The 2015 NFL Draft is finally here and the first round is tonight at 5 p.m. PDT on ESPN and the NFL Network. At last, Duck fans will know where Marcus Mariota will start his NFL career. Among critics, Mariota is considered the first- or second-best quarterback – depending on whom you ask — and will likely be a top-5 overall pick.
Mariota has two knocks against him. He played with a spread offense in college where he may have trouble transitioning to an NFL system because of his lack of read progression. However, on NFL Network’s morning show yesterday – NFL AM – Oregon head coach, Mark Helfrich, spoke about his offense and his former quarterback’s ability to go through progressions.
Helfrich said, “He sees the field really well. He processes things almost too quickly for his own good sometimes — his eyes or his brain are on that third or fourth thing in the progression and his feet are still on No. 1. That’s where he’s had a couple — and we’re nitpicking the most efficient passer in college football history — issues, where his feet are off-balance.”
Against college opponents, Mariota can consistently get away with minor flaws in his technique, but in the NFL, he will need better footwork in order to succeed. However, improving footwork is something that any player with the great work ethic and dedication to the game Mariota has shown, can achieve with proper coaching — so he will improve.
The second “knock” is that he is too quiet and unassertive to be a leader of the locker room and command the huddle in the NFL. But Helfrich said, “His assertiveness is something that will be tested. What I mean by that: He’s a rookie in an NFL locker room — everyone’s assertiveness will be tested. He’ll just grind through that. And then just spitting out the verbiage, which for him will just be a matter of repetition.”
Some critics associate Mariota’s quietness as a flaw while Jameis Winston – the favorite to be the first overall pick — is loud and engaging. Well, that’s because both quarterbacks are products of their upbringing.
Helfrich stated that, “In his culture, that’s not what you do. You don’t show up on Day 1 and tell other people what to do. You show up and you work.” Then added, “He just got a little more vocal every year, almost every single day, by developing the confidence, getting out of his shell.” Mariota learned to be leader in college, so whoever thinks he can’t do the same in the NFL will be proven wrong.
Some draftees become stars while others become busts. One thing is certain – whoever selects Mariota is getting a dedicated and hard working young man with exceptional talent and character. As Helfrich said, “You’re getting Marcus. It’s a one-word description for us of all those things that make him who he is. That’s the total package.”
For all you did for your university and community – thank you, Marcus Mariota.
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