Morning Ram-blings: On Mariota returning

ST. LOUIS -- Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota announced Tuesday afternoon that he will return to Eugene for his junior season and make the NFL wait another year.

You might be wondering what, exactly, this has to do with the St. Louis Rams. Well, as we start steaming toward the 2014 NFL draft, more top college players will begin declaring their intentions. The Rams are extremely unlikely to use the type of pick that would have been required to draft Mariota, so his return doesn't damage them in that regard. But Mariota's return to Oregon could have an impact on how the Rams' draft plays out when it does finally arrive.

Our Todd McShay had Mariota ranked third overall and first among quarterbacks on his big boardInsider before Mariota announced his decision to return to school. Now, as we covered in yesterday's Redskins watch, the Rams are sitting on perhaps the No. 2 overall pick with the selection acquired from Washington in the Robert Griffin III trade. That's the sort of territory where Mariota likely would have gone. As we discussed in that same space, the Rams surely wouldn't mind spinning that pick into yet another package of picks from a team looking to move up.

Operating under that premise, there are two ways to look at this in terms of how it affects the Rams.

1. Mariota returning hurts the Rams because it removes a top quarterback prospect another team might have coveted. In today's NFL, teams are far more likely to move up in a trade because the cost isn't as great as it once was in terms of the rookie contract. But teams still covet quarterbacks above all. The more elite quarterbacks in the draft, the more wiggle room the Rams would have to make a move down. For example, if the Rams ended up with the third pick from Washington, let's say Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney went first and second. If Mariota were presumably next in line, the Rams could have extracted more value in return to move down or potentially created a bidding war. That doesn't mean some other player might not generate that type of return, only that removing Mariota from the mix takes away a player many teams viewed as a prospect of that level.

2. The other side of the coin would indicate that Mariota returning is a good thing, especially if the Rams end up with a pick in the top two or so because teams wouldn't be able to have as many contingencies. Many forget that in 2012, there were plenty of people who viewed Matt Barkley as part of a prized signal-caller trio that also included Griffin and Andrew Luck. While Luck and Griffin were clearly the top two, Barkley was widely regarded as a potential third piece there. Barkley returned to USC and ended up well out of the first round, but that's not the point. Had Barkley come out and actually been viewed as part of that group, the Rams might not have been able to get the return they did for Griffin. A team might have been OK settling for the next in line. In other words, the fewer elite players whom teams might covet in a trade the better, so long as you have a pick within the corresponding number of said players.

Of course, much of this is speculative, and it's unknown exactly how teams around the league viewed Mariota. But as we continue to look toward the draft, it's certainly noteworthy when a player ranked so highly by McShay and many others opts to stay in school.


A roundup of Tuesday's Rams stories appearing on ESPN.com. … After the Ram-blings, we dived into the draft with the aforementioned Redskins watch. … Next, we looked at the Rams' No. 20 ranking in this week's Power Rankings. … Film review took over after that, with a look at the offense and defense in this week's study session.


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