Strap yourself in, Eagles fans. The roller coaster goes full throttle this week.
Millions of words have been printed and billions of gallons of hot air spewed analyzing whether Chip Kelly will be able to draft Marcus Mariota, his star pupil from Oregon. On Thursday evening, we’ll know.
Clearly, it’s the outcome Eagle fans crave. We haven’t been this starry-eyed about a potential pick since Ricky Williams in 1999.
And I get it. Few of us really believe that Sam Bradford is the long-term answer at quarterback. I’m not even sure he’s the short-term answer. I recently bet a friend that the QB who starts the most games for the Eagles in 2015 will be . . . Mark Sanchez.
While I think too many around here have falsely elevated Mariota to Andrew Luck status, I’d love to see Kelly get him. Every NFL coach deserves the QB he wants, and no one is more comfortable running this system than Mariota.
But I just don’t see it happening. Moving from pick 20 to the top of the draft is daunting. Doing it when there are teams with the same intent that pick higher than you (hello, San Diego), makes it virtually impossible.
So what’s going to happen? Here’s my shot-in-the-dark prediction. In fact, I do believe the Eagles will trade up. Except . . .
Except I expect Tampa Bay will surprise everyone by taking Mariota with the top pick of the draft, bypassing Florida State QB Jameis Winston. While every mousse-haired draft analyst has Winston going first, we’ve heard virtually nothing indicating that from the Bucs.
I read an article last week where Milwaukee Sentinel NFL reporter Bob McGinn surveyed 19 NFL personnel execs and found that most prefer Mariota to Winston. Nine of the 19 predicted stardom for Mariota, just six said the same for Winston. And, while only one forecast Mariota as a disappointment or bust, eight took Winston down that JaMarcus Russell road to ruin.
I’m not sure where Lovie Smith registered on that survey. But my hunch is the Bucs coach grabs Mariota and saves himself the headaches.
Which means, for Eagles fans, the drama will be over by about 8:15. What happens then?
Predicting what Chip will do is like predicting which way squirrels will run in traffic. But I’ll give it a shot. Kelly spoke recently about last year’s draft – in which the Eagles missed on players they targeted and wound up trading down. He suggested that he has no reluctance about moving up, if the price is right.
Everyone assumed he was talking about Mariota. But I see another possibility. I’ve seen dozens of mock drafts, and most have Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes going between picks 11 and 18. If, in fact, Waynes moves into affordable territory – say, pick 13 – watch for Kelly to trade up and grab a talented prospect to solidify his secondary.
It’s not as sexy as Mariota, but it is more realistic. And, hey, you could learn to love the guy.