Maurice-Jones Drew: Marcus Mariota far from a sure thing

Count former Jacksonville Jaguars star running back Maurice Jones-Drew among those who are skeptical of Marcus Mariota succeeding in the NFL. Jones-Drew even mentioned -- cover your eyes, Mariota fans -- Blaine Gabbert when talking about Mariota's adjustment to the NFL.

"Some first-rounders will end up in horrible situations," Jones-Drew told "Some scouts will say that a player fits a system when he clearly doesn't. Mariota is a good example of that."

Jones-Drew was with the Jaguars when Gabbert arrived as a first-rounder in 2011 from Missouri. Gabbert ran a spread offense at Mizzou. Oregon's spread isn't the same as the Tigers' spread, but Jones-Drew's point is that system "fits" are vital to a player's success.

"It wasn't that Blaine was bad. It was that he was uncomfortable," Jones-Drew said. "You don't take Mark Zuckerberg and have him run a construction company. Blaine never adapted to the complicated pro offenses.

"The thing with Mariota is that it will take a long time for him to adjust to the NFL. It will take years. He will have to go to the absolute perfect place. It won't take (Jameis) Winston as long."

That echoes what basically everyone is saying about the two quarterbacks: Winston -- who guided a pro-style attack at Florida State -- is far more NFL-ready that Mariota. Heck, Mariota mentioned at the NFL Scouting Combine that he had been practicing taking snaps from center. Think about that: a potential franchise-quarterback-to-be having to practice taking snaps form under center. Also remember that Mariota didn't huddle, didn't call plays and didn't audibilize at Oregon. Yes, he was a transcendent college quarterback. And, yes, players can make the move from spread offenses to pro-style attacks. But there is a learning curve, and if Mariota ends up on the wrong team, that curve could take him off the proverbial cliff.

The comparison to Gabbert might be a bit much, though. While both ran spread offenses, there were numerous questions about Gabbert. There are fewer about Mariota, and no one questions Mariota's work ethic.

Jones-Drew also talked about Winston's off-field troubles and how they actually could help him deal with one fact of life in the NFL.

"He's shown he can play at a high level while under a lot of scrutiny," Jones-Drew said. "People don't get how hard that is once you get in the NFL. I've seen guys crumble under the pressure. He won't be one of those guys."

Mike Huguenin can be reached at You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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