2015 NFL Draft: Jameis Winston vs Marcus Mariota




The perception of the quarterback class of the 2015 NFL Draft will largely come down to the performances of two players. University of Oregon product Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston will both try to be the torch bearer of this group, and both will vie to be the number one pick of the entire draft, though both may go inside the top five. Which one is the right pick? Which one will have the most success?


————————-Marcus Mariota————————-

Size: 6’4”, 215 lbs

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School: University of Oregon

Experience: 41 Games Played

Strengths: At a glance, Mariota looks like a star in the making. He has all the physical traits anyone can ask, starting with his athleticism. His speed and elusiveness make him a player that you have to account for in a number of ways. Teams will be forced to commit an extra defender to keep him from making huge plays with his feet, something he often does. In the mold of guys like Colin Kaepernick, he is a true dual-threat quarterback.

Speed isn’t Mariota’s only physical gift. He’s also blessed with a terrific arm that can make every throw. Combined with solid mechanics, a quick release, and the ability to maintain his velocity when on the move, he’s a true weapon. One advantage that he has over many other young quarterbacks is his mental acuity. He has a lot of the intangibles teams crave to go along with the physical gifts. He feels the rush, escaping pressure consistently, but keeps his eyes downfield when doing so, and in doing so, keeps every play alive.

One other factor that plays in Mariota’s favor is his maturity, both on and off the field. He is well respected and possesses the leadership skills of a much older player. His three years of playing experience help as well. He’s proven he can succeed over multiple seasons.

Weaknesses: The biggest knock on Mariota will be the questions about whether he can run an NFL offense. At Oregon, he played in a scheme where he was able to throw to open guys more often than not. He was also able to avoid the middle of the field, instead making a living with screens and quick out routes. When he did go over the middle, it was a hit or miss prospect, and he seemed much less confident. He’ll need to prove he can read an NFL defense, and not just make one read then abandon the pocket.


————————-Jameis Winston————————-

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Size: 6’4”, 227 lbs

School: Florida State University

Experience: 27 Games Played

Strengths: Winston also has the height necessary to see the field, but he has a more traditional NFL body in terms of size. At 230 lbs, he can absorb hits, and often bounces off of them. Defenders have a hard time getting him down, even when they get ahold of him. He can also move the ball with his feet, but it is more of a last resort than a first instinct. He will stand in the pocket and make every effort to find a receiver before running. Once he does run, he’s not blazing fast, but quick enough to get where he needs to go.

Winston’s arm is strong, and he can hit all the necessary throws. He does, unlike Mariota, work the entire field, including the middle, and has played in a more pro-style offense during his two seasons in Tallahassee. He has consistently made more NFL-type throws, scanning the field to find the open man, or throwing him open himself. This is a trait that most young passers have to learn. Winston, like his Oregon counterpart, can also put touch on the ball when necessary. Accuracy is also not an issue, and combined with his quick release, he’s ready to throw passes at the next level.

One underrated part of Winston’s game is his poise and leadership. There have been plenty of reasons for both he and his team to have been distracted, but he never let it show. The Seminoles, as defending national champions, found themselves in a battle every week, often behind seemingly every week, and Winston responded time and time again, keeping them undefeated and ultimately carrying them into the playoffs. He can be questioned about many things, but his heart isn’t one of them.

Weaknesses: The obvious issue with Winston is his off-field baggage. A team that drafts him will want to be sure he’s mature enough to have grown past some of the bad decisions he made in college. For him, interviews will be key in determining if he’s the overall number one pick, or suffers a huge drop.

In terms of on-field problems, the biggest for Winston is in his decision-making. He has no fear of utilizing the whole field, but he sometimes fails to recognize coverages, or misses underneath cover completely, making him prone to interceptions to linebackers in the NFL who pick up on this tendency. Whoever drafts him will need to do some fine-tuning.


————————-The Winner————————-

Both of these prospects have a lot going for them. They’re terrific college players, proven winners, and amazing athletes with more positives than negatives. In today’s NFL however, rookie quarterbacks seldom get a chance to sit and learn, instead being thrust into the starter’s spot out of necessity. Coaches are expected to win instantly, and prove that they drafted a franchise passer, so if they’re taken first, they will likely play early. Mariota has a high degree of skill, but is more likely to need to sit and learn how to run an NFL offense, having come from a simplified Oregon system. He has to learn to play from the pocket, and go through progressions to find an open receiver. Winston is more NFL-ready, with a more established pocket presence, and an ability to make use of the middle. If asked to start right away, he’s more likely to have some success, and therefore, Jameis Winston is the top quarterback in the 2015 NFL Draft class.


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