Seriously? After all this time now he makes a change. Based on what? For those who are unaware, NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock made a major switch today in his big board rankings. He moved former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota ahead of his Florida State counterpart Jameis Winston. This may seem like no big deal on the surface because both players are still being evaluated but there seems to be no reason for the change. Mayock cited that the new rankings are being released with pro days being wrapped up but that doesn’t provide any answers either. Winston had a stellar pro day workout with only 11 incompletions on over 100 throws. Mariota on the other hand, threw only 7 incompletions but on only 65 throws. The numbers aren’t even what was concerning. The wide consensus following the workouts was that he had nailed it and Mariota was “underwhelming.”
With all of that said, I have no idea why Mariota would get the bump up to the number one positional spot for quarterbacks according to Mayock. He might just be one guy but he is a bit of a draft guru as NFL Network’s answer to Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. What he says usually holds some weight. Now this makes me wonder if Mayock knows something the rest of us don’t. Has he been talking to teams who feel that Winston hasn’t won them over? Whatever the case may be, it raises some concerns, even if they are minor, about Winston.
Another report appeared today, which should also shake some confidence in the Winston camp. Tampa Bay hosted Mariota for a private workout earlier and Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dick Koetter called the workout “outstanding.” They raved about his footwork, athleticism and speed. The workout also came from the Bucs, not from Mariota. All of these signs definitely point to a boost in Mariota’s draft stock. After being considered the lock as the top pick for so long, Winston’s move down comes as almost a shock for fans.
However, I think this might be part of the learning experience from last year. Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had a very tough pro day last year and that led to him dropping all the way from the first projected overall pick down to being actually selected thirty-second overall. Bridgewater went on to be arguably the best rookie quarterback in the NFL last season. That mistake on many team’s part probably underlines why teams have not made as big a deal this year about Mariota’s lackluster pro day. It doesn’t mean a ton but these trends should be noted at the very least when it comes to projected who might be selected where.
To be honest, my assessment of the two is that Winston is more pro ready with a lower ceiling, while Mariota is a little rawer with a much higher ceiling. In the short term, Winston will be a much better pick. He will make a big difference for a team next season but he won’t improve a ton over his time in the league. He will likely become a steady, above average starter if he can work out some of his accuracy issues and ball security. Meanwhile, Mariota has the potential to be a game changer once he fully develops. He will take at least one season to get comfortable in a true pro system but he has enough talent that he could become an elite quarterback if he gets the right coaching and stays healthy. His concerns will be more just grasping the offense gameplan.
If I had to pick though, I think I would go with Mariota. He projects better in the long term and he definitely has shown more maturity off the field. He has demonstrated his ability to buy into a system and he definitely a player that I would feel comfortable leading my team for the next 15 years.