The NFL club with the patience and willingness to develop one of the top quarterbacks available in the 2015 NFL Draft might be better off choosing Oregon's Marcus Mariota. But for NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah, the choice is easy if you want instant impact from your rookie QB: Florida State's Jameis Winston.
"I like Jameis Winston over Marcus Mariota from what I've studied on tape. You're looking at someone who operated pretty much an NFL system, you're looking at someone who can make all the NFL throws, can make those tight window throws, you see him move around within the pocket and do things you have to do at the next level," Jeremiah said on NFL Network Wednesday from the Super Bowl media center in Phoenix. "I actually think Jameis Winston is more like Ben Roethlisberger than Blake Bortles was. I'm high on him on the field. Off the field, you have a lot of stuff to sort through and teams have time to do that."
Coming from a hurry-up, shotgun spread attack, Mariota has a much bigger adjustment to make at the NFL level than does Winston, who commanded a pro-style offense under Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher.
"Marcus Mariota I think is a long-term play. I think if you draft him for Year One, Year Two, you'll have to incorporate a lot of what he did at Oregon, a lot of the same offensive things, simplify things and let him use his legs. But he could have a nice payoff and develop down the line. If you want someone to just come in and play Day One, in an NFL system and come into your offense, I think it's Jameis Winston."
Unfortunately for Mariota, the quarterback-needy teams picking high in the first round are going to be looking for some immediate help, or at least, some immediate competition for whatever is already in place at the position. Jeremiah sees the Tampa Bay Buccaneers picking Winston No. 1 overall, and the New York Jets taking Mariota at No. 6 in his initial mock draft. Neither club figures to have much time for a developmental curve.
But waiting around for the next-best option at quarterback might not be such a smart play, either. Jeremiah called it a "two quarterback class" and left little doubt about the distance between Winston, Mariota, and the rest of the available quarterbacks.
"It's a huge gap," he said.
Other clubs with a quarterback need drafting early in the first round include the Tennessee Titans at No. 2 and the St. Louis Rams at No. 10. NFL Media analyst Gil Brandt also believes the time could be right for the New Orleans Saints to find its future quarterback behind an aging Drew Brees. And don't count out the Chicago Bears at No. 10; they have a decision to make with Jay Cutler.