Marcus Mariota's NFL draft stock is about to take off

Since the college football season ended, Jameis Winston has moved ahead of Marcus Mariota as the consensus No. 1 quarterback in the NFL Draft.

Winston blew teams away at the combine, and SI’s Peter King reported that 80% of NFL people think Winston is going first overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

As Winston has surged, Mariota has faced the inevitable backlash that top prospects face at this time of year. After examining his game tape, many scouts and draft commentators slapped him with the “not pro-ready” tag

But the NFL Draft cycle is long, and we’re already seeing signs that the narrative around Mariota is starting to turn.

In his Monday column, King said that Mariota’s stock is about to blow up and he can’t see him getting too far past the No. 2 pick at worst:

“I believe Mariota is going to get very attractive as the scouting process progresses in the next two months. If he’s not the number one pick, and if Tennessee is being honest in affirming often how much they like Zach Mettenberger and passes on Mariota, then the jockeying will begin to get him.”

After the combine, longtime NFL executive and current NFL Network commentator Gil Brandt said Mariota is a better long-term prospect than Winston. While it feels like Winston has all the momentum, some smart draft experts are still #TeamMariota.

The knock on Mariota is that he didn’t have to make many NFL-level reads and throws in college because he played in a up-tempo offence that’s fundamentally different from what he’ll play in professionally. The mini backlash that we’ve seen over the last few weeks is the result of people scrutinizing his game tape and concluding that he doesn’t have much experiencing running a pro-style offence.

The nitpicking over Mariota’s film hit some absurd levels. According to NFL Network’s Albert Breer, scouts even knocked him for not playing as well when he tore his MCL in 2013:

At this point, there are no more nits to pick when it comes to Mariota’s game film. The worst is over.

For the next two months, he can only improve his prospects in the eyes of scouts. He had a great NFL combine, by all accounts. The next big pre-draft event is his Pro Day — which he’s well-positioned to excel at because of all his physical tools.

He has the reputation as most clean-cut guys in the draft, to the point that people were wondering if his biggest problem is that he’s “too nice.” If that reputation it to be believed, he’s going to look even better when teams do their background research on him. 

Another thing working in his favour is that a bunch of NFL teams need quarterbacks, and this is one of the thinnest quarterback drafts in years. There’s a huge gap between Winston/Mariota and everyone else. If you want a quarterback in the draft this year, you better get one of those two guys. With the Buccaneers, Titans, Redskins, and Jets all drafting in the top-six, it’s hard to see Mariota staying on the board very long.

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