It is now nearly unanimous among NFL Draft experts: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota will be the second named called in the NFL Draft after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.
Just three weeks ago, the experts were singing a different tune, with eight out of 13 draft experts surveyed saying the Tennessee Titans would select USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams with the second pick .
A survey of those same experts now shows that 11 of the 12 who have updated their mock drafts in the last week now have Mariota going second overall.
But while the Titans own the second pick, the experts also agree the team that ultimately makes the pick is still up in the air.
Mel Kiper of ESPN: “Yes, it could be Tennessee, but it could be a handful of other teams if a deal gets done.”
Todd McShay of ESPN: “I believe a team will move up to take [Mariota] at No. 2.”
Don Banks of SI.com: “I still think that when the smoke clears this will be Mariota’s slot, whether it’s the Titans taking him or someone trading up for the Oregon product.”
Rob Rang of CBSSports.com: “Whether the Titans select Mariota or trade this pick to another team (sources suggest that the Jets, Bears, Rams, Browns, Chargers and Eagles all are in play), sources throughout the league expect the reigning Heisman Trophy winner to come off the board at No. 2”
Sal Paolantonio of ESPN added fuel to the fire on SportsCenter Wednesday morning, noting that the belief is that there are five teams still trying to move up to get Mariota and the biggest wild card may still be the Philadelphia Eagles:
“The conventional wisdom around the National Football League this morning is that [Chip Kelly] has one big move left and perhaps that move is to go from No. 20 to go high enough in the first round to take his former pupil at Oregon, quarterback Marcus Mariota. Even his closest friends think so. For example, Nick Aliotti, the defensive coordinator at Oregon under Chip Kelly, told the Phoenix ESPN radio station last night Chip is ‘still working’ on finding a way to get Marcus Mariota.”
A member of Mariota’s camp also told Paolantonio that they believe the Chargers and Eagles are “in competition” to move up to No. 2 to draft Mariota and that “three other teams in the mix,” including the Jets, Rams, and Browns.
At this point, a trade may indeed be inevitable. According to Jeff Darlington of the NFL Network, the Titans are actively trying to trade the pick.
Despite Titans’ praise of Mariota, 1 big reason this isn’t done: Titans aren’t just taking calls about a trade — they’re making calls, too.
— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) April 29, 2015
One issue complicating things for the Titans may be the desire to stay in the top-half of the first round. Darlington notes that the Titans want to be “inside top 16 or 17 picks” if they do make a trade.
This is supported by the widespread belief that there is not a lot of high-end talent in this year’s draft.
NFL insider Adam Caplan was a guest on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike” and reported that one general manager told him that his team had only 1 players on their board with first-round grades.
Obviously this makes things complicated for a team like the Eagles who only have one pick in the first round (No. 20) and none among the top 16 or 17. But as Paolantonio noted with a smile, if there is anything everybody knows about Kelly is that he is “unconventional and unpredictable.”