Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is widely-regarded as one of the top NFL prospects in the college game, but the way Sports Illustrated hears it, the Ducks star is on even more solid footing than that.
"Scouts confirmed this week he's the runaway favorite for No. 1 pick," wrote si.com's Pete Thamel in ranking Mariota as a No. 2 early candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
Mariota ranks No. 1 among all NCAA quarterbacks in pass efficiency with a rating of 218.0 (that would translate to a 152.5 rating in the pro efficiency formula). NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah asked five NFL personnel executives for a Mariota comparison, three of whom likened him to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Before the season, NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks wrote that a faction of scouts believe Mariota would have been the first quarterback chosen in the 2014 draft had he chosen to be part of it.
Of course, predicting Mariota as the No. 1 overall pick in September can't be more speculative not only from the early-entry standpoint, but also because it's no certainty that the team to eventually hold the pick will even need a quarterback most.
For the season, Mariota has completed 71 of 96 passes for 1,135 yards, 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. He is only a junior, but is set to earn his degree in December. Mariota will decide whether to enter the 2015 NFL Draft after the season.