Until the Oregon Ducks stepped onto the field against the Stanford Cardinal in Week 11, Marcus Mariota had been perfect throughout the entire 2013 college football season. His team had a perfect record, he hadn’t thrown a single interception, he was a top-five quarterback in passer rating and No. 1 in adjusted quarterback rating. Put simply, everything was going his way. Then the sky fell on the Ducks and the repercussions will be much greater than just missing out on a BCS National Championship and the Heisman Trophy — Mariota’s 2014 NFL Draft stock took a hit.
Is that fair? Not really because it’s just one game, Mariota still hasn’t thrown an interception this year and he’s still the nation’s leader in adjusted quarterback rating. Plus, the loss wasn’t really his fault and he rallied the Ducks in the fourth quarter in a near-comeback win after the most disastrous start by his team during his college career.
However, that’s the way things work in college football. It’s all or nothing, unless the corrupt governing body doesn’t like the results and then things happen like a two-loss team getting into the title game or we get a rematch for the championship. But we don’t have time to get into all of that now.
The point is Mariota probably won’t be considered as a top-10 pick now, even though he’s arguably the best quarterback in the country. No other signal-caller with at least 100 pass attempts has zero interceptions on the stat sheet for the season, especially when that includes the worse game of the player’s career.
In addition, Mariota dominated the other highly-ranked teams on Oregon’s schedule and he still has three games to go plus the Pac-12 title game to get the hype machine going again.
But the kicker is Mariota’s style: he’s a cross between Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. He can run very well, but he doesn’t look to run; he can execute a hurry-up, no-huddle offense to perfection; he leads his team with authority as a redshirt sophomore and he’s got great size at 6-foot-4 and 211 pounds.
The thing that really sets Mariota apart from the other passers in his class is the fact he can read defenses before and after the snap. Today, so many college offenses are designed for the quarterback to make a quick throw to his first read and that’s why these young signal-callers fail at the next level — they can’t read a defense and they don’t know how to go through their progressions in the pocket.
Mariota is the total package, complete with a beautiful deep ball and superb pocket presence. The kid should easily be a top-10 pick, if not the top pick, but the nature of college football will prevent that because of this one loss. The only way that will change is if other quarterbacks/teams slip up. Perfection is so harped at the college level that it pollutes the minds of draft scouts, which is why so many quarterbacks drafted early don’t pan out while so many drafted later end up doing very well.
Whatever NFL team is smart enough to scoop up Mariota after his short fall down the draft boards will be rewarded. This kid is going to be a difference-maker and the team that isn’t dumb enough to let one loss ruin its opinion of him is going to reap the benefits.