Mariota Mania

I've underestimated him before, but after showing something against the legit Washington defense, it's no longer possible to ignore the surging Ducks QB

Andy Staples
· More from Andy·

This is not a mock draft. This doesn’t take into account NFL teams or positions of need. This is a list of college football players—made by someone who covers college football—who, based on their skills and success at the college level, project well to the next level. This list exists so you don’t fall in love in March with some guy who was mediocre for three or four years and then ran fast in his underwear one time.

The Jadeveon Clowney gametime scratch story wasn’t nearly as interesting once all the facts came out, but that didn’t stop we media types from ginning it up into debate on the South Carolina defensive end’s motivation and—in a more macro sense—whether obvious top NFL picks should even play their junior seasons in college. That second topic is actually a legitimate discussion point, but it probably was framed improperly considering an angry Steve Spurrier press conference following the Gamecocks’ way-too-close win against Kentucky was the basis.

Spurrier was mad about Clowney’s poor communication with South Carolina’s medical staff—not Clowney’s willingness to play. Spurrier tried hard in the days after that game to make that point clear, but the story had already taken on a life of its own. There will be people who believe Clowney is an overhyped ESPN creation spun out of a million replays of a hit on Michigan’s Vincent Smith that came to be because a backup tight end didn’t hear tackle Taylor Lewan change a blocking call. Those people haven’t been paying attention. Clowney was the presumed No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft as a junior in high school. NFL folks have known about him for a long, long time. This less productive season probably is causing them to re-evaluate Clowney, but don’t expect him to slide down draft boards. Clowney may make for a juicy First Take debate topic, but not many people in a draft room would argue against his selection.

2014 NFL Draft Big Board

Teddy Bridgewater

QB; Junior; Louisville; 6-3, 196

(Last Week: 1) Bridgewater didn’t throw for a million yards in the one game most people will watch him play this regular season. Does that mean he’s overrated here? Nope. Besides, you’ll have a chance to see him again Friday against Central Florida, which is as good or better than Rutgers.


Jadeveon Clowney

DE; Junior; University of South Carolina; 6-6, 274

(Last week: 2) Clowney only had two tackles, but he did play. And funny how a 52-7 win quiets all that talk about motivation.


Anthony Barr

LB; Senior; UCLA; 6-4, 245

(Last Week: 3) Barr had two tackles for loss—one of them a sack—and a fumble recovery against Cal.


Taylor Lewan

OT; Senior; Michigan; 6-8, 308

(Last Week: 4) Lewan missed the second half of the Penn State game because of what Michigan coach Brady Hoke termed “a hip deal.” Lewan is expected to play Saturday against Indiana.


Jake Matthews

OT; Senior; Texas A&M; 6-5, 305

(Last Week: 5) Keep an eye on Matthews this week against Auburn freshman defensive end Carl Lawson. Lawson has a lightning quick first step, and he’ll be on this list in two years. But Matthews may teach the youngster a few things.


Marcus Mariota

QB; Redshirt Sophomore; Oregon; 6-4, 211

(Last Week: 23) In his first game against a good defense, Mariota continued to make everything look easy. Against Washington, Mariota threw for 366 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for 88 yards and a touchdown. I had him ranked way too low before.


Aaron Murray

QB; Senior; Georgia; 6-1, 208

(Last Week: 8) Murray will be working with skill position players who started the season as third- and fourth-stringers, so adjust expectations accordingly. If he can will the Bulldogs to an SEC East title under these circumstances, wow.


Cyrus Kouandjio

OT; Junior; Alabama; 6-6, 310

(Last Week: 9) Alabama coach Nick Saban tried to temper the hype about Kouandjio earlier this month. “I think a lot of expectations are created with these guys,” Saban told reporters. “I hate it that Mel Kiper and all these guys say this is the No. 1 guy at his position. They don’t even have an idea.” He’s probably right. We have no idea. But Kouandjio is very good, and he’s going to remain high on these lists.


Johnny Manziel

QB; Redshirt Sophomore; Texas A&M; 6-1, 200

(Last Week: 10) Manziel pulled another rabbit out of his hat at Ole Miss. His habit of dangling the ball like a loaf of bread got him in trouble in the fourth quarter, but as usual, he bailed himself—and the Aggies—out of trouble in a come-from-behind win.


AJ McCarron

QB; Senior; Alabama; 6-4, 214

(Last Week: 11) McCarron threw for 359 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions at Kentucky.


Mike Evans

WR; Redshirt Sophomore; Texas A&M; 6-5, 225

(Last Week: 6) Evans caught four passes for only 46 yards at Ole Miss, but the attention paid to him opened things up for former walk-on Travis Labhart.


Tajh Boyd

QB; Senior; Clemson; 6-1, 225

(Last Week: 12) Boyd will get his toughest test to date when Florida State visits Death Valley on Saturday. A big game against the Seminoles would help Boyd’s stock tremendously.


De'Anthony Thomas

RB; Junior; Oregon; 5-9, 176

(Last Week: 7) Thomas missed his second consecutive game with an ankle injury. Don’t expect him to push it to get back on the field against Washington State on Saturday, but if he’s healthy, expect to see Thomas against UCLA on Oct. 26.


C.J. Mosley

LB; Senior; Alabama; 6-2, 232

(Last Week: 13) Mosley led Alabama with seven tackles at Kentucky, and the Crimson Tide held the Wildcats to 170 yards and seven points.


Stephon Tuitt

DE; Junior; Notre Dame; 6-6, 303

(Last Week: 14) After a bye week, Tuitt and company will be back in action against USC on Saturday.


James Hurst

OT; Senior; North Carolina; 6-7, 305

(Last Week: 15) Want a close look at Hurst? He’ll be on ESPN Thursday against some raw-but-talented Miami defenders.


Zach Mettenberger

QB; Senior; LSU; 6-5, 235

(Last Week: 16) Considering what Florida’s defense usually does to opposing quarterbacks, there’s probably no need to be too hard on Mettenberger for his 152-yard, zero-touchdown day. The key stats are zero interceptions and a W.


Sammy Watkins

WR; Junior; Clemson; 6-1, 205

(Last Week: 17) Watkins averages 16.2 yards a catch, and he’ll have to play one of his best games to help the Tigers beat Florida State.


Louis Nix III

DT; Junior; Notre Dame; 6-3, 340

(Last Week: 18) USC’s ability to run set up play-action against Arizona. It will be interesting to see if Nix can clog the middle and force the Trojans to become one-dimensional.


Ryan Shazier

LB; Junior; Ohio State; 6-2, 222

(Last Week: 19) Shazier should have a big day against a less-than-dynamic Iowa offense on Saturday.


Will Sutton

DT; Senior; Arizona State; 6-1, 305

(Last Week: 20) Sutton had a quiet game against Colorado, but the Sun Devils will need him to harass Washington quarterback Keith Price on Saturday.


Kyle Van Noy

LB; Senior; BYU; 6-3, 245

(Last Week: 25) Van Noy had three tackles for loss—including two sacks—on Saturday against Georgia Tech. Consider for a second how difficult it is to make two sacks against an option team.


Braxton Miller

QB; Junior; Ohio State; 6-2, 215

(Last Week: 21) The bye week was probably good for Miller, who missed two games before coming back in the Buckeyes’ win against Northwestern.


Jason Verrett

CB; Senior; TCU; 5-10, 176

(Last Week: 22) TCU’s lackluster offense is making life tough for defenders such as Verrett, but he’ll have to help pick up the slack. That’s especially true with Oklahoma State’s receiving corps up next.


Loucheiz Purifoy

CB; Junior; Florida; 6-1, 189

(Last Week: 26) Purifoy had a sack-forced fumble and a pick-6 against Arkansas, but he couldn’t help much against an LSU offense content to keep the ball on the ground.


David Yankey

OG; Senior; Stanford; 6-5, 311

(Last Week: 24) Yankey and the Cardinal offensive line will get a big test with Barr and the Bruins coming to Palo Alto.


Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

S; Junior; Alabama; 6-1, 208

(Last Week: 27) Clinton-Dix remains suspended for taking an improper loan from an Alabama assistant strength coach who had ties to an agent. He’s missed two games, and he’s playing on the scout team again this week.


Timmy Jernigan

DT; Junior; Florida State; 6-2, 298

(Last Week: 28) The Seminoles will need Jernigan to be strong against the run to keep Clemson from being able to freeze Florida State’s secondary with play action.


Cyril Richardson

OG; Baylor; 6-5, 335

(Last Week: 29) Go to >the 2:52 mark of this video to watch Richardson destroy a Kansas State defender to spring Glasco Martin for the win-sealing touchdown Saturday.


Adrian Hubbard

LB; Redshirt Junior; Alabama; 6-6, 252

(Last Week: 30) Hubbard had three tackles at Kentucky.


Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

CB; Junior; Oregon; 5-10, 190

(Last Week: 37) Washington coach Steve Sarkisian called Ekpre-Olomu the best defensive player he’s seen this season.


Derek Carr

QB; Senior; Fresno State; 6-3, 218

(Last Week: 31) Check out how Carr spent his bye week in this Fresno Bee story. If Carr wants to rise on this list, he needs to man up and handle those poopy diapers.


Jared Abbrederis

WR; Redshirt Senior; Wisconsin; 6-2, 190

(Last Week: 32) Abbrederis only had two catches against Northwestern, but one was a 63-yard touchdown.


Bradley Roby

CB; Redshirt Junior; Ohio State; 5-11, 192

(Last Week: 33) has >an excellent breakdown of Roby’s past two games.


Marqise Lee

WR; Junior; USC; 6-0, 195

(Last Week: 34) Lee remains questionable for the Notre Dame game. He injured his knee at Arizona State, and missed the Trojans’ win against Arizona.


Zack Martin

OT; Senior; Notre Dame; 6-4, 304

(Last Week: 35) Martin and company did a good job protecting Tommy Rees against Arizona State, but expect USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast to bring the heat to try to force some interceptions. Martin could be challenged by Devon Kennard, but Morgan Breslin—another quality USC pass rusher—is questionable.


Antonio Richardson

OT; Junior; Tennessee; 6-6, 327

(Last Week: 36) Richardson will get his rematch against Clowney on Saturday.


Khalil Mack

LB; Senior; Buffalo; 6-3, 245

(Last Week: 38) Mack had a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery against Western Michigan.


Anthony Johnson

DT; Junior; LSU; 6-3, 294

(Last Week: 39) Johnson had a sack and a hurry in Saturday’s win against Florida.


Melvin Gordon

RB; Redshirt Sophomore; Wisconsin; 6-1, 207

(Last Week: Not Ranked) Gordon carried 22 times for 172 yards and a touchdown against Northwestern.


Jordan Matthews

WR; Senior; Vanderbilt; 6-3, 205

(Last Week: 40) If the Commodores want to crack the win column in the SEC, they’ll need Matthews to abuse a suspect Georgia secondary on Saturday.


Trent Murphy

LB; Redshirt Senior; Stanford; 6-6, 261

(Last Week: 41) Murphy’s deflection—which led to an A.J. Tarpley interception—may have saved the Cardinal against Washington. His two tackles for loss did not save the Cardinal at Utah.


Ka'Deem Carey

RB; Junior; Arizona; 5-10, 207

(Last Week: 42) Carey carried 21 times for 138 yards at USC in Arizona’s loss last Thursday.


Darqueze Dennard

CB; Senior; Michigan State; 5-11, 188

(Last Week: 45) Dennard and the Spartans slowed the Big Ten’s most productive offense in a surprisingly easy win against Indiana.


Odell Beckham Jr.

WR; Junior; LSU; 6-0, 193

(Last Week: 43) Beckham leads LSU with 733 receiving yards and a 19.8-yard average.


Jarvis Landry

WR; Junior; LSU; 6-1, 195

(Last Week: 44) But Landry isn’t far behind with 46 catches for 674 yards.


Xavier Su’a-Filo

OG; Junior; UCLA; 6-3, 304

(Last Week: 46) Su’a-Filo will get his biggest test to date Saturday against Stanford’s ferocious pass rush.


Jackson Jeffcoat

DE; Senior; Texas; 6-5, 250

(Last Week: Not Ranked) Jeffcoat had two sacks in the Longhorns’ 36-20 win against Oklahoma in Dallas.


Travis Swanson

C; Senior; Arkansas; 6-5, 315

(Last Week: 47) Swanson doesn’t have much help around him. Unfortunately, he’s got to deal with Alabama’s defensive line Saturday.


Scott Crichton

DE; Redshirt Junior; Oregon State; 6-3, 265

(Last Week: 49) Crichton had just two tackles against Washington State on Saturday.


Reads like a Key and Peele skit.


and let me add one more thing, a lot of SEC players will be drafted in the first round and as usual most of them will not contribute much too their teams, cause you know, in the NFL they test for steroids.


seriously Andy, AJ? C'mon, what team in their right mind would draft Matt Leinart 2.0 in the first round? Why not go full on SEC homer mode and add Jeff Driskel too.


Staples is right about the "ran fast in his underwear one time" part. We swallow the 'what has he done lately' routine far too often.  So except for the top eight or ten guys a lot of this will change. Overall, there are a lot of good players available for the next draft.

Stephen Morris QB U of Miami is seemingly being overlooked by this draft projection as well as the national media in general. There is no mention of Morris despite the fact that he threw for 3500 yds 21 td's 7 int's as a junior. He won the MVP award at the 2013 Peyton Manning Passing Camp - the one that Archie Manning ousted Johnnie Football - and he is having a successful 5-0 senior campaign thus far which includes a win over Florida. The kid is a 6'2" 218 lb. pure pocket passer with the biggest arm in college football barring V-Tech's Logan Thomas. Someone please help me understand why this kid is not being mentioned?


From Trojan Nation, I'll say this, you have Marqise Lee waaaay too low... you have Ifo at Oregon too low and you have Ka'deem Carey, insanely too low...  Carey in particular... the guy ran 21 times for 138 yards against our defense... last I checked we're not getting killed against the run... our bug-a-boo is our pass defense... the fact you dinged Carey for 138 yards in 21 carries is illogical.

Then again, seeing where you have Johnny "I Sign Football's For No Money" Manziel at, I'm guessing you're seeing him as the next Fran Tarkington in the NFL.  LOL... I don't think so.


AlixtheGmabit: Teddy is not playing any ranked teams this year. He is playing against a bunch of mid-round player, which means Teddy show be putting up big time numbers. He is overrated. A.J. McCarron is not the next Tom Brady. He plays with the best NCAA players. He is the next Greg McElroy. The only QBS that should be in the first round is MM and Manziel.


Cowboys draft needs in April 2014: DT, DE, G, S, CB, T


Worst list I have ever seen. It's like the author just threw all the big name players on it. WAY TOO HIGH on Murray, Manziel, Evans, McCaron, Miller, etc. Marquise Lee at 35? LOL, he's a top 15 talent.


The Texans are so stupid they will probably draft Derek Carr.


clowney one hit wonder he made one highlight and everybody goes crazy defensive lineman are only good as the rest of the line fortunately for him the giants may have the top pick, boy mariota looks like a system qb along with the rest of these option qbs for my money i would get AJ Mccarron reminds me alot of another guy that wasn't hyped coming out but knew how to win  Tom Brady, wouldn't sleep on MarqisLee, I like Manziel he's definitely I wild card I would take him over Mariota


Teddy hasn't played enough GOOD teams to be rated.  Doubt he can handle the pressure of an nfl QB


If all these guys enter the NFL draft this year and are legit 1st round picks, probably half of the round will sound like a Key and Peele sketch.


How does one dangle a loaf of bread?


Ka'Deem Carey is up there, but not Bishop Sankey?


I'm not quite sure what the point of this was, but save for maybe the first 5 or 6 guys, NO draft board is going to look anything like this. Strange how he references the fact that FLA defense makes great qb's look average, but then puts one FLA defender on the list, maybe the best corner in the nation, at #25. Odd.


Stats do not define how good a quarterback is. I'm sure Sean Mannion is a good quarterback, but to claim he is better than every quarterback is preposterous. Also, I don't understand why people believe that Mariota is the best quarterback in the nation. Look, I get it, he runs a high-octane offense very well and all, but I think that it is pretty obvious that Johnny Manziel is the best quarterback in the nation. I am a Bama fan, and I can definitely say that the only reason that game was even close was because Manziel (and Mike Evans, he is a helluva reciever). Mariota is a solid quarterback, but Manziel is a quarterback that causes opposing fans to hold their breaths every down, in fear of a big play. He is a cocky, arrogant, and annoying prick off the field, but damn, the guy knows how to make big plays out of nothing. 


Sean Mannion should be on this list. Leads the nation in passing.


Where the heck is Sean Mannion?  He is better than all the other QB's listed with maybe the exception of Mariota.


How is Brett Hundley not on this list??!!!

I believe MM will end up ahead of Bridgewater when it's all said and done. Mobility>>>

Navycross Because in the NFL he'll be a one dimensional player. There is little future for him at the next level. I would focus more the likes of AJ and others on this list who will be lucky to be a second stringer most of their careers in the NFL.

Ciscos ~ I don't think the writer likes Miami.  He's left several other QBs off the list as well.


@Alix ~ Marcus yes... he's the real deal at Oregon... the only thing that's going to hurt him is the NFL views Oregon as a system offense (see the last several Oregon QBs as reference).  I don't agree with that with him, but knowing how the League thinks, they are not going to view him any different when the analysis starts.

Johnny Manziel shouldn't even be considered a first round pick.  He's not deathly accurate and 1/3rd of the passes he's thrown are playground plays.  That may work in college and high school, but it doesn't work in the league.  If there were questions about Matt Barkley's arm strength, then there are definitely questions about his.

Once Manziel announces he's going to the NFL, then expect the assessment of his skills to begin.  They'll rip is footwork (awful), pocket presence (average), reads (average), arm mechanics (slightly better than average), and judgement (average to poor). 

Manziel, if he's lucky, should be a second round pick, maybe even a third.  Keep in mind, the only teams that may even be looking for a QB in the first round, may be the Jags - and that's only if Gus Bradley dumps the plan and snatches one.  If he does, it won't be Manziel.  Texans? Depends on what happens with Schaub>  But I don't see Kubiak doing that unless he has too.  Vikings? Freeman will resign with them. He should. Cardinals? Maybe, but it won't be with a first round pick.  Bucs? They need to fire Schiano first.  Raiders? They're going to roll with Pryor for the foreseeable future. 

Even with the rookie wage scale now, no one is going to draft a QB in the first round and sit them. They can take them in the second or even the third round and in that group, Manziel isn't even in the top 5.


@ProfessorGriff ~ You called it correctly... I'm actually surprised Romo has been playing better.  Not sold on that dude, but I guess since Jerry gave him that huge contract they won't be drafting a QB in the next four years. 


@astronix ~ LMAO!  They can always bring in Vince "Crybaby" Young. He's older now so he's probably stopped crying.


@youngnorth77 ~ ooooooh, I was with you until you picked Manziel over Marcus. I agree about the system and they'll hold that against him.  However, I think his upside is far better than Manziel's.  His mechanics, footwork, pocket presence, give him the edge.  Again, the league will hold Oregon's offense against him, but when the analysis starts, I'm expecting Jaws and co to grade him higher than Manziel.

Funny you mentioned Clowney. I was listening to a former player break down his game and pointed out several major flaws.  One being he has little to no technique and no signature move.  That's vital on the next level. Right now, when he decides to play (absent injury) he does little more than bull rush guys. Can't do that on the next level.


@IsaacDoomkumWard ~ I'm sorry, I have to cosign the comments of @WHO*IS*ESPN and @Kyle Spillman. Manziel's playground plays don't work in the League.  Once he's graded and his mechanics are broken down, they won't slam him, but he's not going to get graded very high.  BTW, people hold their breaths when Manziel plays because they have no idea what he's going to do.  As a coach, is that what's important to me or is being a good game manager? I'll take game manager and a first, second, third round pick for $5,000 Isaac.

The QB class is potentially stacked this year when very few teams "need" a QB.  Sean Mannion is ok, along with Brent Hundley at ** cough, cough ** UCLA, but in the pile of potential QBs for next years draft, they don't inspire anyone, at this stage, to go jumping thru windows to grab them.


@IsaacDoomkumWard football dumbazz will get clocked in the pro's.  He has NO style against pros and they will be faster than him. NO chance I'd take him


@abgrizzly68 ~ Probably should, but they're grumbles about his overall accuracy.  That's not me, I'm just repeating what I've heard three different scouts say about him.  I know, I know, I know... he leads the nation in passing.


@RichardVarner ~ Better than Tajh Boyd??? Uh, I don't think so. Not at this stage of the season.

Ciscos @astronix ~ if Gus Bradley breaks the plan, then I could see him getting Marcus. I would. But the question is does Marcus fit their current offensive scheme? Or do the Jags ditch it and taylor it to him. I would.  If Bradley sticks to the plan and build inside out, I think he can find a stable veteran QB and continue on his way.  But the power of the mob (Jag fans) may demand it.  Kahn may need it.  If they do go for a QB, I'd give strong consideration to Marcus or Tajh Boyd.  McCarron is a no and so is Murray.  Bridgewater isn't as mobile, but his level of competition hasn't been impressive either.


Completely agree. Mariota will be the #1 pick to Jacksonville in my opinion. I don't see AJ being a first round pick. Most will see him the way Lacy was viewed this year of playing behind a NFL line and his success with virtually no pressure will not translate.


@Ciscos @astronix 

Mariota would do just fine as a traditional, pocket passer.  He has the size and the arm.  I don't think anyone is going to have to change their system to suit him.  I think where Mariota really stands out from some of the other QBs in this draft is his unflappable nature and the general lack of drama surrounding him.  By the time we get to next April, I believe he will be viewed as every bit as good a prospect as Andrew Luck was.  


@donald5 Like too many others you focus entirely upon Chip's offense.  His team would be much better if they had a defense.  Offensively they're near the top of the heap, but he's making do with what he had on defense.  I'll bet, absent a change to get Mariota in the draft, the Eagles focus on shoring up the defense in the next draft and off-season.  


@donald5 Even though he does not have a lot of wins, you should look at where his offense is rated up to this point in the NFL. It might surprise  you that Chip Kellys offense is on pace to set several NFL records.


@donald5 What does that have to do with anything? RG3 and Kap were both drafted before Kelly even hit the pro circuit - I doubt his success or failure will have much say on how teams view Mariota. 


@cmm62 @Ciscos @astronix ~ Cmm62, I totally agree with you. As Jaws says "I love his immeasurables" and I think Marcus would excel wherever he was.  I just think the learning curve would go smoother with adjusting their offense to suit him (either that or fire their OC).  Right now, I'm not sure the Jags even know what they're doing offensively. lol.  Either way, you and I both know, as long as those talking heads don't start labeling him a "system" QB, he'll be able to show what he can do without them focusing on the super minor stuff and blowing that up as a major issue. 

If I were drafting a QB, like I said earlier, it would come down to Marcus or Tajh Boyd. I'd lean more towards Marcus.  

Just FYI, this is all coming a from a Trojan so he must be impressive for that to happen!!


@Kyle Spillman @Craig @donald5 ~ Kyle, I think Chip knew that going in that he needed a defense, but before focusing on that, he needed to shore up that offense and get them sold on the scheme. He's done that.  I think the 2014 draft you'll see them go after defensive players and maybe an Olineman.