With the NFL Combine having come and gone, it is time for this year’s Armchair Scouting Reports series. If you liked the reports from last year, then you’ll definitely like the improvements being made this year. For 2015, I will break down various offensive prospects from multiple angles, giving you the perspective through film, statistics, and measurables. And since I always have my eye towards fantasy, I’ll talk a little about what you can expect from these players for your rookie drafts as well. I’m hoping to complete reports for as many prospects as possible before the NFL Draft at the end of April. Let’s get started!
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
What the Film Shows
What makes Mariota a tough evaluation on film is the offense in which he played while leading the Ducks. He does not play many “pro-style” snaps, as Oregon runs almost exclusively from the gun. As a result, we do not see Mariota asked to make many “NFL throws” in tight windows or outside the numbers. It is evident that he possesses a good arm, not great. His release is compact and he keeps a good wide base, allowing him to have a quick trigger. Mariota’s mechanics can become sloppy at times as he tends to drift in the pocket. That along with occasional jumpiness produce inaccuracies with his passes. Oregon ran an offense that allowed for Mariota’s first option to be open very often, particularly on screens and bubbles. Past that, he can be a step slow through his progressions.
With his legs, Mariota will be a clear threat at the next level. He can attack running lanes, and teams will have to account for him whether it be on broken plays or designed runs. Mariota looks to pass first on the run, keeping his eyes up through the entirety of the play. However, his accuracy while on the move is inconsistent, and will have to improve in order for teams to take better advantage of his mobility.
What His Numbers Say
It doesn’t take much surveying to see that Mariota has amazing numbers. You don’t win a Heisman award by just showing up, after all. However, the two things I like the best about his statistics are the high adjusted yards per attempts (AY/A) and excellent TD/INT ratio. A 10.5 AY/A would be terrific for a single season, let alone a career, and Mariota’s 7.5/1 career TD/INT ratio paints a picture of an accurate quarterback. Of course, we must take most of his gaudy statistics with a grain of salt due to the inflation that is undoubtedly caused from the Oregon system. It is, however, important to note that the last three starting quarterbacks for Oregon, Darron Thomas (8.8 A/YA, 3.88/1 TD/INT ratio), Jeremiah Masoli (7.3, 2.55/1), and Dennis Dixon (7.1, 1.81/1) put up numbers that are nowhere near as boisterous as what Mariota has done as a Duck. It appears that by any measure, he has had an elite statistical college career.
What His Measurables Reflect
Mariota displayed elite athletic traits at the combine, especially for a quarterback. He was a top performer in all of the drills he participated in, clocking the 3rd best 40 time at his position for the last 5 years. Mariota’s agility score (3 cone + shuttle) of 10.98 is better than most RUNNING BACKS, emphasizing his talent as a runner. Overall, his athleticism that makes him an appealing prospect from both a real life and fantasy perspective.
Player Comparison: Russell Wilson
I think it would behoove me here to lead with what makes the two players different before why I think they are similar. Russell had eons more experience in a pro-style offense (he actually mastered two different ones) before making it to the NFL. Mariota, on the other hand, has not called a play in a huddle since he was in high school. The Duck is also much taller than Wilson, though I would argue that was offset by Wilson’s massive hands. For these reasons, I would liken Mariota more to a hybrid of Russell and his NFC West counterpart, Colin Kaepernick.
The similarities between the players are what would appeal to me if I were a team with a high first round pick in this year’s draft. Both players are quiet, intelligent leaders who put up terrific efficiency numbers. Mariota’s penchant to roll out with his eyes up in a dual threat position is exactly what Seattle does with Wilson, and I think teams will gravitate to using him similarly.
Ideal Landing Spot: Eagles
This is an absolute no brainer. The best player to ever run the Oregon offense coming to Philly to run Oregon, Pro Edition for his old head coach. This would reduce Mariota’s learning curve dramatically and make him a potential day 1 impact player. As an aside, I think just how aggressively Chip pursues his former quarterback will say a lot about him as a prospect.
Current Rookie Draft Projection (Fantasy): Late 1st – Early 2nd
Even if Mariota is not the first quarterback taken in the NFL Draft (and all indications are that he will not be), he should be the first off the board in rookie drafts due to his ability as a runner. That being said, due to positional depth, I can’t see him going any earlier than the late first round unless he ends up with Philly and someone is willing to overpay.
Overall, I would put a very high grade on Mariota as a prospect. He shows enough evidence on film that he has the tools to be a proficient passer and is very clearly already a developed runner. With athletic traits that are elite, it is possible that Mariota is able to accomplish what Colin Kaepernick has not been able to so far in his career: efficient passing to match dynamic running ability. Considering the current rookie wage scale, I think his talents are well worth betting on. I will consider Tennessee to be very foolish to pass on him with the second pick, but am intrigued (and repulsed as a Giants fan) by the notion of him with the Eagles.