|Rusty Costanza / Associated Press|
|Marcus Mariota is returning to Oregon for the 2014 season, but he's already impressed the Browns.|
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota decided to forego the 2014 NFL draft for his junior year. Had he come out, he might have been selected No. 4 overall by the Cleveland Browns.
When new Browns general manager Ray Farmer started scouting college QBs, Mariota was the guy he liked best, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday on NFL Network's "NFL Total Access," per sources with knowledge of the Browns' situation. Johnny Manzel, who has declared for the draft, might not be Farmer's guy, Rapoport added.
The Browns have been searching for a franchise QB for some time, but continually have whiffed on drafting a high caliber signal-caller. They drafted Brandon Weeden in the first round of the 2012 draft, but the 30-year-old has been a disappointment under center. After playing just eight games in 2013, Weeden wants out of Cleveland, NFL Media columnist Michael Silver reported Tuesday.
A redshirt sophomore in 2013, Mariota earned Pac-12 All-Conference first-team honors. He started in all 13 games, passing for 3,665 yards with 31 touchdowns and four interceptions. He added 715 rushing yards with nine TDs on the ground, and did all this while playing much of the season with a partially torn MCL. However, he failed to lead the Ducks to a BCS bowl game, the first time they didn't qualify since 2008.
If the Browns don't select a quarterback in the first round of May's draft, Mariota could be calling Cleveland home in 2015.