With the 1st pick in the NFL Draft, Tampa Bay selected Jameis Winston. No surprises there, everyone knew they were likely taking the strong armed gun slinger. He’s got the throwing power, the charisma and the passion Tampa Bay was looking for.
Be that as it may, Marcus Mariota will have a better Rookie campaign. Here’s why:
Jameis Winston has NFL size and pocket presence. He draws similarities to Ben Roethlisberger, with a knack for making something out of nothing. Off field antics aside, he’s strong, confident and he’s molded from fire. He’s faced and overcome some of the most pressure packed situations you can face in college and emerged victorious. However, he’s sloppy with the ball and many of those spectacular finishes during the regular season were because of abysmal opening drives and a general lack of focus when starting games. With that in mind, he needs to sit and learn from someone with more experience. Winston needs someone to hold him accountable both on and off the field. Strong veteran leadership will aid in that necessity.
Winston also has weapons that will make his transition a little easier. The combination of Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson led to 138 receptions, over 2,000 yards and 14 touchdowns. And if Doug Martin can stay health and return to form, the Bucs give Jameis options on offense.
Marcus Mariota is a gifted play maker, with NFL speed and a cerebral play style. The guy doesn’t make many mistakes. Caution is a trait hard to come by in a young passer. He’s going to excel more than Jameis for 2 reasons:
1. He’s elusive. The Titans don’t have reliable linemen so unfortunately Mariota will do a lot of scrambling, it’ll work out well for his play making abilities, especially as Mariota has the speed to separate from defenders if need be.
2. His composure. This is one of the biggest differences between the two signal callers. Mariota always seems even keel, while Winston is very up and down with his range of emotions. Things won’t always go right in Tennessee. They need someone who can keep their emotions in check, someone who can rally the troops by delivering the same message in the same way. Mariota has that stabilizing demeanor.
While he doesn't have a receiving corps as strong as Jameis, Marcus does has a competent group in Kendall Wright, Jacoby Ford and Dorial Green-Beckham. What would really help his progress would be a strong running game to take some of the pressure off of the rookie QB. With this offensive lineup in mind, the Titans need someone who’s going to take what the defense gives and not make the big mistake. Mariotta has proven that he has that ability.
At the end of the day, Winston has a better team so he doesn’t have to do as much as Mariota. The Titans need lots of help defensively, meaning there will be plenty of opportunities for Mariota to put up numbers since they’ll be playing catch up in most of their games.
People seem to think that because Mariotta doesn’t give long winded answers and isn’t as excitable as his Seminole counterpart he isn’t a leader. He doesn’t display a lot of emotion, so he must not be able to lead a team.
Mariotta accounted for 57 touchdowns this past year, regardless of the help around him; that’s an incredible feat. He’s a seasoned play maker and he does it without the celebratory distractions. You know who else did that? Barry Sanders.
I’m not saying Mariotta should be compared to Barry, but it's important to note that there are different kinds of leadership. Some guys don’t need to loud reactions to get it done. Quiet confidence can be just as valuable, if not more. It demonstrates maturity. It shows self-reliance and talking less could imply you’re listening to teammates and coaches more.
ESPN evaluated 67 players in the draft classes from 2012 to 2015. Mariota was the most efficient rusher. He averaged nearly 10 yards per carry (9.8) and gained a first down 41% of the time. Winston ranked 29th in his rushing efficiency and gained a first down only 24% of the time.
Does Mariota running more efficiently automatically make him a better quarterback? No, but what it means is he’s better at making something out of nothing when things break down. Mariotta is well aware of his accomplishments, wants his game to do the talking and has the stats to back up the belief that he can make something out of nothing.
Drafting quarterbacks with the 1st and 2nd picks overall will always be risky move. The hope is that they will generate long term reward, especially through leadership both on and off the field.
Winston might have gone first, but Mariota will have the last laugh.