It’s that time of year again. Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, and every other football expert in the country have begun to speculate how the upcoming NFL Draft will unfold. I’ve looked at several of these mock drafts, and the consensus is that the two quarterbacks that will square off in the Rose Bowl, the past two Heisman Trophy winners, Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston will be the top two players taken in the upcoming draft, as you can see here NFL Mock Draft.
There are six teams in the NFL that have a legitimate shot at the No. 1 pick: Tampa Bay (2-12), Oakland (2-12), Tennessee (2-13), Jacksonville (3-12), Washington (3-11), and the New York Jets (3-11).
The only teams that wouldn’t take either Mariota or Winston, if they were available to them, are the Oakland Raiders and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars picked Blake Bortles with the N0. 3 pick in last year’s draft, and Oakland’s Derek Carr has shown a lot of promise in his rookie season. (The Redskins aren’t going to take Mariota or Winston because they traded the house away to get Robert Griffin III in the 2012 Draft, and it’s too early for the Redskins to call it quits on RGIII and admit the whole thing was a debacle.)
The others? They desperately need a quarterback. Just a week ago when the Titans took on the Jets – the game was appropriately dubbed “Suck for the Duck.” The Jets won leaving the Titans and Buccaneers as the only remaining two-win teams in the NFL. The “winner” (if that’s what you want to call it) in all this will actually be the team that finishes with the most dismal record and can bring Marcus Mariota to its franchise with the No. 1 pick.
Tampa Bay is in the driver’s seat in the “Marcus Mariota Sweepstakes.” All the Bucs have to do is lose to Green Bay and New Orleans the next two weeks and Mariota is theirs. Tampa Bay holds the tiebreaker over Tennessee due to a weaker strength of schedule. If the Titans lose to the Colts in the final week of the season, they’ll likely wind up with Jameis Winston as the second overall pick.
While both Mariota and Winston are both All-World talents, and are expected to be the top two picks in the upcoming draft, both come with some major question marks attached them.
In regard to Winston, there is no doubt about what he can do on the field. He’s run a pro-style offense in the last two seasons and has yet to lose a game. Sure his numbers were nowhere near as good as last year’s, but you can’t deny the talent that Winston possesses. Winston’s biggest red flag is the way that he conducts himself off the field, documented here, and there is no need to beat a dead horse.
Mariota on the other hand, doesn’t have any questions pertaining to his character. There was that time earlier in the year where there were rumors that NFL executives were worried that maybe Mariota was “too nice,” but that myth has since been debunked.
So Mariota carries himself in a Gandhi-like fashion, which should be considered a strong point in his case as a future NFL quarterback. Mariota displayed an array of talents while putting together one of the most historic careers in college football. Arm strength? Check. Size? Check. Speed? Check.
But Mariota is going to be asked to do things in the NFL that he never had to at Oregon.
Before I get into it, I’d like to note that everyone involved in the NFL doesn’t necessarily share these concerns. Tony Dungy for example said that Mariota “reminds him of Aaron Rodgers,” and there are many other experts out there singing Mariota’s praises. Now, I wouldn’t say the others are picking Mariota’s game apart – most of them still agree that he should be the No. 1 pick in the draft. But many worry about how his game will translate to the NFL.
Mariota is going to run a more traditional NFL offense; no longer will he orchestrate Oregon’s supersonic-tempo spread offense. For the first time in his career, Mariota will be asked to take snaps under center and drop back. While Mariota was unbelievably efficient (completing 66.6% of his passes), there are those that have concerns with his accuracy.
The “knock” on Mariota is that Oregon’s offense had Mariota throw a lot of bubble screens, short outs, and slants, which are all very high percentage throws. In addition, most of the throws Mariota makes are on his first read.
Another concern has been whether Mariota will be able to fit the ball into “tight windows” in the NFL, as he has generally thrown to open receivers at Oregon. With all that being said, however, everyone still agrees that Mariota should be the No. 1 pick in the draft.
The Rose Bowl will be like none other. Never before have the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback’s faced off in a bowl game.
Top Photo By Gary Breedlove