2015 NFL Draft: Assessing Marcus Mariota’s stock after big win


I’m one who never likes to get ahead of myself, but I’ve always held the belief that in sports morals sometimes have to trump a player’s abilities on the field. Look at Derek Jeter. That is why up until this point I have preached that Marcus Mariota be the first quarterback taken in the 2015 NFL Draft. On Thursday afternoon, Mariota showed the world why he will be the number one quarterback off the board in April, and likely the first player taken overall. In the process of beating Florida State, Marcus Mariota killed two birds with one stone. First, he put his team in the position to win the their first national title in school year. Second, he proved to everyone that he is better than Jameis Winston.

Against Florida State, Mariota went 26 for 36 with 338 passing yards, in addition to two passing touchdowns and one rushing score. While he did throw an interception, it turned out to be a microcosm of everything else that he did do right throughout the course of the game. Mariota looked more calm and collected than his adversary, Winston. The score was 25-20 in favor Oregon more than halfway through the third quarter before Mariota took the game over. All three of his scores came after that point.

Marcus Mariota’s 2014 season could go down as one of the greatest in college football history. Let’s put his year in perspective for a second. Mariota has a combined 56 touchdowns (4o passing, 15 rushing, and 1 receiving) heading into the National Championship Game. Excluding his receiving score, Mariota ranks fifth all-time for most touchdowns in a single season. On the season, he is also completing a staggering 68.6% of his passes.

Putting things into perspective on an even bigger scale makes Marcus Mariota an even more intriguing prospect in the 2015 NFL Draft. The Oregon Ducks have defeated various quality opponents in 2014, including Florida State, Michigan State, UCLA, and Arizona. In that time, Mariota has out-dueled some big named quarterbacks on the opposition. Think about this, Marcus Mariota has defeated Jameis Winston, Taylor Kelly, Connor Cook, Brett Hundley, and Sean Mannion in 2014, most of whom are highly-regarded quarterback prospects in this year’s Draft.

Obviously it’s never easy to scout talent when it comes to college quarterbacks. Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning are exceptions to the rule. There have been first-round picks such as Jamarcus Russell who have proven to be busts, while there have been players like Tom Brady, a seventh-round pick, who have changed the course of a franchise for the better. Marcus Mariota is a different breed of quarterback though. He doesn’t fit the profile of a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. The Hawaiian native is more Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

It’s clear that the NFL is changing, and has been for quite some time. Marcus Mariota and players like him bring a different aspect to the game. Anyone that watches Russell Wilson will say the same about him. Neither man is a run-first quarterback like Robert Griffin III was in his rookie season. Wilson displays pocket presence, but when all else breaks down he can extend the play his legs. Mariota is much like Wilson in that respect. While Mariota does have 15 rushing scores on the season, it’s no mistake that he also has 40 through the air. I’m not ready to say that Marcus Mariota will be the next Russell Wilson at the NFL level, but a lot of things thus far point in that direction.

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