Weight: 222 pounds
Hands: 9 ⅞”
Arm length: 32”
40-yard dash: 4.52 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.11 seconds
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Mariota possesses a strong arm, quick legs and a good head on his shoulders. While not an “in your face” type of leader, former teammates rave about his leadership skills. Oregon’s offense was predicated on anticipation and timing, traits that will come in handy at the NFL level. Throws a tight spiral which should help when the weather turns nasty in Nashville. By all accounts he is quite bright and can learn things quickly.
The reigning Heisman trophy winner is a quick decision maker and has more than enough speed to make plays when things break down. He was not asked often at Oregon to throw deep, but showed good touch and accuracy when he had to. He is used to playing at a quick pace which should make him extremely comfortable in hurry-up situations.
The biggest weakness Mariota’s detractors will throw around is comparing him directly to fellow first-round quarterback Jameis Winston, both in leadership styles and college offenses. Winston is a loud, charismatic individual who came from an NFL-ready system at Florida State. Mariota, on the other hand, is more reserved, quiet and the perception is he suffers from the fact he did not run a pro-style offense at Oregon. While I personally think that last bit is a load of bunk, I will acknowledge that there is a learning curve for rookie quarterbacks moving from an offense they spent the past several years learning and working into one that they may be unfamiliar with. The Titans coaching staff is incorporating pieces of the Oregon offense to help ease the transition. If I do have one knock on Mariota, it is he is willing to run a little quicker than I would like.
The world is Marcus Mariota’s oyster at the moment. He walks into camp as the confirmed starter with an offensive minded coach and a receiving corps full of talent and potential, even if it lacks proven results. Tennessee surrounded their young quarterback with as much talent as it could in the draft, drafting Dorial Green-Beckham, David Cobb and Tre McBride to go with Mariota. Those rookies will join Bishop Sankey, Justin Hunter, Delanie Walker and Kendall Wright as weapons available to him.
If Mariota comes in, grasps NFL concepts quickly, and can find some rapport with his receivers, the Titans could jump up in the AFC South and jumpstart a lot of fantasy players’ values.
Ok, seriously. The Titans brass will give Mariota every chance to fall flat on his face and self-destruct. They invested a high draft pick and gave him a bunch of money. Zach Mettenberger played most of the past season as Tennessee’s quarterback before an injury cut short his season. If Mariota were to get hurt, it would probably be Mettenberger to take over on a long-term basis, but he was only a sixth-round pick and frankly didn’t play that great in his opportunity. Veteran Charlie Whitehurst will handle the third quarterback duties of clipboard management and doughnut acquisition.
There is one non-quarterback threat to be aware of. Just after the draft, a video went viral of Titans wide receivers Wright and Hunter are clearly shown expressing their displeasure of the drafting of Mariota. Reports have the pair being close to Mettenberger, thus wanting the Titans brass to choose another player and stick with the quarterback from LSU. If for some reason Mariota can’t establish a groove with either player, it could create an uncomfortable situation in the locker room.
I wouldn’t go crazy over year one numbers for Mariota, but I think the final line will be respectable. I think the interceptions will be a little higher than he’s used to, though. I think this season, Mariota will be a middle of the road quarterback that will improve over the course of the season, much like Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles or Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater did this past year.
I think drafting Mariota put the Titans on the right path. They surrounded him with plenty of offensive talent and an offensive-minded coach. He will be given every opportunity to succeed. If he can gel with the supporting cast, I think the divisional battles with Colts could be must-see TV for a long time. I would expect his rushing numbers to be a little stouter early in his career, then taper off further down the line.
The one you see the most is San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick. While that certainly is a reasonable comparison to make, I’m going to take you old school. From the first time I laid eyes on Marcus Mariota, I immediately thought of Randall Cunningham – both glide across the field, both have strong arms and a lithe frame. It’s not hard to imagine the Titans offense reminding folks of that old Minnesota offense Cunningham controlled that featured Randy Moss and Cris Carter.
Rookie draft advice
Depending on your league, Mariota is being taken anywhere from the end of the first round to the middle of the second. His current ADP is No. 15 overall, putting him firmly in that range. Jameis Winston’s ADP is No. 12 overall making him the first quarterback off the board in many leagues, but their position is close enough together that if your preference is Mariota, you can pull the trigger with confidence. If he drops below the 2.06 in a 12-team league, I would seriously consider picking him up, even if you don’t need another quarterback. The value will simply be too good there.
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