It’s the question everybody’s asking: Will Marcus Mariota leave Oregon for the NFL draft after this season? As expected, nobody’s getting any answers.
The redshirt sophomore has catapulted himself beyond elite QB status and into the conversation of best collegiate signal caller. He’s progressed in every aspect of the game and never seems to be rattled. He embodies everything NFL scouts look for in a professional quarterback. He’s racked up 2,281 passing yards on just 225 attempts, with 20 touchdowns through eight games this season — all of them wins by at least three possessions. The most impressive stat for the Hawaii native is represented by an empty zero, which in this case is the best number possible. Mariota hasn’t thrown an interception this season, a number only two other qualified quarterbacks match, and they’ve attempted 129 passes combined.
With Mariota playing his best football for perhaps the best Oregon team in school history, here are pros and cons to him entering the 2014 NFL draft.
High draft stock:
Mariota is currently listed as the second-best draft prospect according to CBS Sports and will likely leapfrog Teddy Bridgewater if he wins the Heisman trophy, or better yet, a national championship. Mariota has a legitimate shot at achieving both feats and would likely be selected early in the first round regardless. There’s always that other factor — he would get paid.
There are at least six NFL teams with losing records that need to draft a quarterback. Mariota would have a chance to step in and help a team right away as the starter, continuing his progression without missing a beat. With teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings near the bottom of the standings and in desperate need of a quarterback, Mariota would have a good chance at being selected with a top-five pick.
Each of CBS Sports’ top-four quarterback prospects have at least another year of eligibility and are anything but a lock to forego the rest of their collegiate careers and go pro. If all four of them leave college, it could change Mariota’s draft position. But it also may not.
Potential for growth:
Although it may not seem like it, Mariota can get even better. He could set records, collect accolades, win championships and be a no-doubt number-one pick. He says he doesn’t care about individual achievements, but who wouldn’t want to be known as one of the best college quarterbacks of all time?
Injuries are always a part of the game, and next season could derail Mariota’s pursuit of a professional career if he were to get hurt. There are plenty of other things that can happen, too. Mark Helfrich and Scott Frost could both get better job offers and split, potentially changing the offensive layout entirely. The offensive line could have injury issues and deplete itself, leaving Mariota less protected and susceptible to turnovers and injuries. He could sell autographs to Johnny Manziel and get suspended indefinitely by the NCAA. Not likely, but hey, stranger things have happened.
Follow Madison Guernsey on Twitter @guernseymd