The Big Mac Blog

The NFL’s top QB prospects are covered in red flags

Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston are the two best NFL QB prospects.
Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston are the two best NFL QB prospects. AP

Barring an act of God, this most recent edition of the Rose Bowl will be the last time we see Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota as college football players.

The Florida State quarterback, who won the Heisman Trophy last season, said after Oregon blew out his Seminoles in the Rose Bowl on Thursday that he has not made any plans to leave school early for the NFL draft. Yeah ... I don’t believe him, either.

Mariota, who won the Heisman this season, is done at Oregon after the national title game against Ohio State.

Depending on what “draft expert” you believe, these two players are projected as the top two men to go in the 2015 NFL draft. Winston and Mariota have all of the height/weight metrics NFL teams want, and there will always be a team to take the hot QBs in the first round despite the inherently low percentages they will develop into the player they need.

Once upon a time, there was another Rose Bowl featuring a pair of can’t-miss quarterbacks. The 2006 Rose Bowl featured USC’s Matt Leinart and Texas’ Vince Young. Both were top 10 picks, and both are out of the NFL after flaming out. Both the ‘06 Rose Bowl and those two players are now the subject of a new NFL Network documentary.

One of the teams at the top of that draft then is back at the top now because they whiffed on VY. The Titans have the second pick in the draft, and their feelings about rookie Zach Mettenberger are unclear. The team with the top pick - Tampa Bay - is desperate for a passer.

The problem, and this is normally the case, is both of these incoming quarterbacks come with more doubt and baggage than most.

It should be buyer beware on both of these men, but if I had to go with one Jameis Winston is the “safer” pick.

The reason you like Jameis over Mariota is he has shown he can live in the pocket, and throw it around with a decent degree of accuracy. QB’s who survive in the NFL can throw it. The reason you like Mariota over Jameis is he has shown he is not a dummy.

Neither player was at his best in the Rose Bowl. Both missed open receivers, turned the ball over, and got away with a few throws each would like to have back. Both have been considerably better in their respective college careers that what they displayed on Thursday.

As talented and as slick as Mariota is, he plays in system that is made for his considerable talents - he can run, and Oregon doesn’t require its passers to sit there and throw it all over the field. He may be able to do that in the NFL, but he was never demanded to do that in college. And despite his talents, he will not redefine the position in the NFL. He will adapt to the demands of an NFL quarterback, or meet the same fate as Leinart and VY.

In his two seasons as FSU’s quarterback, Winston displayed many of the same abilities as Mariota. Winston can run, leap over defenders, and make a play when there is none. He is also, right now, a slightly superior passer.

Winston’s problem is that he has made far more dumb decisions off the field than on it. Charges of sexual assault, among others, are never a good thing for an aspiring NFL quarterback. He is charming, funny, but the doubts about his maturity and ability to grow up may cost him on draft day.

Good NFL quarterbacks are not stupid. Winston will either figure it out and grow up, or he will be out of the NFL just like VY.

Both Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota were the very best college quarterbacks in each of the last two years, but there is a buyer beware on both as they enter the NFL.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @macengelprof And The Big Mac Blog