The college football playoff semifinal between Oregon and Florida State was billed as a match-up of the presumed top picks of this year’s NFL draft, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, and a lot of NFL teams that desperately need a quarterback were watching closely.
But there is one assumption that everybody is making, that if wrong, will turn the 2015 NFL draft into a complete nightmare for the teams with the top picks, especially those hoping to draft a quarterback.
Consider this: There is no guarantee both Winston and Mariota will be in the draft.
In fact, there are reasons to believe one or both will stay in college.
Winston is considered by many to be the more talented of the two quarterbacks. However, his off-field problems will likely cost him a shot at being the top pick.
As a redshirt sophomore, Winston still has two years of eligibility left and one more year in college would not only give him a chance to put some distance between himself and the off-field ugliness, but it would also give him a shot to show NFL teams that he has learned and matured.
Winston’s comments after the loss to Oregon certainly left open that possibility.
“I’m not focused on [the draft] at all,” Winston said after the loss to Oregon. “I’m looking forward to next season and playing baseball.”
The baseball comment is interesting because it indicates that Winston is not planning to be completely focused on preparing for NFL team workouts and the draft. It is also a huge risk since there is a chance he could get injured, especially if he plans to continue pitching.
Playing baseball makes more sense if he is indeed planning to play college football next year.
Mariota is a bit more of a long-shot to skip the draft, but as a junior, it is not impossible.
The biggest knock on Mariota is that Oregon’s uptempo offence is so good that it makes the game too easy for Mariota. He rarely has to do many things NFL quarterbacks must excel at, such as looking for the second or third option on a passing play.
The good news for NFL teams wanting Mariota now is that another year at Oregon is not going to change that and the sooner he gets into an NFL offence the better he will be.
However, the one thing that could keep Mariota in college one more season is his personality. Former NFL head coach Tony Dungy, whose son was a teammate of Mariota’s at Oregon, called the young quarterback “shy.” Dungy also indicated that Mariota’s personality could be a problem if he is drafted by a big-city team, “a market that eats you up like a New York or a Philadelphia.”
While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold the top pick, a team Dungy called “perfect” for Mariota, both the Eagles and the Jets could also use quarterbacks and will be tempted to trade up for the chance to draft the Heisman winner.
If Mariota can’t get assurances from the Bucs that they will keep the pick, he may decide to stay in his comfort zone one more year.
At one point, many assumed the 2014 NFL draft would be one of the best drafts ever for quarterbacks and then things changed. Now we have the 2015 draft and two quarterbacks many consider “can’t miss” and a bunch of teams drooling over a shot to draft them.
It may still happen, but don’t be surprised if things change again.
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