Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is the No. 1 prospect in the 2015 NFL Draft, according to draft experts.
It’s something of a rite of passage for top NFL prospects to take abuse from anonymous NFL scouts in the media in the months before the draft, and Mariota is no different.
In October, an unnamed NFL scout criticised Mariota in Sports Illustrated for a very strange reason: he’s “too nice.”
But as NFL personnel study him harder, they wonder whether the quiet-natured Mariota, who is from Hawaii, is too meek to lead an NFL team.
“Like if you punched him in the stomach, he might apologise to you,” an NFL scout said. “I just don’t know if he’s that alpha male that you’re looking for. This kid’s a kind of fly on the wall kind of guy.
“Physically, he’s really talented, but it’s going to take a little time. If you’re expecting him to come in and be your saviour Year 1, I don’t think that’s going to be it.”
If the worst thing an NFL scout can say about you is you’re “too nice,” it’s probably a good sign that you do a lot of things well.
In fact, Mariota’s teammates and coaches think his relentless kindness is actually an asset, not a weakness.
Oregon center Hroniss Grasu told USA Today’s George Schroeder that Mariota drives opponents crazy by never, ever getting rattled by big hits or trash talk. He almost taunts opponents by being so nice:
“They’re trying to rattle him, do a little late shot,” Oregon center Hroniss Grasu says. “I’m getting really upset, because I’m very protective of Marcus and I take it very personal. Marcus just pats him on the back, says ‘Good job,’ and ‘Keep coming.’
“The guy just gets even more mad. It’s awesome. When they see it didn’t faze Marcus, it gets them more upset.”
Schroeder floats the theory that Mariota’s “niceness” is all a strategy, “So here’s something to consider: What if being nice is part of the competition? What if, for example, in congratulating those opponents for trying to rattle him, there’s at least a smidgen of an ulterior motive?”
Mariota isn’t the first high-profile athlete to take criticism for his lack of a classically defined “killer instinct.” LeBron James, perhaps the most dominant athlete on the planet, was ripped for years for basically not being Michael Jordan when it came to things like trash talk. In 2013 Kobe Bryant said that whenever he tries to rattle LeBron by talking trash, LeBron just laughs in his face.
It sounds like Mariota is doing the same thing.
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