How good is Marcus Mariota? The Oregon quarterback has been outstanding this season, vaulting to the front of the Heisman Trophy race. But where Mariota, a redshirt sophomore, might rank among the potentially loaded crop of signal-callers that could be available in the 2014 NFL Draft is still up in the air.
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NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks spoke to two scouts and one executive to get their perspective on Mariota's prospects. While two are sold, using the phrases "real guy" and "real deal" in their praise, an NFC North scout tapped the brakes on anointing him.
"It's too soon to make sweeping assertions about his potential as a franchise quarterback," the scout said. "He is athletic and does have some arm talent, but we haven't seen enough of him to determine if he can make big-time throws in a pro offense. I need to see more of him before I'm convinced he's an upper-echelon guy."
What NFL teams will see as they dive into the tape is that Mariota's play this season has been top notch. He has thrown for 17 touchdowns without an interception and added nine rushing touchdowns. However, Mariota committed his first two turnovers of the season in the 62-38 win over Washington State, something he knows must be addressed before facing UCLA and Stanford in the next three weeks.
"I have to have that clock in my head to get the ball out," Mariota told the Oregonian on Monday. "Both of those fumbles, I was hanging onto the ball too long, waiting for the play to develop. Sometimes, you just have to let it go or throw it away."
Mariota will be put to the test in his next two games, in which he'll face Bruins standout pass rusher Anthony Barr and Cardinal linebackers Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov, who are more than capable of getting after him.
How Mariota fares against them will give a more realistic representation of his NFL standing. Based on his track record, especially through seven games this season, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Mariota's stock soaring as high as that of the Ducks' offense he operates.