Marcus Mariota is set to show off his throwing arm at the NFL draft combine, and there are at least a couple of reasons why the projected top-six pick might bother doing that. One would be to reassure teams that his injured throwing shoulder is healed, and another is to reassure teams that he can complete the type of pass plays he wasn’t asked to do much of in college.
That skepticism about whether Mariota can easily make the transition from Oregon’s spread offense to a pro-style attack is just about the only thing keeping him from being a shoo-in to go No. 1 overall. The Heisman Trophy winner has elite athleticism and, by all accounts, impeccable character traits — something that can’t be said about Jameis Winston, his main competitor for top-quarterback status.
However, there is one NFL team for which Mariota’s current skill set appears to be a perfect fit right away, and that’s the Eagles. Not only does Philadelphia Coach Chip Kelly run a spread offense, he brought that offense with him from Oregon, where he coached Mariota during the quarterback’s impressive freshman season.
Kelly has led the Eagles to consecutive 10-win seasons, along the way getting a remarkable 2013 campaign from Nick Foles and milking serviceable play from Mark Sanchez last year, but no one sees those two quarterbacks as anything close to perfect fits for Kelly’s offense. Mariota, on the the other hand, may as well be nicknamed “The Glove.”
There’s just one problem: The Eagles have the 20th pick in the draft, and Mariota is expected to be long gone by then. Will they make a huge move to go up in the draft and get the Oregon star? At least one Philadelphia beat reporter believes that to be the case.
“I think if Marcus Mariota’s available, Chip will do whatever it takes to get him,” Jeff McLane, who covers the Eagles for The Philadelphia Inquirer, told Philly radio station 97.5 FM on Wednesday.
“I don’t think it’s any secret that Chip Kelly loves Mariota. He’s equated him to Peyton Manning, for pete’s sake,” McLane said. “But what we don’t know is if he thinks Marcus is worth probably what it’s going to take to get him.
“They’re going to make a real strong effort to go up and get him. I don’t see any other way around it, unless I’m completely missing something here.”
The last time a team made an aggressive move toward the top of the NFL draft to get a quarterback came in 2012, when the Redskins paid a very steep price to put themselves in position to select Robert Griffin III. The team gave the Rams three first-round picks, plus a second-rounder, in order to get into that draft’s No. 2 slot (the Colts took quarterback Andrew Luck at No. 1).
If the Buccaneers, who have the top pick this year, confirm speculation and opt for the pocket-passing Winston at No. 1, it could set up a scenario similar to 2012. The Titans, currently at No. 2, could pick Mariota, or they may decide to give Zach Mettenberger a longer look, while the next three teams (Jaguars, Raiders and Redskins) all appear unlikely to use their first-round picks on Mariota.
The Jets, at No. 6, have been widely rumored to be eager to find a replacement, or at least strong competition, for incumbent quarterback Geno Smith, so the Eagles might have to get in front of them. But a beat writer for the Jets, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, suggested Tuesday that the team could turn its pick into a windfall by making a deal with the Eagles.
Mehta envisioned a scenario in which Kelly gave the Jets Foles, plus first- and second-round picks in 2015 and 2016, for New York’s No. 6 pick — assuming Mariota is still on the board. That might seem too be too high a price to pay, and Griffin might stand as a cautionary tale, but plenty of Redskins fans thought RGIII was worth it during his magical rookie season, before he began getting injured.
Of course, Kelly could make a similar trade with one of the teams ahead of the Jets, as well, or simply stand pat. But even if the Eagles don’t ultimately move up from their 20th spot, it’s hard to imagine that it would be for a lack of trying to reunite Mariota with the coach who first got the best out of him in college.
(H/T Fox Sports)