Marcus Mariota's draft stock takes hit after title game loss

Mariota and Jones Unsure About Entering NFL Draft
Mariota and Jones Unsure About Entering NFL Draft

Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota struggled in his team's championship game loss and watched his draft stock take a hit. Is he still a top five pick?

The Oregon Ducks were manhandled by the Ohio State Buckeyes in the inaugural College Football Playoff national championship game. Marcus Mariota was unable to get the offense rolling and the defense was unable to stop Cardale Jones, Ezekiel Elliot and the Buckeyes attack.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the title game for Oregon was their inability to convert on four Ohio State turnovers - which outlined the struggles that Marcus Mariota has and the ones that could ultimately hurt him in the NFL.

Mariota was unable to get the Oregon offense to punch the ball into the endzone.

Those red zone struggles are not new, but they will need to be fixed. Perhaps even more troubling for Mariota, who does have a lot to like about his game, is the fact that he showed a lack of anticipation in his wide receiver's routes.

Everyone knows that the Oregon offense is based on rhythm, but when that rhythm is disrupted your quarterback has to still be able to take things into his hands.

Mariota was unable to do that and it showed, as ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay pointed out, via John Glennon of The Tennessean:

The one thing I don't see with him is the anticipation as a passer. It's just because in that offense, there's not a lot of opportunity to show that. The other day (against Florida State), he missed some throws he needed to make. You see a few of those every game. No one's perfect.

But Marcus misses a higher percentage of intermediate and vertical throws than you'd like to see ideally. And you combine that with the fact that (in Oregon's system) he doesn't have to anticipate and throw to a spot.

Entering the game, many wondered whether Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston would be the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Neither quarterback looked particularly impressive during the College Football Playoff, but they are the top two signal-callers in a very weak draft class. That likely means someone will over draft them, but it also means they could be forced to step into the starting lineup before they are ready.

That is trouble.

While Mariota has some of the natural talent and skills you would like to see in a quarterback prospect, he proved against a stout Ohio State defense that he isn't ready to lead a NFL offense just yet. Until he is able to improve his red zone efficiency and anticipation, he could see the same struggles he saw in what was likely the final game of his college career.

Is Mariota worth a top five draft pick? After Monday night, you really have to question that.

Related links

NFL Playoffs: 10 best-worst postseason quarterbacks
Photo: Ezekiel Elliott lands SI cover after championship performance
Florida State with no shortage of options to replace Jameis Winston

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