Last week Michael David Smith (no relation) wrote an article for ProFootballTalk.com, in which he claimed that Chip Kelly is “already plotting to move up for Marcus Mariota.” While I’ll take this article with a whole lot of salt, let’s just pretend for a minute that Kelly really is trying to trade up for Mariota. Most seem to agree he would need to trade at least two first-round picks, two second-round picks, plus Nick Foles and (possibly) more later round picks. My solution to Kelly’s apparent lack of faith in Foles and desire to add an Oregon QB is simple: draft Bryan Bennett.
Assuming Kelly really is questioning Foles as his future starter, I propose bringing in Bennett to compete with his current QBs could be a better solution. This is based mostly on price, as Bennett would be cheap — maybe not even costing a late round pick. At the same time, the benefits of bringing in Bennett could be similar to what Kelly would get from Mariota. While Bennett is not as polished as Mariota, he knows Kelly’s system and has similar dynamic ability as a runner. As much as this may seem like heresy to most Oregon fans, Bennett and Mariota may not be as far apart as pro prospects as you may think.
While Mariota practically walks on water in Eugene these days (rightfully so), there are some glitches in his game that need to be fixed for him to excel in the NFL. While most teams are going to more shotgun heavy offenses, taking snaps consistently from under center will always be an important skill. Neither Mariota nor Bennett has done this at the college level with any regularity, although the difficulty of getting that down in game is highly exaggerated. The thing that apparently worries more NFL scouts is Mariota’s tendency to throw from outside the pocket. I personally don’t see why this is an issue, as Russell Wilson plays similarly, largely because of his stature, but nameless NFL scouts are always right… right?
While there is nothing too major that he needs to work on, Mariota does have some. These few things are largely overshadowed by his many positives, such as his intangibles and ability to make plays with his arm and his legs. In contrast, while Bennett has many of the same perceived problems as Mariota (not used to working under center, likes to throw on the run, etc.), his positives don’t overshadow his problems in the eyes of the nameless NFL scouts.
The main difference between the two really is perception, and perhaps even a bit of small school bias. Now, don’t misunderstand; it’s obvious Bennett isn’t as good of a college QB or as developed as a pro QB as Mariota, but he also isn’t as far behind Mariota as a lot of people may think. Bennett, despite being a hard worker and a quick learner (both at Oregon and SELU) is often portrayed as needing a lot of work to be an NFL QB, ranked as a mid to late round pick. I assert that the QB rankings for the draft should be Mariota, Jameis Winston, and then Bennett pushing for the No. 3 spot.
Getting back to the Eagles, Kelly may not need to mortgage the future on Mariota, or any QB. As a New Orleans Saints fan I can tell you that mortgaging your future for one player, no matter how good he is, never works (just ask Mike Ditka how that worked out with Ricky Williams). At the same time Kelly could have a “cheap knock off version” of Mariota, without much of the risk trading up would come with. On top of that, he could still keep Foles around to compete with Bennett, much like Seattle did with Matt Flynn and Wilson.
If he really wants an Oregon QB to elevate his system in Philly, Kelly should consider taking Bennett and keeping his other picks free to build up the rest of his team. At the end of the day, football is still a team sport.
Top Photo by Kevin Cline