Why I am Buying Marcus Mariota

Drew Osinchuk

I am buying Marcus Mariota and the Titans offense, and you should too. This will be my best attempt to sway you to my side. Here we go!

Marcus Mariota’s dynasty ADP looks a lot like Enron’s stock in the early 2000’s. The difference is I think Mariota’s stock is due for a big bounce back.

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Mariota was coming off the board criminally low as the QB28 per DLF August ADP. Surface level analysis would lead you to believe that is a fair assessment. People say a thing like: “he’s never even thrown for 3,500 yards in a season!” or “he only passed for 2,500 yards last year!” etc.

To be perfectly honest, those statements are absolutely true. I personally do not do evaluations based on counting stats and I would caution you not to either. Counting stats are a reflection of situation. When situations change, the player doesn’t. Buy good players, not good situations. Good players in bad situations are your best opportunity to buy in dynasty.

So why do I think this utter dud is a good player you ask? Let’s dive in.


Let’s start with the situation. Every player in the NFL requires volume in order to be a successful fantasy asset. The Titans had 437 pass attempts last year which was good for 31st in the league surpassing only the Seahawks offense, which had 427.

Here are the teams with the lowest pass attempts by season for the past five years:

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You will notice that the Titans would have been the lowest volume team by a decent margin every single year for the past five years with the exception of last year, when the Seahawks were even more reluctant to pass.

This is the type of extreme that we know regression will take care of. It is highly likely that the Titans have more pass attempts this year than last as they regress to the mean.

Since Mariota was drafted, 2018 was the lowest pass attempts the team has recorded in a given season

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Prior to 2018, the Titans had averaged 517 attempts per season, even in the “exotic smashmouth era”.


I think it’s very reasonable to expect that last season represented a low in pass attempts in part because of Mariota’s laundry list of injuries. Here is a list of the injuries that plagued him in 2018:

  1. Ulnar nerve issue in his throwing arm.
  2. Neck stinger
  3. Cracked Vertebra
  4. Significant tear of the plantar fascia that finally tore all the way in week 16
  5. Strained oblique
  6. Broken rib
  7. Sprained AC joint

This is substantially more than was reported in-season.

To be honest, I am amazed he played as many games as he did. It makes perfect sense that the coaching staff wouldn’t ask a quarterback playing through those injuries to drop back and pass very frequently.

Supporting Cast

It should also be noted that Mariota’s supporting cast was very #notgood last season. He lost his one of his top targets in week one when Delanie Walker went down with a season-ending injury. Mariota had targeted Walker at a rate of 22.9% in 2017. His loss can not go understated, as proven by his two TDs in week one of this season.

The secondary receivers on the team failed to step up and for some reason, the coaching staff were convinced that Dion Lewis deserved half the opportunity share out of the backfield for the first 12 games of the season instead of feeding their Zangief-like running back named Derrick Henry.

Luckily, Corey Davis progressed nicely in his second year securing a 26.4% target share and accounting for 29% of the team’s receiving yards. That was about the only saving grace among the supporting cast.

Last year, Mariota had a ‘supporting cast efficiency’ of -4.04, which was good for the 25th-best cast in the NFL.

Needless to say, Mariota and Davis were on an island together. This is not the making of a quality situation for a quarterback to succeed.

But if we take Mariota out of this environment and try to determine, “is Marcus Mariota good at throwing footballs in the NFL?” This requires us to look at per play efficiency as we know his counting stats will be far below his fellow quarterback brethren based on the volume he saw last year.


Yards per attempt is a very simple way to look at: “did he turn passing attempts into yards?”

If we airdrop Mariota into every other NFL team’s pass volume, given his yards per attempt, we can see what his passing yardage would look like and nobody would be complaining if he were a 4,000-yard passer.

  • If the Titans were #22 in pass attempts last year, he would have had 4,002 passing yards.
  • If they were league average in pass attempts, he would have had 4,246 passing yards.
  • If they were top of the league in pass attempts, he would have had 5,262 passing yards.

I am showing this just to get an appreciation for how much disparity there is between the pass attempts for teams at the top and bottom of the league.

More realistically, if we take his yards per attempt of 7.64 and the Titans average passing attempts for the first three years of his career, he would have passed for 7.64 Y/PA * 517 attempts = 3,950 passing yards. Once you combine that with his rushing production, we have a genuine top 12 fantasy quarterback candidate.

More Efficiency

Passing Air Conversion Ratio (PACR) is another metric that shines a light on Mariota’s 2018 performance. In the graph below (from Airyards.com), we can see that the green line is consistently above the yellow line. Mariota’s line is the green one and league average is the yellow one.

This means that at virtually every depth of target Mariota has a higher completion percentage than the average NFL quarterback.

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This is good news for Mariota truthers because not only does he complete more passes than most at nearly every depth, he was eighth in in air yards per attempt at 4.4 yards in 2017 and was 17th at 3.9 air yards per attempt in 2018. This is why unsubstantiated narratives frustrate me to no end. He clearly is not a “check-down Charlie” as many seem to think.

To further illustrate his efficiency, let’s take a look at some of his efficiency metrics in 2018.

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As you can see from this table, Mariota was league average to excellent in many efficiency metrics. There are three that I would like to highlight.

  1. True Completion % – This is calculated as “completion percentage factoring out unpressured throwaways and dropped passes.” Mariota was terrific in this regard, connecting at a top-five clip in the NFL.
  2. Deep Ball Completion % – A common point of contention regarding Mariota is his ability or willingness to throw deep. But when he did air it out, he connected at a fantastic rate. Then when you look at his league average air yards per attempt the criticisms don’t line up with the facts.
  3. Red Zone Completion % – This was a big Achilles heel for Mariota last season as he scored 32nd in the NFL in this manner. However, this appears to be a small sample trap. Since Mariota entered the league in 2015 His average over those 4 years was 57.33%. Some notables quarterbacks in this range:
    1. Matt Ryan – 58.70%
    2. Carson Wentz – 57.50%
    3. Deshaun Watson – 56.05%
    4. Ben Roethlisberger – 55.08%
    5. Aaron Rodgers – 54.98%

One more quick note on this: you might be saying, “sure, but deep ball completion % could be a small sample trap as well!” To ease your concerns, I have figured out his deep ball completion % since entering the NFL as well. Mariota has a 33.98% deep ball completion percentage.

Notable QBs in this range:

  1. Jared Goff – 33.53%
  2. Carson Wentz – 32.40%
  3. Patrick Mahomes – 32.30%
  4. Jameis Winston – 30.93%

In fact, when I looked at all 32 week one starting QBs, Mariota’s deep ball completion percentage is QB18 for the four years from 2015 to 2018.

Yet again, we see league-average efficiency. I think it’s safe to say the criticisms are unwarranted.

One last efficiency metric I would like to discuss is accuracy rating. This is defined as, “Grades the accuracy of each throw on a 1-4 scale. 1 representing the least accurate, and 4 representing the most accurate pass. Quarterbacks with accuracy ratings above 3.0 are considered highly accurate, and those below 2.0 are considered highly inaccurate.”

In 2018, Mariota recorded an accuracy rating of 3.0, eighth in the NFL.


As you can see, in 2018 Mariota was league average or better in nearly every respect on a per play basis. He was also completely shackled last year by being given embarrassingly low pass attempts. Once you look at his list of injuries two things jump out:

  1. He was wildly efficient given the injuries he was playing through.
  2. It is reasonable that the coaching staff tried to protect him by not asking him to drop back and throw as much.

I think we should expect his efficiency to hold as the supporting cast was upgraded at virtually every position:

WR1 Corey Davis is entering a year-three breakout
WR2 Adam Humphries > Taywan Taylor
WR3 AJ Brown > Tajae Sharpe
RB1 Derrick Henry in a feature role for the whole season (fingers crossed)
TE1 Delanie Walker returns from injury

If his efficiency holds, the only other question is volume and I think it’s safe to say that regression will take care of the problem. After week one, I feel confident buying Mariota in the here and now and you should too.