Athlon Sports turned loose the Ourlads.com scouting department on two superstar signal callers. Who should go No. 1 in the 2015 NFL Draft: Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston?
From Athlon Sports 2015 NFL Draft preview magazine:
It’s common knowledge that you win games by avoiding losing them. To help avoid losses, a quarterback must be a student of the game — have football intelligence and exercise split-second judgment. Both Winston and Mariota score highly in this area.
Winston and Mariota were asked to complete multiple on-the-field tasks in their respective and very different offensive schemes. They both read defenses, read coverages and reacted to blitzes, etc. Winston played in an NFL-friendly system, so in his evaluation a scout is basically comparing apples to apples. What we saw on Saturday has some carryover to Sunday.
Mariota played in a wide-open, fast-tempo offense that had multiple options on every play. He also processed information quickly by counting defensive numbers and then deciding to give the ball to a back, run it himself or throw to a perimeter receiver at the last second. Mariota excelled in the zone-read option but showed the capability to carry over his cerebral intuitiveness to the NFL.
Winston is an accurate passer in the pocket or when he rolls out, always ready to throw. He has a quick release and delivery. He carries the ball high with no wasted motion and can throw accurately with a defender in his face. He has down-the-field vertical accuracy. He sees the field and understands what he is seeing. He has good anticipation.
Mariota has a high completion percentage of hitting his receivers in stride with few adjustments. He has a natural feel in the passing game to read the play as it develops, instinctively and quickly. He uses his eyes to move the coverage. He spreads the ball around to a variety of receivers, backs and tight ends. Mariota demonstrated his ability to step up in the pocket and drive the ball down the field. He’s accurate on skinny post routes and throws the ball on a line when needed or lofts with touch over linebackers.
Arm strength is somewhat overrated in the NFL, but ball placement is not. Winston and Mariota both have the arm strength to make all the key NFL throws. Both can attack the defense vertically.
Winston has a fastball that touched 95-97 mph as a reliever for the Seminoles’ baseball team, and he’s an MLB prospect as an outfielder. The big righthander has a rocket to throw deep and the ability to throw out routes from the opposite hash mark. He uses his body to throw the NFL’s toughest pass — the deep outside comeback.
Mariota has good arm talent to throw and complete the deep post on a line, go vertical down the middle or gun the outside routes. He gets the ball out quickly with good velocity and has the physical tools to play the position. He can laser the ball between the hashes.
When Winston runs, he is strong and not easy to tackle. He has the ability to get positive yards when he pulls the ball down. He can elude a pass rusher and can throw off balance. He has vision, feel and natural running ability. When he escapes, he can make something happen by extending the play.
Mariota is athletic enough to be a free safety or a wide receiver. He also tops Winston as an extemporaneous runner when a play breaks down. Mariota has explosive movement skills, feet and the ability to avoid and escape a rush. He can make plays on the move to his right or left. He is sudden and quick in his movement. He can beat defenders one-on-one in the open field. He creates plays when out of the pocket with his elusiveness. Mariota is as good as it gets when improvising and extending a play.
Related: 2015 NFL Mock Draft
Poise in the Pocket
Winston’s game is to win from the pocket. His eyes are down the field. He doesn’t see the rush; he feels it. He can laser a ball in a tight window with a defender blitzing the “A” gap up the middle. He shakes defenders off in the pocket and shows good poise when he’s under duress. He has his feet under him with a good base, steps and throws. He played with a veteran offensive line for two years but lost his center for most of 2014, and that was problematic. Winston felt the pressure, stood in the pocket and made the throw while he smelled the blitzer’s breath.
Mariota bested Winston analytically in a study by Pro Football Focus, but he threw close to half the passes Winston threw. Winston had center problems last fall, but Mariota had to deal with eight different offensive line combinations in 2014. Mariota is deadly accurate when he has time to set his feet and read his progressions. He knows where to go with the ball, steps up and throws with timing and surgical accuracy. He slides laterally well in the pocket. Mariota is cool under pressure; he doesn’t get too high or too low and shows patience. He appears to run early at times if his receiver is covered.
Winston is a natural-born leader who can be brash. He has swagger and bravado. He is a Pied Piper whom the team will follow. He is mentally tough and responds well to adversity. He has the ability to manage the team and inspire victory from the start of a game to the finish. Even when he makes mistakes, the team never feels they’re out of the game.
Mariota is cerebral and focused on the job at hand. He takes charge by example and inspires his teammates by his total dedication to football. He had a great command of a high-tempo spread offense and understands defensive tactics and strategy. He works at developing great feel and timing with his individual receivers. He is cool when under the gun and can carry a team on his back.
Clutch Third-Down Player
Winston is a big-game quarterback who consistently delivered in the clutch. He went 7–0 in games decided by seven or fewer points. During his Heisman Trophy-winning season of 2013, he completed 64.0 percent of his third-down attempts, and FSU converted a first down on 44 of his 75 third-down passes.
Mariota had a career 36–5 record and threw at least one touchdown pass in every game he started. For his career, the Hawaii native threw 105 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions.
After doing my due diligence and feeling comfortable with my background research on Winston, I would draft him first because the No. 1 ability is availability. Winston is a bigger-framed player with more muscle mass than Mariota and is more durable. Additionally, Winston played college ball in an NFL-schemed offense. He knows how to climb the pocket while keeping his eyes down the field. He reads full-field route progressions. Winston is a pocket passer first, and that’s where you win in the NFL — in the pocket, not on the perimeter. All indications are that he wants to be great and is willing to pay the price for that greatness.
Winner: Jameis Winston
-by Dan Shonka, Ourlads Scouting Services