Marcus Mariota has shown flashes of brilliance the past two seasons in Nashville. In his rookie season he ripped of an 87 yard TD run against Jacksonville in the fourth quarter that led to one of the only Titans’ wins of the year. Earlier this year he torched the Packers at home for 295 yards and 4 touchdowns and had the team in playoff contention in December. Not bad for a franchise that had the first pick in the draft last year.
Mariota has all the tools to be a star in the league. He can run, pass and is a good looking, well spoken guy. But after breaking his fibula last week you have to wonder how durable he really is. He took a sack against Jacksonville on a fairly routine play late in the game but he landed wrong and now he’s having surgery and will need four to five months to recover. Mariota will be back for 2017 but after sustaining season ending injuries his first two years fans around Nashville are wondering if he can play 16 games without getting hurt.
His rookie season Mariota only played in 12 games after suffering an MCL sprain against New England. The team didn’t take any chances and shut him down for the rest of the year.
It can be argued that both injuries are flukes and in the NFL stuff like happens. During Mariota’s sophomore year at Oregon he suffered a partial tear of the MCL but played the rest of the year through the pain.
If Titans’ GM Jon Robinson is as smart as we think he is he will look to pick up a QB in the draft next spring. Tennessee has to address the receiver and defensive back positions first and foremost but with two first round picks it’s likely Robinson will wheel and deal one of them to pick up more picks this year and/or next year. With Matt Cassel as the #2 quarterback on the roster the Titans have to do something in case Mariota goes down again in the future. Third string QB Alex Tanney looked good in the preseason but he’s not someone I’d feel comfortable with if Tennessee is in the playoff hunt next year and Mariota is injured again.
The Titans have an extra 3rd round pick that they picked up from the Rams last year. Pick #69 this year could be a good spot to get some value at the QB position in that spot. DeShone Kizer and Mitch Trubisky will be gone in the first round but after that it’s anyone’s guess which QB goes where in the second and third rounds. Deshaun Watson’s stock has slipped a bit and if he is there at the top of the third round Tennessee would be foolish to let him slip away. Watson could turn into Dak Prescott as a backup and has a ton of upside. But I think he gets picked up in the second round.
Two guys I am intrigued by that will be there in the fourth and fifth rounds are Baker Mayfield and Josh Dobbs. Both guys have shown a ton of potential. Both have shown that they can make boneheaded plays as well. Titans’ fans might be partial to Dobbs since he played at the University of Tennessee and is very popular in the state. He’s mobile and has a pretty good arm. He can get frustrated and turn the ball over but he is a leader, has smarts and could be a guy who could get coached into a starting QB in the NFL.
Mayfield was a Heisman finalist in 2015 and 2016. He excelled against bad teams last year and struggled when he played good teams that put pressure on him like Houston and Ohio State. The Sooner QB reminds me a lot of Matt Leinart. He’s a good QB in a great situation with a lot of talent around him.
Greg Ward Jr from Houston is another QB that will be around in later rounds. In 2015 he burst onto the scene and became a star putting up big numbers on smaller programs in the American Athletic Conference. This year his numbers took a hit as defenses found ways to put pressure on him. At 5’11 size is a concern but I’d take a flyer on him in the seventh round to see what he could do.
Don’t get me wrong, Mariota is the future in Tennessee. Jon Robinson just needs to hedge his bet and bring in a young QB to groom just in case.