Find out what the Ducks blogger thinks about Marcus Mariota’s decision to enter the NFL Draft and his future as a pro passer.

1.) Did Marcus Mariota make the right decision by forgoing his senior season to enter the NFL Draft after he completed 3 of 10 third-down throws for a third-down QBR of 1.4 in Oregon’s loss to Ohio State in Monday night’s national title game?

The Ducks struggled on third down versus a very good Ohio State defense with a good plan for the game, but I don’t really see that as Mariota’s fault. OSU receivers made big catches in traffic, and Oregon’s dropped them.

Mariota is projected by both Mel Kiper and Mark Schlabach as a top ten pick. He stands to make about 20 million dollars. As a Duck he’s thrown for over 10,000 yards, 36-5 as a starter, 105 TD passes with 14 interceptions.

A unanimous All-American and Heisman Trophy winner, he really had accomplished nearly everything he could as a collegian. He has his degree. The time was right for him to move on to the next level.

2.) Will Mariota be a day one quarterback in the 2015 draft, or did he hurt his stock so much against the Buckeyes that he’ll be a second round QB at best now?

He’s a first-round draft pick. His NFL quarterback rating for the National Championship Game was 152.

3.) After third-string Buckeyes QB Cardale Jones’ three-game performance against Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and against Oregon in the inaugural college football playoff title game, would he have had a chance of being selected higher than the Ducks’ Heisman-winning QB if he had left OSU early?

NFL GMs and scouts are a superstitious lot with a herd mentality. In the four months between the declarations and the draft, the draft-eligible players will be poked, prodded and scrutinized by a system that looks obsessively for a flaw, a reason not to draft somebody. Johnny Manziel fell to 20. Matt Barkley plummeted to the fourth round. Teddy Bridgewater went 32nd over concerns about the size of his hands, and wound up being the best of the rookie quarterbacks.

Mariota will have his detractors. They’ll question his 40 time and his interview answers and his Pro Day. They’ll wring their hands over the film and all those easy throws to wide-open receivers. But there’s simply no way he falls below 20, where Chip Kelly would snatch him up in a Philadelphia minute.

4.) Many consider Mariota to be a system QB due to the Ducks’ spread offense, which was first implemented by Chip Kelly and has allowed past Oregon quarterbacks to consistently play at a high level, such as Dennis Dixon. Dixon became the Pac-10 offensive player of the year under Kelly’s guidance after struggling during his first three years in Eugene. Is the classification of Mariota provided by many pundits an accurate one?

Mark it down: Mariota will become a great NFL quarterback, and the reason is his rare combination of talent, work ethic and intelligence. He processes information quickly and makes great decisions. He’s poised under pressure. He’s an exceptional teammate and leader. This is a quarterback with the escapability of Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick and the head for the game of Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers. He has the even-keel cool only great ones have. Because he’s quiet, people drastically underestimate his drive and competitive fire. Joe Montana was quiet. Aaron Rodgers isn’t a screamer. Ryan Leaf was the assertive Type-A personality everyone says they want. He was a phenomenal bust.

5.) Where can Mariota succeed the most — at the next level — in year one, and do you think he can handle the load of leading an NFL squad’s offense as a rookie?

The ideal situation for him would be to play for a coach that is also a teacher, like Bill Walsh, Pete Carroll, Mike Holmgren or Chip Kelly, a coach who understands how to use him plus a general manager who has the savvy to build a team around him. In the NFL nowadays, too many young quarterbacks get rushed into disastrous situations: bad teams with bad offensive lines coupled with impatient fanbases.

Whatever situation Mariota winds up in, he’s extremely resilient and adaptable. He has a tremendous support system and foundation, both in life and in football. He’ll find a way to learn on the fly and he’ll put in all the work necessary to get better. He’ll handle fame and the temptations of money far better than Manziel has or Winston will.

6.) After going 36-5 as the starting QB for both Kelly and Mark Helfrich at Oregon as well as winning the Fiesta Bowl in his first year under center and the Rose Bowl in his last year at the university, Mariota became the best quarterback in Oregon football history. Throughout his three campaigns as the Ducks’ starter, he also became the first player in FBS history to post a plus-50 difference of touchdowns thrown to turnovers committed. Thus, where does it leave the Hawaiian native in the conversation for greatest college football QB of all-time?

Mariota was asked questions like that after the National Championship Game and he said, “I don’t care about legacies,” and “That’s other people’s opinions. My main focus was to be a great teammate. That’s all I hoped to accomplish.”

Since you’re asking me, I will say that the 2014 Heisman winner and unanimous All-American is a College Football Hall of Famer in the first year of eligibility, one of the most beloved and respected players in Oregon history.

More importantly, Mariota accomplished all this while being a genuine, humble and gracious person who gave back in the community, volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club of Eugene for three years. He’s respectful. He plays the game the right way. He’s been an incredible teammate who acknowledges and thanks every single person on the roster and staff.

Back in October after the Ducks lost a heart-wrenching game to Arizona in Autzen Stadium, Mariota spied a kid in a number eight jersey on the sideline. In the midst of the post-game melee, he shook the boy’s hand and wished him well, spent a few minutes with him and a couple of the other children.

Reporters asked him about it after the game. He told them, “Those are kids,” he said. “They wanted to come here and meet some of us, and meet some of the Ducks. It wouldn’t hurt to just kind of talk to them a little bit, and get to know them. Win or lose, that makes their day and that’s all that matters.”

It turned out that the kids were visiting from a children’s hospital. The meeting wasn’t scripted; it was just Mariota being Mariota, something he does all the time. He’s an athlete who understands giving back, who takes being a role model seriously.

Marcus Mariota is a Hall of Fame person who happens to be very good at football. His reservoir of talent, intelligence and character will take him places that Jameis Winston and Cardale Jones don’t have the capacity to envision.

 

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