Marcus Mariota: Beyond the Hype


Marcus Mariota is a fascinating prospect for many reasons. He is a quarterback in a run-first offense. Along with that, his running adds a dimension to everything he does and causes headaches for defenses. Most interesting is the thought that he may have been the first quarterback taken had he left for the draft this past season, but he stuck around for his junior year to try to end on a high note at the University of Oregon. Is the hype warranted? Courtesy of Draft Breakdown, I took a look at one of his tougher games, against Stanford (I picked this game, because the games where Oregon dominates, Mariota is basically just playing pitch-and-catch with his receivers, and there is not as much to glean from those efforts) to get a better idea of his strengths and weaknesses as he heads into the 2014 season.

Let’s start with the obvious. There is not a more athletic quarterback in this draft class than Marcus Mariota. He is both quick and fast, as he is very shifty and light on his feet. He is a great athlete, and it gives him opportunities to make plays that other quarterbacks simply cannot.

This first play was my favorite play from Mariota in the Stanford game. He displays a lot of great traits, and it is clear that he has all of the physical talent to succeed from a play like this one.

This was one of the few plays where he actually had to scan the field. After looking to the left, he takes a look down the middle of the field and fires an absolute strike between the zone for a touchdown.

Marcus Mariota is very gifted. He not only displays how smooth he is in his motions, but he also is able to rocket this pass while on the move.

He is able to stride into his throw and delivers an absolute strike to his receiver as he has the arm strength to thread the needle, even while on the move.

Still, sometimes Mariota gets caught between throwing on the run and setting his feet, and his mechanics can get very sloppy in these situations. On this first example, he gets pressured and he throws off his back foot because of it.

Although there was some pressure, he also had time to set and make a much better throw to his receiver. The pattern that I noticed is that he was fine when he was able to stride into his throws, but his mechanics really broke down when he had to make choppy steps in his movement.

Another issue with him not being comfortable in this game was a big issue with fumbles. If he is going to run with the football and try to make plays, he needs to work on ball security.

He needs to clean up his footwork, as his feet are facing where the wide receiver was as opposed to where he is going.

On this play he is off balance as he throws the ball to his receiver, as he falls off to the side while delivering the football. He is able to sling an accurate pass despite that, but inconsistent mechanics will lead to inconsistent results.

On tools alone, Marcus Mariota is the best quarterback in college football. But when taking a closer look at how he performs, there is plenty of room for improvement. He is in an offense that is designed for him to put up impressive stats, as Chip Kelly brought the system to the NFL and saw tremendous success with Nick Foles, who was not a highly touted quarterback exiting college or heading into the season. Kelly’s offensive system depends on pre-snap reads in order to make quick decisions right after the snap. Mariota is excellent in this area. However, when that option he expected to be there is covered, things can really break down for him.

I know that many projected Marcus Mariota to be the top quarterback in the draft had he come out last year, but I would have had him fourth behind Bridgewater, Bortles, and Manziel. Despite the impressive physical attributes, I think he needs to take major steps forward with his mechanics and post-snap decision making to be considered a top quarterback in this draft class.