All in all, opinions on the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner remain varied. Some executives think Mariota is a gem, a franchise quarterback. Others have concerns about his readiness, ability to make all the throws and lack of experience taking snaps under center.
But in a league where the quarterback is everything -- and an elite one is a rare commodity -- the market on Mariota will be robust. And if/when Winston goes No. 1, as expected, Mariota could land in a whole bunch of different places. I covered this topic -- Who will select Marcus Mariota? -- a couple of weeks ago. But one thing we haven't discussed is the ripple effect.
There are so many dominoes potentially in play here. Just run through the typical line of Mariota-related questions, and you'll see ... Will he go at No. 2? Do the Titans want him? Who would trade up for him? Which team actually has the pieces to make a deal with Tennessee? If Mariota isn't the second pick, how far could he fall? Who'd grab him?
Consequently, this one prospect could affect a number of different players, coaches and executives across the football landscape. Here are the most notable folks in the Mariota blast radius, Schein Nine style:
1) Johnny Manziel, quarterback, Cleveland Browns
Wait, you don't think the Browns would spend a first-round pick on a quarterback in consecutive years? Have you been following the Browns? They could play with 10 men on the field, bring back Bernie Kosar, change the team colors to black and gray. Truly nothing would surprise me at this point when it comes to Jimmy Haslam's outfit.
Manziel's spent the bulk of this offseason in rehab. His NFL future is up in the air. And I really believe he's an ex-Brown-to-be -- the only question is when. Will he still be on the roster a year from now? A few months from now? I have my doubts.
The Browns' 2016 starting quarterback is not on the roster. Josh McCown is a perfect stopgap for this season. With two picks in the top 20, Cleveland has the ammunition to trade up. Colleague Charley Casserly reported last month that the Browns offered a first-round pick for Sam Bradford. If that's the case, then trading up into a slot to snag Mariota would make plenty of sense. I'd endorse it. This franchise is absolutely desperate for a reliable quarterback to build around.
Drafting Mariota would signal Johnny's exit is coming sooner than later. One NFC executive, when pressed on Mariota, said to me via text, "I think Cleveland is targeting him."
2) Ken Whisenhunt, head coach, Tennessee Titans
Here's what I believe, talking to NFL executives around the league: The Titans' brass, with an anonymous roster that lacks quality and name players, is looking at Mariota as someone to market. The Titans' coaches believe they could have something in Zach Mettenberger, who flashed promise as a rookie for Tennessee last year. There is a sentiment that Mariota is not Whisenhunt's vision at quarterback. One AFC general manager summed it up to me on the phone: "The Titans coaches are studying Mariota, hoping to fall in love because that's what the bosses want."
Whisenhunt and Tennessee need to win. They need to be relevant. I'd pick Mariota and not think twice. But there are a lot of layers here, and this is why the pick could be up for sale to the highest bidder. Or the Titans could stay at No. 2 and draft an impact defender like Leonard Williams. Speaking of Mr. Williams ...
3) Leonard Williams, defensive lineman, team TBD
Many people think Williams is the top overall player in this draft. But if Mariota goes second overall -- to the Titans or another team via trade -- the USC defensive lineman could slide.
Williams' future is directly tied to how other teams view Mariota.
4) Chip Kelly/Sam Bradford, head coach/quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles
OK, it's hard to imagine Kelly landing Mariota at this stage of the game. It'd take a whole lot for the Eagles to move up from the No. 20 spot into a position where they could select Mariota. Also, Kelly has continually expressed how much he likes Bradford. He sold DeMarco Murray on coming to Philly to reunite with his former college quarterback and good friend.
But then again, this is Chip Kelly we're talking about. And wow, would a deal for Mariota ever further his reputation as a gambler and wild card in personnel dealings.
On the flip side, if Kelly doesn't move up, I think that goes a long way in solidifying his reputation with his current players in the locker room -- by NOT selling the farm to get his old Oregon gunslinger.
Still, I won't fully believe that Mariota won't be reunited with Kelly until I see Mariota in another uniform.
5) Mike Maccagnan, general manager, New York Jets
The Jets' general manager is heading into his first draft at the helm, and his reputation is sky high after a robust free-agency period.
There's no pressure for the Jets to trade up; they need a receiver and a pass rusher, and enticing prospects in both areas will be available at No. 6. If Mariota's off the board -- which, again, I assume he will be -- Maccagnan won't have to force the issue at quarterback. He can let the draft come to him and take the best player available on the team's board. Not the worst position to be in.
And when it comes to Geno, he could actually take a step forward in 2015, with Chan Gailey running the offense and Brandon Marshall (plus a rookie receiver?) out wide.
6) Andrew Luck, quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
Allow me to explain ...
Therefore, the Colts could be in prime position to go 5-1 (at least) in the AFC South. That could help them secure the best record in the AFC and home-field advantage in the playoffs. With Luck being a year older and surrounded by better talent, this could have Super implications.
7) Philip Rivers, quarterback, San Diego Chargers
While Rivers would bring the name value Tennessee craves, and he flourished with Whisenhunt as his offensive coordinator in San Diego in 2013, it's crazy to believe he could be a chip in a deal with the Titans, as many have speculated. He doesn't have a contract past this year and is on the back nine of his career.
8) Robert Griffin III, quarterback, Washington Redskins
9) Nick Foles, quarterback, St. Louis Rams
I don't doubt that these words are genuine. But I also find it hard to believe that Rams brass wouldn't at least consider the possibility of snagging Mariota, should he unexpectedly drop to the No. 10 spot. Foles has one year remaining on his rookie contract. This is not a player the team is financially committed to at this point. That's just the truth. If the folks in St. Louis see value in Mariota -- who might not be ready to start in 2015 anyway, so the Rams could plan on rolling with Foles in the last year of his deal while developing Mariota -- could they pounce?
Yes, I'm speculating here. Like Snead told me, the odds are probably low. But this is the NFL draft. Stranger things most certainly have happened.