A standout group of wide receivers and an underwhelming running back core made waves at the NFL combine last week, but somehow everyone is talking about the quarterback battle.
The 2015 NFL draft is just around the corner, and as always there are a huge number of teams looking for a solid option at QB. Florida State’s Jameis Winston performed exceptionally at the combine last week, and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota performed at the same high level.
Winston has been described as the more pro-ready of the two due to the style of offense that Florida State runs, but Mariota is often referred to as a better long-term option thanks in part to a 105-14 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Over the last few years we have seen some booms and busts at the QB position, including the Robert Griffin-Andrew Luck draft class that perfectly illustrates how hard it is to pick the best player before they step onto an NFL field.
The first two picks in the draft are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tennessee Titans. Because both need a QB, it is possible Mariota and Winston could go No.’s 1 and 2, but in what order?
Your sports editors debate.
I believe that Jameis Winston should be the first quarterback taken. Winston has the prototypical size of an NFL quarterback, and has the arm strength to make up for the fact that he’s not the fastest athlete in the world.
More importantly, Winston ran a pro-style offense his entire collegiate career at Florida State, and performed very well, only losing once in 26 games as the starter.
In comparison, former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota runs an offense that only the Philadelphia Eagles use in the professional ranks, and is based off of quick passes, screens, and a strong running game. This type of offense allows a quarterback to put up strong numbers, as he is mostly accountable for getting rid of the football quickly and letting his playmakers break free from the defense.
I believe that is what allowed Mariota to put up the astonishing numbers he did in college, and is not a true reflection of how good he is as a player. In fact, I believe Mariota would only be successful in the Eagles’ offense, or if a team designed a similar playbook or scheme.
It is hard enough to adjust to becoming an NFL starting quarterback, but Mariota will have the odds stacked against him, as he will have to learn how to run a pro-style offense for the first time. On the other hand, Winston has much more experience with that type of play calling, and it should allow him to make a smoother transition to the NFL.
Overall, I believe that Winston would be the safest and best pick in both the short and long term. He has the ability to start an NFL game today, and be a team’s franchise quarterback. Mariota has too many unknown variables for a team to risk taking him as the first quarterback in the draft.
At first glance, Winston is more athletic, moves more naturally and is a flashier player. However as football fans have seen time and time again, the quarterback position in the NFL has nothing to do with flash.
Take a look at the last few flashy QB’s that have been drafted. Johnny Manziel has not produced whatsoever and has been criticized for his maturity, and Teddy Bridgewater still has not hit his stride after a year. RGIII has failed miserably so far after a decent start, and Tim Tebow was a one-season wonder. Cam Newton has found success, but has not lived up to the hype of a No. 1 overall pick.
Winston has been criticized for the same thing that many of these recent athletes receive flak for—a lack of maturity. I think that because he is over confident and answered all of the questions at the combine with a smile on his face means that he will be less trainable than Mariota. Several scouts criticized him because it looked like he thought he knew it all already.
Then there are the interceptions. Throughout Winston’s two years at Florida he threw 65 scores and ran in seven more. Unfortunately he also tossed 28 picks, including 18 this past season.
Mariota on the other hand has never thrown more than six interceptions in a season. His 105 scores through the air and 29 on the ground contradict his slower speed in the combine in comparison to Winston. Also, he totaled 14 picks throughout all three seasons he played.
Granted he had an extra year over Winston, but that’s a whole lot more scoring.
Then there’s the QB ratings; Winston loses that matchup as well with a mark of 163.3 to Mariota’s 171.8. Winston finished this past season with a 145.5 passer rating, so he has not improved over time.
Only time will tell which of the two will put up better career numbers, but I think Mariota will be more consistent. For that reason he should be the No. 1 QB in the draft.