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Oregon coach: Situation key to success for Winston, Mariota

LOS ANGELES -- Drafting a quarterback in the first round of the NFL draft has been an inexact science for a long time. For every Andrew Luck, there's a Robert Griffin III who has seen some success but struggled to make the transition to the next level. That's seemingly been the case since Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf went one-two in the 1998 NFL Draft.

Such a scenario might play out in a few months depending on the decisions of the two quarterbacks -- Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Florida State's Jameis Winston -- facing off against each other in the Rose Bowl. The pair have both won the Heisman Trophy as college football's most outstanding player and are widely considered to be the top two signal-callers in play for the No. 1 overall pick in either the 2015 or 2016 draft.

Both head coaches at the Rose Bowl agree the two have the skill set to be great at the next level, but Ducks head man Mark Helfrich noted Wednesday that each finding the right fit will be the biggest factor in having success in the NFL.

"Generally, top-flight quarterbacks don't end up in the perfect (system) and just plug-and-play," Helfrich said. "I know with both the quarterbacks in this game, they can play at any level. Both those guys, they're completely different, totally different guys from a style standpoint, but both will have tremendous NFL careers if they end up in the right spot. If they don't, things can go different ways."

Oregon coaches have been quick to dismiss concerns by scouts over Mariota's ability to throw inside the pocket and fit balls into tight windows because he so often makes plays look simplistic with his natural ability at the position. Winston's issues stem mainly from his off-the-field actions, with few questioning how his game will adapt to the NFL because he plays in a pro-style offense that has already produced two first-round picks at quarterback (Christian Ponder and EJ Manuel).

"He can process what the great ones see. He sees angles, he anticipates," FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said of Winston. "I don't know if I've ever been around a guy that when he comes off, I've quit questioning what he does on the field and why he does it. Even when he does it wrong, he can come off and tell you exactly what he saw, what happened, and why it happened. He can process so much information. His intelligence level is off the charts, and the body of information he can not only process but retain."

Each has shown plenty on film the past two or three seasons at the collegiate level to earn the lofty rankings as the two best quarterbacks in college football, but Helfrich's point is salient in today's day and age where finding the right match between signal-caller, head coach and offensive system only aligns for a few franchises.

With Tampa Bay and Tennessee holding the top two picks in the 2015 draft and having a significant need at the position, each team will have to do its homework on if it is the right fit for either Mariota or Winston considering each might be a few weeks away from officially being in the 2015 NFL Draft pool.

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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