Don't rule out Eagles landing Marcus Mariota in 2015 NFL Draft

We all know it's smokescreen season in the NFL. So, when Chip Kelly pours cold water all over the Marcus Mariota-to-the-Eagles rumors, it's hard to blame anyone for wondering if he's telling the truth or positioning himself to land the Oregon quarterback in this year's draft.

Kelly responded directly to the Mariota scuttlebutt on Wednesday, saying "I think that stuff is crazy."

He didn't stop there, though.

"I think Marcus is the best quarterback in the draft," Kelly said. "We will never mortgage our future to go all the way up to get somebody like that because we have too many holes to take care of."

Case closed? We don't know, and might not know until the first day of the draft on April 30. That's how these things go, and the Mariota/Eagles chatter isn't going away, no matter what Kelly says.

Kelly did not attend Mariota's very average pro-day workout on Thursday, but Mariota told NFL Network after working out that he had already met with the Eagles at the event. He also said he had met with the Buccaneers (No. 1 overall pick) and would meet with the Titans (No. 2 overall pick). He'll have plenty of meetings with teams before all is said and done this spring. Again, we can't be certain that Kelly's absence is gamesmanship or a sign that he's satisfied at quarterback after acquiring Sam Bradford in a trade earlier this week.

We know that Kelly has heaped lavish praise on Mariota, the QB he coached in his final season with the Ducks before moving on to Philadelphia. It's well-established that Kelly is calling the shots on personnel, and we also know it could be costly for the Eagles to get themselves in position to land Mariota in this year's draft, with Philly holding the 20th overall pick. Even after a pro day that was just OK, I still view Mariota as a likely top-10 pick. One average day shouldn't change everything for him.

Indeed, Kelly and the Eagles would be mortgaging the future in the bounty of picks it would take for a major move up the board.

Is Mariota worthy of such a price?

I'm on record as a fan of the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner. I think he's going to be a very good NFL quarterback one day.

I applauded when the Falcons moved up from 27 to sixth overall to land Julio Jones in 2011 because I felt like Jones was the piece that would put Atlanta over the top. A couple seasons later, Jones helped the Falcons come within 10 yards of a Super Bowl berth in an NFC Championship Game loss to the 49ers.

The Eagles of 2015 aren't in the exact same spot as the Falcons of 2011 were within the NFL hierarchy, but the Eagles aren't nearly as far away from that position as they appeared to be at the outset of free agency, before the marquee signing of DeMarco Murray and big-time additions of Ryan Mathews and Byron Maxwell. Kelly still needs some pieces -- on the offensive line, at wide receiver and on defense, most notably -- but he's making progress toward putting his team in contention.

So, should the Eagles give up whatever it takes to be in position to select Mariota, if he's the quarterback Kelly views as the answer, come April 30? Right now, Kelly is showing that he's remaking the team in his image. Perhaps it's an image only Kelly can see at this point, but he sees it clearly. If he has that much conviction about what he wants, and Mariota is at the top of that list, then he should go for it and make the trade up.

Kelly knows it's his stamp on the move, and he's well aware of the consequences if it doesn't work out. He's gambled already this offseason, and no one should be surprised if he does it again come draft time.

For now, it appears Bradford will be the one handing off to Murray, his old college teammate, next season, but appearances can be awfully deceiving this time of year in the NFL.

Follow Charles Davis on Twitter *@CFD22.*

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