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Marcus Mariota Could Fall Into Chip Kelly’s Lap

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The NFL Draft is nearly a month away and no one seems to know where former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota will land.

Mariota held his pro day at Oregon two weeks ago, which caused a lot of mixed reactions from national pundits and fans alike. While its fun to talk about, teams will most likely evaluate Mariota more for what he did over the course of three seasons at Oregon versus a one day workout.

At the same time, Mariota was content with his showing.

“I thought it went OK,” Mariota said. “There were some missed throws here and there but overall I thought I did well.”

There’s been a lot of speculation of Mariota’s former coach potentially trading up to get him, but Chip Kelly isn’t going to break the bank for Mariota.

“Philosophically, I want to keep all of our draft picks,” Kelly said. “I think you build your team through the draft. So if you gut yourself for one year and for one guy, philosophically, I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.”

But what if I told you Mariota could possibly fall to Philadelphia at 20?

Kelly was asked about the possibility.

“I have no idea,” Kelly said. “I thought (New York Giants wide receiver) Odell Beckham was the best player in the draft last year. He went at No. 12.”

It may sound crazy, but its more likely than one may think. Lets not forget how Aaron Rodgers free fell to Green Bay at 24 in the 2005 NFL Draft.

With no further ado, Lets take a look at Mariota’s potential landing spots and see why they wouldn’t take the reigning Heisman trophy winner.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1): When the Bucs first realized they would be selecting first in the NFL Draft, many knew it would come down to Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.

The two quarterbacks faced off against each other in the Rose Bowl, where Oregon demolished Florida State 59-20. Some thought that game would hold weight on who Tampa would select.

However, the Bucs are fully expected to take Winston.

“I believe in second chances, after I’ve done my research,” Smith said. “We feel very comfortable with who Jameis Winston is, what he’s done, and what he can become.

“Jameis Winston is definitely on our board.”

Going with Winston would be good for Tampa Bay not only on the field, but off the field as well. Winston would be remaining in Florida, where tons of Seminoles could easily flood Raymond James Stadium.

It’s simply a win-win situation.

Tennessee Titans (2): This is a franchise that hasn’t had a franchise quarterback since Steve McNair, so it would seem only right for them to take Mariota with the number two pick, right?

Well, think again.

General Manager Ruston Webster is well aware of the franchises current state at quarterback, but he seems to have faith in Zach Mettenberger.

“Zach has done a great job of everything we’ve asked,” Webster said. “He’s working hard, and it is important to him. He just needs to keep doing that. … I know with all the questions it’s difficult, but he just needs to keep doing what he is doing, and he understands that. There’s also some other players involved, too. There’s going to be good defensive players, good receivers, and where do those other guys fit in? Really, the [second overall pick] is not all about the quarterbacks. A lot of other positions are involved, too.”

Even if Tennessee were to grab a quarterback, Mettenberger would except the challenge.

“They are obviously very talented guys … If they were here I think they would say the same thing: If we had to compete out there, I think I’d beat them out,” Mettenberger said.

The 23-year-old quarterback appeared in seven games last year, in which he completed nearly 60 percent of his passes to go along with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions.

There’s no doubt Tennessee will continue their due diligence, but Mettenberger may have shown them enough going forward.

Washington Redskins (5): There’s been growing speculation of Mariota possibly going to DC. Considering Robert Griffin III can’t stay healthy, then you couple that with Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy’s inconsistencies, you have a team without a stable signal caller.

Although quarterback is a major cause for concern, the Redskins have invested so much time and money in RG3. With that being said, RG3’s confidence could be wavering.

“I don’t know how much of his confidence has wavered up and down. You’ll have to ask him,” head coach Jay Gruden said. “But I think Robert has always been a very confident guy, a very confident quarterback, and I don’t think he’s ever lacked in that department. But if he has wavered a little bit because of the last couple years, then it’s good for him to come into this year, knowing that he’s the starter and that the guys are behind him, and the coaches and we’ll see what he can do. He’ll have every opportunity to succeed.”

However, nothing is promised.

When Gruden was asked about possibly taking a quarterback in the draft, he had this to say.

“We’ll see,” Gruden said. “That has not been determined yet, obviously. We have some time to determine whether or not we want to go that direction. [Marcus Mariota] is a heck of an athlete, I’ll tell you that. And Jameis [Winston] is a heck of passer. Two very good options to have if you are in need of a quarterback and you think you want to go that direction, then they are both worth going that direction for probably.”

For a team that finished in the bottom half on defense, allowing nearly 28 points a game, it’s a good bet that you’ll see Washington address that side of the ball.

New York Jets (6): Quarterback has been a problem for ‘Gang Green’ for quite some time now. Even when the Jets were going deep into the postseason, it was clear Mark Sanchez wasn’t the guy to put New York over the top.

Now, with Geno Smith intact, there’s some of those same sentiments being delivered.

Smith completed 59.7 percent of his passes, whiling tossing 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2014. He showed flashes of good and bad potential, as his numbers would suggest.

Are the Jets prepared to give up on the West Virginia product?

Owner Woody Johnson doesn’t seem prepared to make that leap.

“Geno is probably way ahead of him at this point, believe it or not, whether you guys [have] skepticism of that or not,” Johnson said. “Certainly, [Mariota’s] college career was good.”

New head coach Todd Bowles is also backing Geno.

“He’s the No. 1 guy right now,” Bowles said. “Fitzpatrick is injured and we don’t have a draft yet, but we’re looking at a competition there based on the way he finished the last game and some of the things he did, he did a great job doing that but without seeing him and sitting down and talking to him it’s kind of hard to say right now. He has made some strides.”

With Brandon Marshall in New York, this may be Smith’s chance to solidify himself as the starting quarterback going forward.

Chicago Bears (7): The thought of drafting Mariota is a fun one for Chicago fans, who are tired of Jay Cutler, but the reality is, this is probably a far fetched idea.

Cutler is set to make $15 million this year and $10 million next year. When you have that much invested into a player, especially a quarterback, you’re almost forced to play him.

However, new head coach John Fox claims nothing will be handed out.

It’s all an open competition,” Fox said. “Obviously you’ve got to start somewhere and my experience in football, really in anything, it’s not where you start a competition; it’s where you finish it. But we’ve got to start the race with some kind of lineup. We have not discussed that in depth. We have not presented it to our players yet. I kind of have it in my brain and then they compete.”

But if you talk to general manager Ryan Pace, he’ll tell you otherwise.

“We went through the process of thoroughly evaluating the roster and we’re moving forward with Jay as our starting quarterback,” Pace said.

The bottom line is that Chicago has greater concerns on the other side of the ball. Chicago ranked 30th in total defense, giving up nearly 400 yards a game.

Cleveland Browns (12): Could Money Manziel’s time already be up in northeast Ohio?

When you’re a distraction off the field, you have to at least produce on the field.

Manziel appeared in five games during his rookie campaign and he was less than stellar to say the least. He only completed 51.4 percent of his passes, while throwing two interceptions with zero touchdowns.

To Manziel’s credit, he has received help in rehab and word is that he’s becoming healthier.

Moving on from Manziel after one-year seems unlikely, especially since Cleveland spent a first round pick on the former Heisman winner. Also, Cleveland signed Josh McCown, who was arguably the best free-agent quarterback available this off-season.

For now, Cleveland has a greater need at offensive line and many other positions. Last year, the Browns were 28th in the NFL in yards per carry.

New Orleans Saints (13): The thought of Mariota being Brees’ successor sounds good on the surface, but the Saints window is closing fast.

If Mariota is available here at 13, you’d think it would be a no brainer for New Orleans, but the fact of the matter is that the Saints aren’t your typical team picking at 13.

This team still features one of the best quarterbacks in the world in Drew Brees. The 35-year-old completed nearly 70 percent of his passes to go along with 33 touchdowns to 17 picks in 2014.

However, Brees isn’t getting any younger and with the free-agent field dwindling, New Orleans can’t afford to take someone who won’t see the field for the next few seasons.

In order for New Orleans to maximize Brees’ career, they must address the offensive line. The Saints allowed 81 hits on Brees, which ranked in the middle of the pack. Although those numbers are a bit skewed because Brees is able to elude pressure in the pocket.

Another possibility for New Orleans is on the opposite side of the ball. New Orleans gave opposing quarterbacks all day to pick apart their secondary, finishing the season ranked 25th in the league in sacks with just 34 on the year.

Houston Texans (16): If Mariota falls here, this would be the last team in Chip Kelly’s way. Houston’s quarterbacks consist of Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallet and Tom Savage.

Those names don’t get you going?

Well, you might want to get used to one of those guys starting because even if Houston drafted Mariota, who would he throw to?

With Andre Johnson joining Andrew Luck in Indy, DeAndre Hopkins is the only receiver on the roster who had more than 35 catches last season.

DeVante Parker or Breshad Perriman could be available for Houston at 16.

If Chip Kelly is reading this article, I’m sure he’s smiling somewhere.


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.