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Does Mariota Need a Championship to Validate Himself as the #1 Pick?


Being the first overall pick in the NFL draft is one of the highest accolades for any player. It says that you as a player are better than the other 223 players who will be selected and even better than the 3,500 who declare for the draft. But with this added fame comes a load of pressure. The first overall pick is expected to make an impact from the beginning. He has to handle the transition from college athlete to NFL star. This pick should have the ability to change the culture of an entire organization and steer it towards victory. Does Oregon Ducks junior quarterback Marcus Mariota need to win the college football championship game on Monday to lock himself in as the #1 overall pick?

The Player

When it comes to stats, Mariota is at the head of the pack. In his junior year Mariota has amassed 280 completions (15th in FBS) on 408 attempts (37th) to bring forth a 68.6% completion rate (5th). On top of his wonderful completion percentage, Mariota also has 4,121 yards passing (3rd) leading to 40 passing TDs (2nd) with only 3 interceptions. In today’s passing league it is imperative that a QB be accurate and make smart decisions with the football. With only 3 interceptions this season it is evident that Mariota is not turnover prone, which can make a difference between a win and a loss. Marcus can also make a difference with his legs, with which he has accumulated 731 yards on 125 rushing attempts, including 15 rushing TD’s. As a dual threat it is evident that Mariota has the measurables to be classified as a #1 overall pick.

Mariota’s stats are not his only traits that make him a candidate for the #1 pick. Mariota is a mature player off the field (something his counterpart Jameis Winston is not). The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner is also 6’4 and 219 lbs, having bulked up after his freshman year. This gives him prototypical QB size, which is another factor scout’s take into account when deciding who to pick. Mariota has drawn comparisons as a taller Russell Wilson, a successful NFL QB who has a Super Bowl championship under his belt.

Mariota has the ability to give the Ducks something they have never gotten—a championship…”

The System

One major concern with Marcus Mariota is the offensive system that he plays in at Oregon. It is a spread-offense that is based on utilizing matchups. Although this style and pace of play can be beneficial for stats it fails to show whether Mariota has what it takes to play in a more traditional pro-style offense. Many offenses in the NFL focus on anticipation and throwing to a spot, which is something Mariota has never had to do at Oregon. While that is something that can be taught, people have to wonder whether the Bucs want to take a chance and draft someone that needs to adapt rather than Jameis Winston, who excels in the pro-style offense. Mariota also misses a high amount of throws for someone who does not have to rely on anticipation or spot throwing, which is another bad sign to scouts. In terms of being a more NFL ready QB, Jameis Winston has the edge, making a case as to why Mariota should not go first overall.

Marcus Mariota played in a spread offense at Oregon

Marcus Mariota played in a spread offense at Oregon

The Pick

The fact of the matter is that the Bucs are in the best position regardless of who they decide to pick. In the last 5 years 3 teams with the first overall pick have taken the best QB off the board and it has proven rather successful for those teams (DET: Stafford, CAR: Newton, IND: Luck). The Bucs have the opportunity to pick between two QBs who can change their organization in their own respective ways.

In regards to Mariota, I believe that if he helps lead Oregon to their first national title he will solidify his spot as the #1 pick in the upcoming draft. Ignoring his Hall of Fame level stats, or his questionable adaptation to a pro-style offense rather than the spread, a victory for Mariota and the Ducks will show that he has that inner drive to win it all. Mariota has the ability to give the Ducks something they have never gotten—a championship—something the Buccaneers organization could use right now. With Tampa Bay’s recent signing of OC Dirk Koetter it is obvious that TB will stick to the pro-style offense rather than adapt to what Mariota is used to. Although Winston would be the safer pick (in regards to on field play) I think the Bucs would rather pick Mariota, who even as a project gives them the best chance to win.

  • I think Mariota *had* to win last week’s game against FSU, but the championship won’t affect his draft stock one way or the other in my opinion. Unless he bombs at his pro day or has some unexpected off-field issue come up, I think he’s the franchise QB teams are looking for.

    I think my rationale for going with Mariota over Winston differs from you a little bit, though part of your argument touches on it. I think with your first round pick, you have to at least hit on a solid contributor to your team. Sure, at first overall you’re expecting a stud, but the key to the game is not whiffing on that pick. Given the off-field stuff with Jameis Winston, you have a guy with a high ceiling, sure, but also the potential to be a bust. Mariota has a much higher floor (Kaepernick) with the same high ceiling (Wilson).

    I’m not concerned about the spread offense, especially since Chip Kelly showed it can work. And when you’ve got 3 guys standing 6’4″ and up to catch the ball, does pinpoint accuracy really matter as much? The Mariota-to-Evans connection could be lethal.

    Unless TB decides there isn’t a difference between Mariota and Winston (and is able to convince Tennessee that they *have* to move up to get their guy), the (soon-to-be) former Duck is going to be migrating south to Florida.

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