Could Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota be the top overall pick in the NFL draft next spring?
Apparently, one NFL general manager believes so. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport tweeted Wednesday that he spoke to one GM who saw Mariota as the top pick:
There certainly has been no shortage of believers in Mariota's pro potential, but to this point, much of it has come from those with something to gain by Mariota's potential early departure. Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, who no doubt would rather face someone else the next time the Huskies face Oregon, tabbed Mariota as a top-five pick last month, and UCLA coach Jim Mora has made his opinion of Mariota's vast potential known as well.
An NFL general manager, however, doesn't have the same motivation, although they've been known to create smoke screens. It could be a little early though for a first-round chess match with the draft more than five months away. NFL Media draft analyst Bucky Brooks, a former NFL scout, has Mariota ranked as the top quarterback in the nation.
Rapoport's tweet was directed at NFL Media draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah, who will get a chance to see the Ducks star in person Thursday night in a crucial game against Pac-12 rival Stanford. For now, Jeremiah, a former NFL scout, is withholding praise that high.
Of course, any chance of Mariota (6-foot-4, 211 pounds) being the top pick first requires the sophomore to declare himself for early eligibility for the draft. The Heisman Trophy candidate, as a former redshirt, is three years removed from high school and thus eligible to declare if he so chooses.
The NFL deadline for underclassmen declaring for the draft is in mid-January. And it appears to be getting tougher and tougher to find credible evaluators who don't think Mariota is ready.