Oregon sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota has been one of the best players in college football since last fall, but now NFL scouts are starting to take notice.
Mariota is a dual-threat QB — an incredible athlete who’s ranked 1st in the country in yards per rush and 5th in the country in passer rating.
He’s the type of guy who would have been written off by NFL people as a “running quarterback” if this was 2002.
But with the relative success of non-traditional guys like Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, and Cam Newton, Mariota is a big-time NFL prospect.
He’s currently ranked 16th overall on the expert consensus list of prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft.
In his column this week, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King reported that at least two teams now have Mariota rated above Teddy Bridgewater — the Louisville quarterback who is widely considered the best offensive player in the draft.
So what makes Mariota so good?
In short, he’s big (6’4″), fast (4.5 40-yard dash), and has a strong enough arm to make all the throws you need to make in the NFL.
He out-runs entire defenses at times.
Former NFL scout Bucky Brooks broke down some film of Mariota, and came away with two big positives: His arm is legitimately strong, and he has good instincts in the pocket — something college guys notoriously struggle with.
He’s going to be hard to sack, even at the next level.
NFL Draft writer Rob Rang of CBS Sports wrote this week that Mariota is actually better than Colin Kaepernick was at this point in his college career in terms of pure fundamentals:
“Possessing a combination of agility, straight line speed and a rocket of a right arm, Mariota has earned comparisons from scouts to San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick. Frankly, the Oregon signal-caller is further along than Kaepernick was at a similar point in his collegiate career at Nevada.
“Unlike Kaepernick, whose baseball-like delivery played a role in his lasting until the second round, Mariota is technically sound. He has an efficient set-up, setting his feet quickly, keeping his shoulders square and delivering the ball with a tight, over-the-top release.”
The “running quarterback” bias in the NFL is dead and buried. So is the stigma associated with the type of up-tempo, spread offence that Oregon runs.
Mariota’s rise in the minds of draft experts is a testament to how much the NFL is changing.
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