It’s become quite clear that Jameis Winston is going to be selected first overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The logic behind that pick is fairly straightforward. He is the most talented quarterback in the draft. He’s also quite intelligent, but he’s shown a propensity for doing incredibly stupid things off the field. Hey, Richard Nixon was a bright guy too. Winston has been subject to comparisons with JaMarcus Russell, albeit some of those are perhaps based on aesthetics. In purely football terms I’m concerned about his lack of leg strength and willingness to take huge risks. In the NFL that is going to lead to an excessive number of interceptions until he fixes some of the flaws in game. I’m not privy to all the data NFL teams have on him, but my prediction is that Winston is going to disappoint the Buccaneers and this pick will eventually lead to regime change.
The leads us to Marcus Mariota. There was a lot of speculation as to whether or not the Jets should draft him if he fell to them with the sixth pick. That speculation pissed me off to no end because I thought it was an absurd scenario. The real question with Mariota is whether he goes second to Tennessee, or if the pick gets traded. If I had to wager, I’d say Tennessee doesn’t get the offer they are looking for and select Mariota.
I should probably explain why I rate Mariota lower than Winston. Physically Mariota’s frame looks slight and there are legitimate concerns as to whether or not he’ll be able to stay healthy after taking significant punishment. However, NFL rules have evolved to protect quarterbacks and my guess is that trend will continue. There are also concerns about whether Mariota has the physical tools to run a traditional NFL offense. Before I get into that, let’s look at what Chip Kelly has accomplished with the Eagles. He’s taken chicken by-products and made an excellent chicken salad. Over the past two seasons the Eagles offense has been third and 13th in the DVOA rankings, which is impressive given the names Foles and Sanchez have played prominent roles. The key takeaway here is that the traditional NFL offense can evolve to be more like the offense Mariota ran at Oregon. The NFL has been known as a copycat league for decades (check out http://www.amazon.com/The-Games-That-Changed-Game/dp/0345517962). Mariota definitely has the skills to succeed in the NFL “his way”. Whether or not he’ll be able to adapt to the NFL and beat NFL defenses using traditional offensive schemes is a tougher question. Winston looks better prepared to do that. Still, if I had to choose between the two I’d take Mariota. Teddy Bridgewater fell in the draft because of concerns about his arm, and now most of the teams who passed would like a mulligan. Then again, there are potential naysayers:
I see Mariota going in the top 5, most likely at #2, and I would personally take him over Winston.
After that there is a pretty large drop to the 2nd tier of QB’s. I like Brett Hundley a little more than Garrett Grayson or Bryce Petty. It seems like Petty has received the most attention, but it’s Grayson that has broken into the first round in a few mock drafts. I just can’t see that. Grayson crumbled against the pass rush vs. Utah St. and is nowhere near ready to take on NFL defenses. Petty simply wasn’t as accurate as he should have been at Baylor (62.7%) given the system he was playing in. There is some defense in that the system was more vertical than horizontal, but even so, I don’t see him making the jump to the NFL all that easily. That leaves Hundley. Hundley isn’t close to being NFL ready, but of the three I see him as having the most upside. If he falls to the third round I’d like the long term value for a patient team
Then again, there are people who who are deeply skeptical of this entire quarterback class:
Particularly at the top:
I can’t tell you where all these quarterbacks will land, but ultimately I expect good things from Mariota and possibly Hundley. I am skeptical of the rest.
Also, there is this from excellent piece from Matt Waldman: