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Peter King: At least 2 NFL teams in love with Marcus Mariota


For those of you just now jumping on the Marcus Mariota bandwagon, what took you so long?

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In the wake of his exceptional performance at Washington, the Oregon quarterback is in the thick of Heisman Trophy race and is starting to be mentioned as a potential top pick whenever the redshirt sophomore decides to enter the NFL Draft.

Peter King of believes at least two NFL teams would put Mariota ahead of Bridgewater on their boards.

"What was once a virtual certainty -- either Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater or South Carolina pass rusher Jadaveon Clowney being the first pick in the draft next May -- is now in doubt," King wrote in his Monday column. "Mariota will be draft-eligible next May (as will many other attractive quarterbacks, including Johnny Manziel) because he's in his third college season out of high school. And at least two teams love Mariota to the point that I believe if he comes out those teams would have him higher on their board than Bridgewater."

Mariota shredded the Huskies for 366 passing yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions and 88 rushing yards and one touchdown, the kind of performance that has become old hat for him. It was Mariota's eighth-straight game with both a rushing and passing score, a feat he has accomplished in 11 of his 19 career games as a Duck.

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Mariota has completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 4,401 yards and 49 touchdowns with six interceptions at UO, with an absurd 17:0 TD-to-INT ratio this season, and averages 8.01 yards per carry.

But the best argument in favor of Mariota might be the game tape, or more specifically the lack thereof. Mariota didn't start for St. Louis High in Honolulu until his senior season, and won't turn 21 until Oct. 30, 2014, when he could be halfway through his rookie season.

Much like Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions, Mariota will only be scratching the surface of his prime years when his first NFL contract expires. And for all his remarkable physical skills (6-foot-4, 211 pounds) and unreal accomplishments, he can still get better.

Mariota's touch on the deep ball can be refined. Against UW, wide receiver Bralon Addison was wide open and would have had a walk-in touchdown if hit in stride. Instead, Addison had to make a leaping catch. Mariota's accuracy and timing can get away from him for brief stretches.

Those are minor complaints, but they're the kind of throws that separate good quarterbacks from the transcendent.

What is clear is Mariota has an upside as great as any player in the game, so pull up a seat. It's going to be a fun ride.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.



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