The Titans have plenty of needs, and they'll have the chance to address at least one of them in the first round of May's 2015 NFL Draft. In the coming weeks, we'll be looking at the various first-round options the Titans can choose from, starting with Heisman-winning Oregon QB Marcus Mariota.
The Titans have lots of needs...but they can't go anywhere without a QB
Jake Locker has shown flashes, but his inability to stay on the field makes it impossible for the Titans to plan around him long-term. Charlie Whitehurst and Zach Mettenberger have been far from convincing. This team won't be able to contend without a player who can rally both the players and the franchise as a whole, and Mariota can be that player. His leadership skills have improved dramatically over the last season, and he can come in and command respect from day one.
You’ve heard of the guy he gets compared to most
Coaches, scouts and NFL executives generally bring up the same name when talking about Mariota’s closest NFL comparison…another Pac-12 product named Aaron Rodgers. While Mariota uses his feet a bit more often than Rodgers at the college level, he has the size, mobility and precision to emulate the former Cal star in the big leagues. This isn’t to say he’ll automatically be as good as Rodgers – far from it – but that comparison certainly can’t be a bad thing.
The Titans' skill players aren't bad...but they need someone to get them the ball
All things considered, the Titans actually have some decent pieces on offense. While they could certainly upgrade the backfield, guys like Bishop Sankey, Delanie Walker, Kendall Wright and Nate Washington all need a player who can bring out their best. Mariota can do that.
The curse of the Heisman-winning Quarterbacks
Here’s a list of NFL QBs to win the Heisman since 2003:
- Jason White (undrafted, no career starts)
- Matt Leinart (free agent, threw 15 career TDs and 21 INTs)
- Troy Smith (free agent, last played in the CFL after five unsuccessful NFL seasons)
- Tim Tebow (free agent, out of the NFL after 14 career starts)
- Sam Bradford (St. Louis Rams QB, torn ACL twice in last two seasons)
- Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers QB, only member of this list to stay reasonably healthy & successful)
- Robert Griffin III (Washington Redskins QB, has regressed significantly since rookie season)
- Johnny Manziel (Cleveland Browns QB, too early to call…but not off to a great start)
If Mariota becomes an NFL success, he’ll be one of the rare exceptions on this very strange list.
He doesn’t have everyone convinced…
ESPN’s Mel Kiper raised some eyebrows recently when he went on the record saying he didn’t think there were any franchise quarterbacks in the 2015 draft. Kiper certainly isn’t the last word on NFL scouting, but his opinion does carry some weight.
“He’s not Andrew Luck. He’s not in that elite of elite category,” Kiper said. “Could he be really good? If you’re patient with him, if you wait and let him evolve, and we don’t write him off as a bust early on, then you’re fine.”
Oregon’s system doesn’t produce star NFL quarterbacks
The Ducks haven’t produced a legitimate NFL star at QB since Dan Fouts in 1972, and the results in recent years have been even worse – Kellen Clemens, Joey Harrington and Akili Smith have all flamed out after disappointing careers. All three saw their draft stock rise after impressive college seasons, only to fail to replicate that success in the NFL. There are plenty of doubters who think Mariota’s success has been the result of his system, not his ability…and he’ll have to excel as a pro to prove them wrong.
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