Played in a college system, not a pro-style offense
Can look to run too quickly when his first read is covered
Must improve footwork
Fumbles the ball regularly
Will need practice working under center
Could use more beef on his frame to help durability
Summary: There is no doubt that the Heisman Trophy winner is an outstanding college quarterback and a top prospect for the NFL. Mariota will be drafted early in the 2015 NFL Draft, and some team will look to him to be its difference-maker quarterback who can be the face of the franchise.
Mariota was a dominant point-machine throughout his time as Oregon's starting quarterback. In 2012 as a first-year starter and redshirt freshman, Mariota completed 69 percent of his passes for 2,677 yards with 32 touchdowns and six interceptions. He completed 64 percent of his passes in 2013 for 3,665 yards with 31 touchdowns and four interceptions. On the ground, the redshirt sophomore ran for 715 yards with nine scores.
In 2014, the junior led Oregon to a conference championship, a win over Florida State in the playoff, and came up short against Ohio State in the National Championship. Mariota completed 68 percent of his passes on the year for 4,454 yards with 42 touchdowns and four interceptions. On the ground, he totaled for 770 yards (5.7 average) with 15 touchdowns.
Mariota had a number of great performances in 2014, including the Pac-12 Championship victory over Arizona. He also impressed against UCLA, Washington, Stanford and Michigan State. In the Ducks' mid-season loss to Arizona, Mariota had opportunities for big plays, yet missed a number of throws with poor accuracy and ball placement.
Therein lies the concern with Mariota as a system quarterback. He has good height and the strong arm to be a pocket passer, but he isn't consistent yet. Mariota didn't always scan through the field as a Duck, and there were times where he looked to run when his first read was covered. Mariota also missed some throws with placement that was off and didn't consistently fire the ball into tight windows as Oregon's offensive scheme led to a lot of wide-open receivers. That will have to change in the NFL as he will have to get better at pulling the trigger with accurate passes into a small opening. There were plays where Mariota demonstrated nice pocket-passing potential with reading the defense, scanning his options and delivering a good pass. He just needs work and enters the NFL at a similar level to Cam Newton. Mariota was very good at avoiding interceptions in college, but displayed a tendency to fumble the ball.
There is no doubt that Mariota has great physical tools, including a strong arm, size and excellent mobility. He can make big plays with his feet in terms of taking off and running, or just avoiding sacks to buy time. Mariota also throws well on the run. He will have to learn how to work under center for the NFL.
Sources across the NFL love Mariota off the field. He is said to be extremely hard working with a great attitude and is an exceptional teammate. Some reports have said that there are some who feel he isn't enough of a vocal leader, but none of our sources have said they view that as a concern.
Mariota was excellent at the Combine. His great athletic skill set was on display with a fast 40 time of 4.52 seconds. He also threw the ball well and displayed a strong arm.
WalterFootball.com knows some general managers who are skeptical of Mariota as a passer and his developing into a passer who can function out of the pocket. However, even those skeptics say that Mariota is tremendous off the field and love his humility. Across the NFL, some team officials who aren't completely sold on Mariota feel he is worth developing and could turn into a great player. They say that Mariota has great upside.
A number of teams told WalterFootball.com that Mariota won't slide in the NFL draft like Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel did last year. A variety of teams have told WalterFootball.com that Mariota has graded out higher than Blake Bortles did a year ago. A few teams said it wasn't even close as Mariota was hands down a better prospect than Bortles.
Mariota will be drafted in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, and he is a worthy pick to become a potential special quarterback. However, Mariota needs development, so it may not benefit him to start immediately. There is nothing wrong with that as a number of great quarterbacks were backups for a year or more to begin their careers. Aaron Rodgers, Carson Palmer, Steve McNair and other good signal-callers benefitted from developing as backups before taking the starting job. Mariota could go that route if his team is patient with his growth.
Player Comparison: Colin Kaepernick. This is the obvious comparison, but Mariota's game resembles Kaepernick's. Both are extremely athletic with strong arms and great mobility. Each signal-caller can tear up a defense on the ground or through the air. They also both left college as system quarterbacks in need of refinement in terms of their the ability to thrive out of the pocket. Kaepernick still is working at that in the NFL, and Mariota could need some time for development before he's ready to start. While Kaepernick was a second-rounder, Mariota will be a high first-round pick.
NFL Matches: Tampa Bay, Tennessee, New York Jets, Chicago, St. Louis, Houston, Philadelphia
There are a lot of teams that would be ecstatic to land a potential franchise quarterback like Mariota. It will be interesting to see if Mariota gets dinged in the lead up to the 2015 NFL Draft and has a fall like other quarterbacks in past years (Teddy Bridgewater, Aaron Rodgers).
At the top of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Buccaneers, Titans and Jets all are in dire need of a franchise quarterback. Bucs head coach Lovie Smith and the Glazers also want high-character individuals. Tampa Bay may decide to go with the safer character pick in Mariota over Jameis Winston after off-the-field issues played a role in Josh Freeman being a bust. The Bucs have a good young receiver (Mike Evans) and tight end (Austin Seferian-Jenkins), but would need to build an offensive line for Mariota.
Tennessee would be a great landing spot for Mariota. He has a proven offensive quarterbacks coach in Ken Whisenhunt to develop him, with some young talent at wide receiver, running back and on the offensive line. The Titans would be a great organization for Mariota to land with.
The Jets would be a fine fit. The organization is desperate for a franchise quarterback. The Bears could be in play for Mariota if they get rid of Jay Cutler and are willing to put a package of picks together to move up.
The Rams and Texans could both use Mariota. Both teams have strong rosters that are a quarterback short of being serious contenders for a Super Bowl run. Houston or St. Louis will probably inquire about what it would take to trade up for a quarterback, but the price will probably be too much to get either team to make the move.
Given Mariota's history with Chip Kelly there has been tons of speculation that Kelly will look to trade up in order to make Mariota an Eagle. With a package of picks and Nick Foles as a valued commodity, Philadelphia could maybe swing a deal to land Mariota. It would help the Eagles' chances of making it possible if Mariota falls outside of the top five. Moving into the top five would probably require a Robert Griffin III-type package, which could be more than the Eagles are willing to give.