It’s Mari-O-ta, not Mario-TA!
If you don’t get the title, then you clearly haven’t read the Harry Potter series and I almost feel bad for you. Or you need to read it again. Did that work? If not oh well…Hermione, Harry’s right hand gal, blasted Harry’s best bud, Ron, for butchering the “Wingardium Levio-SA” spell. Hermione’s sass can blow the socks off of the worst wizards or witches known to man or muggle. This boisterous trio took us through endless adventures and through their journey they painted the classic good versus evil tale that leaves every wizard and witchcraft fan happy as can be. Almost as happy as fantasy owners that have the chance of hanging on to or nabbing Marcus Mariota in next year’s start up or re-draft. Or happier yet, are the savvy Dynasty owners which made him a priority add in this seasons rookie draft.
Regardless of how you pronounce his last name or how intense your appreciation is for a little witchcraft and wizardry; Mariota certainly has some magic up his sleeve.
Harry…I mean, Marcus, was somewhat of a late bloomer. His unharnessed power and skills weren’t really noticed until late into his high school tenure. He attended St. Louis High School in Honolulu where he excelled as a track star and football player. Mariota didn’t start at QB until his senior year and only received offers from Memphis and his eventual alma mater, Oregon.
Chip Kelly saw a diamond in the rough waiting to be plucked and polished all the way out in Honolulu. Mariota made his way across the Pacific and racked up endless awards, records, and touchdowns, while playing for Kelly’s Oregon Ducks. The inside zone read system was a perfect fit for Mariota’s skill set. His supersonic speed and ability to make defenders miss, along with insane efficiency (66.8% completion rate in college), led him to an immortal 36-5 record as a collegiate quarterback. Even more impressive than his wins, as a quarterback, were his astounding 105 touchdowns through the air, and 29 more on the ground. Oh yea, he also won the 2014 Heisman trophy too. Beating out fellow collegiate superstars, Melvin Gordon and Amari Cooper. The guy couldn’t lose. He had the looks, the class, the composure. As if he were taken right out of a fairy tale…
Mariota conjured up some serious hype throughout the offseason. The 6’ 3 ¾” 222lb QB posted some insane combine numbers; 4.52 40-yard dash, 36” vert. and 10’ 1” broad jump. Ultimately, his prosperous collegiate career and impressive combine stats landed Mariota in Tennessee, as the second overall pick of the 2015 NFL draft.
The incantation concocted by Chip Kelly, helped position Mariota into a prime draft position, and caught the attention of many eager fantasy owners scouting for a young, exciting, and productive QB for their fantasy roster. Unfortunately for Mariota and fantasy owners, the excitement of the zone read would have to be replaced by the shaky play calling of perennial quarterback killer, Ken Whisenhunt. That’s like transitioning from a Firebolt Broomstick to a Nimbus 2000. Brutal. Just ask Harry.
Whisenhunt was hired in 2013 to turnaround an anemic Titan offense and guide then QB, Jake Locker, to superstar status just like he did with Kurt Warner, Ben Roethlisberger, and Philip Rivers. The Jake Locker show didn’t last long as Mariota was drafted to not only save Titan ticket holders from another awful season, but to reassure that Ken still had “it”.
Although, Mariota didn’t win any fantasy football championships for his owners in 2015, due to an MCL sprain in week 15 against the Patriots, he did show some flashes of brilliance. Those flashes were also accompanied by a few disappearing acts, but that is to be expected of a rookie QB in the NFL that plays for a subpar team.
Nevertheless, Mariota showed he could lead a team even when times are tough. He produced a lowly 3-9 record, in his first season with the Titans, yet showed similar efficiency, (62% passer completion rating) as he did in Oregon. 21 touchdowns (2 rushing) and 10 interceptions are nothing to write the Weasley’s about, but it is a heck of a start considering the flack he was taking prior to draft day for having poor footwork and a weak arm.
I see a lot of the “old” Cam Newton in Mariota and that is a good thing. Let’s hope he can continue to progress, just like the “new” Cam. Mariota has the ability to make defenders miss and an uncanny knack for finding the endzone, similar to Newton. A regime change, from Whisenhunt to Mularki also helps Mariota, even if Mularki doesn’t land the head coaching job permanently next year. Mariota seems to have more freedom and control over the game and his numbers certainly reflect that under the influence of Mularki.
When Mariota ascends to the level of being able to take better care of the ball and limit turnovers, he will find his way to becoming a weekly top ten or better QB for fantasy teams. Mariota’s supporting cast of young talent like; Dorial Green-Beckham, Antonio Andrews, Delanie Walker (I get it, he’s old), and a healthy Kendall Wright, make the decision to draft or retain him on your roster a bit easier. The rapport he and Dorial Green-Beckham seemed to be building (before his unfortunate MCL injury) could be more dangerous than Voldem…he who shall not be named, himself.
My recommendation is to bottle up whatever potion Mariota is stirring and stash him for years to come in every dynasty league you can. With the MCL injury appearing to be nothing more than a minor stitch in time, I would target him in start up leagues as a potential QB1. As for re-draft, you can most likely wait a bit in your draft before selecting him if you’re still in need of a QB late. We may see Mariota dip a bit during his sophomore campaign, just as Newton did, but I would venture to say he is in the top ten QB discussion in a year or two. The writing is on the parchment…
Thank you for reading. You can find me on Twitter @BryanDKay.