NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Marcus Mariota put up ridiculous numbers at Oregon. Projecting him from the Ducks’ read-option offense into a more pro-style scheme in the NFL was the big challenge for scouts preparing for the draft.
The Tennessee Titans concluded his skills will translate, and they spent the No. 2 pick on him.
As we await a glimpse of him at Titans rookie camp on Friday, and his first (Organized Team Activities) practices with veterans, that are open to the media on May 27th, I’ve wondered who his current NFL comparisons are.
Offensive coach in the league: Cam Newton, but Mariota is more NFL ready than Newton was.
Matt Williamson, ESPN.com resident scout, who picked from a list that included Alex Smith, Randall Cunningham, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Steve Young: "Alex Smith is actually a good one, and Tennessee fans won’t want to hear that. But Smith is a plus athlete -- Mariota is a better athlete/runner/speed guy though). Neither one is particularly nifty in the open field in terms of highlight real runs, which is different from a guy like Randall Cunningham, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson or Steve Young. Mariota is more of a build-up speed guy, but he is certainly very fast and much faster than Smith. But Matt Waldman (of Footballguys) points this out and I didn’t realize it until Matt mentioned it, but Mariota is a structured QB. He isn’t an improv guy, even though he is very athletic. He runs the play as it is called, which is fine, but ... plays don’t always go to script and I don’t think he will ever be confused with a Brett Favre/Big Ben type in terms of being great late in the down. In that way, a conservative outlook to playing the position, he reminds me of Smith most on this list. Those other guys are more improv for sure, and Young is obviously way above all of them in terms of being a timing and rhythm passer ... but that took time for Young and that dude Bill Walsh sure helped with that as well.”
Greg Cosell of NFL Films: Miami’s Ryan Tannehill. "Based on skill sets and traits. I would say their arms are similar, both have good arms but not guns. I would say that they are both agile, mobile. Don’t forget last year Tannehill essentially played in Chip Kelley’s offense a good part of the time in Miami with Bill Lazor as the offensive coordinator. So you got to see Ryan Tannehill essentially turning that offense. And he was very effective when he ran read-option and running the football. I think traits-wise, they are similar.
Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated: Allows for the possibility Mariota could be the next Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees. Scouting reports of those two coming out of college were not vastly different that what we heard about Mariota.
Farrar also raises a great question about punching holes in a quarterback prospect based on his college resume.
"To cast aspersions on a quarterback's NFL-readiness based solely on his body of work in college showcases a complete lack of understanding of how quarterbacks develop. Brees gained a ton of arm strength when he got with an NFL conditioning program, as did Tom Brady. Rodgers was able to build up his body, learn the hard way about the toughest parts of playing quarterback in the NFL, and when he was ready, his progress showed."
We’ll be too quick to judge Mariota, who will need time to develop. And a big part of that development will be, unfortunately, about how he can handle that scrutiny and be patient at the same time.
He seems to have the sort of personality where the micro-examination won’t wear him down.