|Class:||RS Sophomore||40 time:||4.48|
Coming into this season, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was discussed among the latter half of a talented group of quarterbacks who could potentially enter the 2014 NFL Draft. However, by having a dominant redshirt sophomore season, Mariota has almost guaranteed himself a spot in the first round should he decide to forego his final two years of college eligibility.
The 20-year-old has really come into his own this year and taken charge of an Oregon offense that seems to be even faster and more efficient after the departure of previous head coach Chip Kelly. He has a 20-to-0 touchdown:interception ratio, and he’s been a huge part of the Ducks’ running game, as well. With as spectacular as he’s been through the first two-thirds of the season, it has some draftniks now speculating that Mariota might even have moved ahead of Teddy Bridgewater as the No. 1 quarterback on the board.
There are also several detractors for Mariota, though. First of all, he’s just a redshirt sophomore. While it’s more reasonable for running backs, wide receivers and pass rushers to become pros at this point, quarterbacks generally don’t come out at least until after their junior season. Michael Vick is the most notable quarterback to have done so. While UCLA‘s Brett Hundley and Texas A&M‘s Johnny Manziel are also redshirt sophomores who are considered big-time draft prospects, it still is a huge question mark whether Mariota or Hundley will actually end up entering the draft this year. Even if Mariota decides to become a pro, he may need to be nurtured by his team more than any drafted quarterback in recent memory, due to the fact that he won’t even turn 21 until halfway through training camp.
Additionally, it’s unknown how well Mariota’s game will transfer to the NFL level. While he’s a very capable passer and has shown that he can get the job done, he doesn’t really have exceptional arm strength. The area where he’s a cut above the rest is as a runner, and with the read-option offense having run its course for most NFL teams, Mariota will probably have to adjust to being more of a throwing-centric signal caller.
Finally, Mariota is playing for a school that has a notorious reputation for developing system quarterbacks. Players such as Joey Harrington, Kellen Clemens, Dennis Dixon and Jeremiah Masoli have all made their way through Eugene and experienced lots of success, only to be disappointments or complete afterthoughts in the NFL.
The bottom line is that whatever happens through the rest of the process, Mariota can feel very secure in the fact that he’ll be a first rounder in the 2014 draft. But as the chance to be the first overall pick in a future draft looms, and he has the chance to win national championships at Oregon, it’s a very reasonable possibility that he’ll feel compelled to return to college for another season.
- Throwing motion is fluid, quick and compact.
- Big, powerful runner who has enough speed to dominate in open space.
- Great pocket awareness and knows when to get rid of the ball.
- Pretty good accuracy on long balls.
- Tends to lob the ball too much on short throws.
- Needs work on red-zone passing.
- Arm is strong, but by no means a cannon.
- Doesn’t work from under center at Oregon and may need to learn how to do so as a pro.
- Lack of weight and tendency to run will make him an injury risk.
Mariota’s been arguably the best player in college football thus far in 2013. Through eight games, he has gone 144-for-225 as a passer, while picking up 511 yards on the ground. He has 29 total touchdowns (20 passing and nine rushing), and most impressively, he has yet to throw an interception this year. Mariota’s faced some legitimate competition, most notably Washington, UCLA and Tennessee, so his numbers can be taken more seriously than those of quarterbacks in lesser conferences such as Bridgewater and Derek Carr. Mariota and the Ducks still have some tough games to go, especially Stanford this coming Thursday, so it will be exciting to see if they can keep their undefeated run going.
2014 Draft Projection: First Round