Marcus Mariota may have impressed scouts at the NFL Combine on Saturday, but one NFL executive cautions Metro that there is still work to be done for the former Heisman winner to become a Pro Bowl quarterback.
Coming out of a college offense at Oregon that looked nothing like a pro style set-up, Mariota may have a hard time replicating his big college numbers, at least at first. According to one NFL executive, the transition period for Mariota might well mean he's not ready to be an instant starter, even if he is likely thrust into a starting role much faster than that. Mariota is considered a consensus top 10 selection and could fall to the New York Jets at No. 6 or could be a trade option for the Philadelphia Eagles, a move that would reunite him with his college coach, Chip Kelly.
“He has operated in the shotgun virtually his entire career. He's operated in a lot of pre-snap reads, not a lot of post-snap reads. When he goes elsewhere with the football, it's in a scramble setting. He hasn't called a play in three years,” the executive told Metro last week. “In college he was taught he doesn't have to throw into that picture, it's too tight. In the NFL, they're going to have him make those throws to the opposite shoulder. The picture he is taught in college just isn't there in the NFL.
“He may prove to be a 10-year answer for somebody but there's going to be a period of adjustment unless he goes to the Eagles. All the other teams have to realize that they can build in some elements but there will be an incubation time here with him.”
The executive, who has a background in player personnel, gives Mariota a “first round grade” along with Jameis Winston, a player who seems to be currently consolidating his stock as the top pick in the NFL Draft. But there will be bumps along the way for both quarterbacks he cautions, and more so for Mariota.
One thing that sticks out for Mariota is that in Oregon's offense they run a high percentage of pre-snap reads, meaning that he knows before the ball is snapped where he is going with his pass. He also benefits from an offense where targets are always open and where the first-read is very often the easiest pass. It sounds eerily similar to Geno Smith two years ago, who came out of a pass-happy spread offense at West Virginia.
Through two NFL seasons with the Jets, Smith has yet to finish a year with more touchdowns than interceptions.
“He's going to have a first round grade, he's going to have an eventual starter grade. [But] can he become a Pro Bowler? I don't know that,” the executive said. “If you're desperate for a quarterback, there are some traits you feel good at working with. He's going to get picked somewhere along the way.”