Marcus Mariota enters the NFL as one of the most unique quarterbacks in the history of college football. Mastering the high speed, high tempo, blitz attack offense at Oregon, Mariota has a skill set which is unlike anyone currently under center playing on Sundays. Comparisons are hard with Mariota, simply because there isn’t anyone like him, and after the Tennessee Titans took the Honolulu native with the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft it is going to be exciting to see how he develops as a professional passer.
Graphic via usatoday
Mariota was only a three star prospect coming out of high school with most recruiting services. This was due to the level of competition he was facing on a weekly basis and the fact that Mariota was hidden from the mainland scouts playing out in paradise. Many see the Oregon offense at work and assume it is a run first system where the quarterback is more of an athlete than a passer. While this has been true in the past with the likes of Dennis Dixon starting under center for the Ducks, Mariota quickly proved to be just as adept passing and running the ball.
Mariota was stunning consistent running the ball in his three years as a starter with the Ducks. At 6’4” and 222 pounds, Mariota is both taller and thicker than most people expect and he runs with a mix of power, speed and elusiveness which is uncommon at any position, let alone quarterback. Mariota rushed for between 715 and 770 yards in each of his three years, but he pushed up his rushing touchdown total from 5 in 2012 to 15 in 2014. That shows that year after year Mariota became more comfortable with the system and what was expected of him, especially around the goal line.
As a passer Mariota is astonishingly accurate. While the Oregon system is designed to get mismatches for their faster and more athletic players, it also requires a high level of accuracy and impeccable timing on both the underneath and intermediate throws for the system to work. Mariota completed 67% of his passes in college, throwing for 10,796 yards with 105 touchdowns and a ridiculous 14 interceptions. At one point he had an interception-less streak which lasted over a year before Scooby Wright III of Arizona made one of the greatest picks of all time, on a tipped ball, to end Mariota’s perfection. At the end of the 2014 season Mariota was named as the Heisman Trophy winner for that season.
As a pro Mariota will have to rely more on his arm than his legs. There have been plenty of quarterbacks who have been found out as passers when asked to work out of the traditional NFL pocket, but Mariota has that proven accuracy which will set him apart if he can work on getting a feel for being a drop back passer. Mariota will be expected to extend plays within the Titans offense, giving his wideouts time to get open before firing strikes to them on the move.
Mariota has the ability to make Tennessee more dynamic from day one and the former college Consensus National Player of the year in 2014 has the potential to take the NFL by storm this fall.
Graphic via businessinsider