Trade rumors were flying, but the Tennessee Titans selected Marcus Mariota with the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NFL draft
The mystery leading up to the No. 2 pick Thursday night wasn't so much which player would be selected. It was which team would be making the choice. In the end, it was the team that held that spot all along: Tennessee. The Titans rejected rumored trade offers to stay put and select Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. One such offer, as reported by the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, came from Chip Kelly's Eagles and included two first-round picks, a third-round pick, Fletcher Cox and "several other players".
Mariota will be expected to bump Zach Mettenberger from the starting job, potentially with coach Ken Whisenhunt and GM Ruston Webster's jobs on his shoulders. How well he meshes with Whisenhunt's offensive scheme—and how open Whisenhunt is to tailoring that scheme to Mariota's current skill set—will determine how quickly the rookie QB finds success. Mariota has the physical and mental talents to be a long-term success in the league, despite coming from Oregon's spread system. It may take him a bit, though, to adjust to a less wide-open offense. Still, the Titans had enough confidence in his ability to do so that they ignored any trade proposals for an upgrade at quarterback.
Strengths: Ran a heavy Pistol play-action offense which translates better to the NFL than some may think. Tremendous thrower on the run—moves quickly and smoothly, resets his base naturally and throws with good mechanics when he's not pressured. Doesn't always bail at the first sign of trouble; Mariota has proven that he will look to another open read while on the run after things break down. In the abstract, Mariota playing out of the shotgun so much shouldn't matter—six NFL teams operated out of the shotgun more than 70% of the time in 2014. Tremendously accurate and efficient quarterback. Plus to transcendent athlete on the move. Dedicated, humble and hard-working—will take whatever coaching he gets and ask for more. Doesn't have a bazooka for an arm, but can make most throws.
Weaknesses: Benefited from an offense designed to create an easy open receiver, against college defenses playing back for the most part—Mariota will find a much tougher go in the NFL when his first read isn't open. Near-exclusive shotgun/Pistol scheme may turn some more traditional teams away. Will face a fairly steep learning curve with an NFL playbook—Mariota needs to learn protections, first and second playcalls, and how to adjust to advanced defenses. Must learn to hang longer in the pocket—right now, he drops his eyes to run too often. Tends to lose velocity and accuracy when he can't throw from an optimal base. Might not be a first-year starter. NFL team that takes him may have to shave off the deep passes in its playbook.
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