will probably be exacerbated by the fact that if he goes high in the draft, the team that selects him may not be very well off on the offensive line.
Mariota is a highly rated prospect, but I would definitely consider him a project. He hasn't had time in a pro system and we really need to make some improvements. Jameis Winston is the clear number one, but Mariota is a clear number two. He kind of reminds me of RG3, though for his sake I hope things don't turn out quite the same way. He's a first round talent, but if you're going simply by where he should be taken, it's somewhere in the middle of the round. He just has too many question marks and too much development to do for me to consider him a top 10 talent. However, given the desperate need for quality quarterbacks in the NFL, Mariota may very well find himself taken in the top 10.
The best fit for Mariota is someone that will commit to him. This is the case for most prospects, but it is even more important for a high profile project prospect like Mariota. Whatever team drafts Mariota can not expect him to be great immediately. They will have to work with him and help him develop his skills. They will need to build an offense around him that is tailored to his skill set. The most obvious fit for Mariota is the Philadelphia Eagles. Mariota is familiar with Chip Kelly's system and may be able to execute it better than anyone.
But besides the Eagles, Mariota would do well to go to a stable organization with an innovative and trusting coach. I honestly think that Buffalo would be a good spot. New offensive coordinator Greg Roman was able to do wonders with Colin Kaepernick. He could probably reproduce some of the magic with Mariota. And say what you will about Rex Ryan, but he sticks up for his guys. He would be a coach that would support Mariota and let him develop.