It’s hard to say at this point what players are the front runners to be the top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. So much can change between now and then, and we have barely scratched the surface of this football season, but one player that has remained near the very top of my personal board is Oregon Ducks QB Marcus Mariota. His comeback against Michigan State at home is one of the more impressive individual efforts you’ll see this season, but it wasn’t just the comeback — it’s the way he did it.
Mariota and the Ducks struggled a bit in the first half, even trailing at halftime. That’s nearly unheard of for a team like the Ducks, and they didn’t even score for a long period of this game, but Mariota put them on the comeback trail in the third quarter.
You saw pretty much everything you’d want to see. Mariota at times can make it look easy. Oregon’s receivers and backs are so fast, but none is faster — we think — than Mariota himself. He finished the game with 42 yards rushing, but that’s taking sacks into account. He had a team high 40 yard run on Saturday, and also threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns.
What was most impressive to me was the way Mariota responded against a really tough defense. Down by two scores late in the third quarter, he kept his composure, made plays when he needed to, and Oregon ended up making a pretty close game in reality look like an ugly one in the box score.
The full display of Mariota’s talent was out on the field Saturday, showing his arm strength, speed, escape ability, improvisation ability, and the way he is able to read defenses even in an offense where he might be able to rely on his initial read quite a bit. Michigan State runs a complex scheme with phenomenal athletes. They are absolutely no slouch and that was evident through much of this game.
It’s going to be really tough for NFL teams to pass on Mariota come time for the draft. He’s big, he’s fast, he’s got a heck of an arm, and he is just a straight up good football player. He understands the game, and he knows what to do as a QB when the pocket breaks down.
Some people in the draft community have cooled a bit on Mariota, but I’m going to keep him near the top of my list for now. I really like what I’ve seen.
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