27 Apr 2015 NFL Draft Preview: Quartback
Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, and everyone else
Written by Dave Eads>
Quarterback is the most important position in sports. No other single position in any sport is as impactful on a team’s success than quarterback. Of course, the easiest way to get your guy is through the draft. After a slightly lackluster class last year, this year seems to have a good deal of talent. Leading into the draft, and really the entire college season, there have been two major pro QB prospects on the radar: Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.
Top Two QB Picks
Famous Jameis, the youngest Heisman winner ever, led a loaded FSU squad and lost only one game his entire career. He has every physical and football-intellectual tool you could want; he is a primo specimen, one of the best QB prospects of this millennium. On the other hand, he’s a dumbass. To be fair, so are most 19 year olds. That said, the concern is understandable. He’s got a lot of personal money on the line and a team will have to invest a lot of money in him and, particularly with the current focus on players’ off–the-field lives, his dumbassery matters.
On the opposite end of the spectrum we have Marcus Mariota. He is a choir boy off the field; in fact, so much so that some have questioned if he’s too mild mannered to be successful. On the field, he has supreme athleticism but he played his career in an up-tempo, spread offense that focused on short, quick throws. Most NFL teams are generally averse to taking a guy who lined up exclusively in shotgun and doesn’t have much experience throwing deep. NFL scouts tend to be averse to system guys in general, as the defenders in the NFL are just too fast for most of that gimmicky stuff to work.
Jameis will be the number one overall pick. Part of that will be that Tampa will like drafting the local hero to be their savior, but he’s also the better prospect. What will be most interesting will be to see when Mariota goes and which other QB’s go early. For most of the lead up to the draft, most mock drafts have had Marcus going in the mid-first, but more recently he’s been shooting up and now, the consensus is that he is taken number 2 by Tennessee. It makes sense to me that Mariota is rising – first, he’s an athletic freak; this means his pro day and combine workouts have been staggering (4.52 40, 36” vert and 121” broad jump at combine compared to 4.97/28.5/103 for Jameis). Secondly, and this is the thing that I never quite get about these mock drafts, QBs go WAY higher than their talent would otherwise suggest, especially in 2015.
As far as Marcus, going second to Tennessee isn’t a given. They have a conservative owner and they have a QB prospect on the team they like and that has shown flashes of ability (though certainly not enough to discourage drafting a slam-dunk if they think there is one). Further complicating Mariota to the Titans is Leonard Williams. Leonard is a D-Tackle out of USC and he is unquestionably one of the most fearsome D-Line prospects in recent memory. I think the Tennessee pick will come down to those two. In all honesty, I think they want to trade down as neither D-Line nor QB is the most pressing issue on the squad, but the price of moving up to 2 will be steep for another team, and probably too steep in the end.
If we see the top two QB prospects go in the first 2 picks (my prediction), what other QB’s have a shot at going in the first or second and are they any good? After Winston and Mariota there is a group of four mid-level QB prospects. No mock I have seen has any of them going in the first and most scouting services have them in the mid-to-low 70’s (versus high 90’s for Jameis and mid 90’s for Marcus). For two reasons, I think at least 4 Qb’s go in the top 2 rounds.
The 4 middling prospects are Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Brett Hundley from UCLA, Garret Grayson out of Colorado State, and Sean Mannion from Oregon State. Bryce petty has good size, mobility, and arm, but growing up in the Baylor program has pegged him as a system guy and he really doesn’t possess the basic mental fundamentals to succeed in the NFL, at least right away. Hundley is big, fast, strong, with a huge arm, and great college production in a pro-style system. After last season, he was projected as a high first round pick. The problem is that Hundley just doesn’t feel like a natural quarterback. He has had to constantly adjust and train his natural throwing motion and he does not have great pocket awareness. Once teams got a year of scouting on the guy, his rejiggered throwing motion (and minus accuracy) submarined his draft stock this season. Mannion is big – 6’5” and a half, 230. He’s a little lumbering being so tall but he’s got a big arm, despite a slower-than-I’d-like release. Then there’s CSU’s Garret Grayson, a good size guy with solid mobility and an adequate arm whose NFL stock has been hindered by a lack of good skill players or competition during his college career.
Among those four, Hundley and Petty are clearly the one’s I believe in more. I think that Hundley can go anywhere from the mid-first into the second round. Teams that could draft him in the first are Houston at 16, Cleveland at 19, and Arizona at 24. If he drops to the second, there are a bunch of teams in the front half of the draft that need a QB and couldn’t nab Mariota or Jameis. I think that if Hundley goes to the right team, he could turn into a star. I am less optimistic about Petty. I think he’s a less polished Blaine Gabbert. Regardless, the draft is about hope and no pick gives more hope than a new quarterback. And while this QB class is not tremendously deep, there should be plenty of hope to go around.