Which NFL Quarterback Will Have a Better Rookie Year: Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston?

After being selected first and second overall in the NFL Draft, quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota enter the league with plenty of hype. Each has a Heisman Trophy to their name, and comes with his fair share of speculation. The fantastic physical assets of each player cannot be denied. Despite this each comes with his fair share of risk. What happens next season, and in the years to come, will surely be worth watching. Both players have the potential to become stand out quarterbacks in the NFL.

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Winston’s abundance of talent has never been questioned. He was ranked as the superior prospect; although, many question his maturity and commitment off the field. There is ample evidence of his suspect decision making. On the opposite end of the spectrum, in this regard, is Marcus Mariota. He couldn’t be graded higher in respect to mental fortitude and dedication. However, the offensive system he thrived in during his time at Oregon leads some to believe the transition to the NFL may be a tricky task. It’s difficult to say for certain which player is set up for superior pro level success. However, when we break it down, it is ironic how exactly both men seem to reflect the antithesis of the other.

The Case for Jameis Winston



At 6’4” and 230lbs., Winston is arguably the best, pure passing quarterback to come out of the draft since Andrew Luck. He has excellent vision of the field, ideal size and athleticism to boot. Winston has demonstrated superb football IQ and an advanced ability to read through progressions on the field. Both these attributes bode well for his future in the NFL. During his college career Winston showed a willingness to take chances on difficult throws and came through in clutch situations. He wasn’t afraid to throw the ball when some players might have second guessed themselves. Poise and confidence in both his teammates and himself are outstanding qualities he possesses. When the pressure was on, he dialed his game up a notch.

The Ineffable Marcus Mariota

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At 6’4” 222lbs., Mariota’s measurements compare very closely to Winston. However, Mariota boasts superior athleticism, running a 4.52 sec 40 yard dash at the combine. He displays consistent football character and values his family and heritage deeply. In his time at Oregon, he threw multiple interceptions only three times in 41 career starts. Mariota is considered an extremely coachable player who has solid throwing mechanics and is able to make difficult off balance throws. He rarely makes mistakes passing the ball.

AP Photo

The Down Sides of Both Players

The biggest areas of concern for Jameis Winston stem from decision making, both on and off the field. Last season he threw for 18 interceptions, choosing to take unnecessary risks at times when other options were available. He lacks the athleticism to extend plays for very long with his feet. Likewise, practically the entire nation has heard of his tumultuous off the field history. From petty theft to accused of rape, question marks shroud any logical explanation. Perhaps he was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time or maybe these events hint at a larger issue. No one can tell definitively.

On the other hand, Marcus Mariota doesn’t come with any character concerns. Despite this, how he transitions from a no-huddle, hurry-up offense remains to be scene. The Tennessee offense is a vastly different scheme from what he became accustomed to in college. His arm strength is adequate, but Mariota can sometimes be inconsistent, especially when stepping into his throws. He has displayed average progression-reading ability, but clearly benefited most from a system predicated on simplification. He will have to work on anticipating throws and picking up on blitz schemes. Likewise, Mariota’s ability to run is a double-edged sword. While it allows him to extend plays and break off runs for extra yardage, the possibility for injury is always a major risk. (See RGIII for example.)

The Verdict

Coming from a pro-style offense, Jameis Winston stands to have an easier time transitioning to the NFL. He has superior abilities in regard to passing the ball and is a more traditional style quarterback. Marcus Mariota has superior athleticism, while Winston holds higher caliber arm talent. Likewise, Winston anticipates pressure from defenses and progresses through plays more adroitly. Each player possesses great football IQ, but Winston still gains an edge. He attained a significant amount of experience through a college offense that featured many of the same plays used in the NFL.

Finally, when it comes to team situation there is hardly a competition. Drafted into the NFL by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jameis Winston is entering better overall circumstances. He has two elite receiving threats to throw to in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. Meanwhile, Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans have none (Kendall Wright has not proven anything and DGB is a rookie with great potential). Each team has a questionable defense, but likely that only means passing the ball will be of equal importance.
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When the time arrives to make an immediate impact, Jameis Winston is set up for higher levels of achievement. He’s coming to the NFL with experience in the realm of offensive plays, and has a better supporting cast to go along with that. Marcus Mariota will add more rushing yards to his team’s offense, but Winston is a superior pocket passer. Overall, Winston should have a better rookie season. As long as off the field issues stay at a minimum, his game translates more smoothly to the NFL.

Who do you think will have the better rookie season? Winston or Mariota? Let us know in the comments below

Landin Murphy covers the NFL for MFST, you can follow him on Twitter @Landinfitness

Landin Murphy

Landin “Shredder” Murphy has been athletic since early age, quickly developing a propensity for both baseball and swimming. One of Landin’s fondest memories was his youth baseball team narrowly missing out on the opportunity to play in the Little League World Series Final. Unfortunately, during high school Landin was forced to forget his originally preferred sports as a freak basketball injury nearly ended his life. All prospects for Division I sports scholarships evaporated. Despite this set back, Landin focused his energies in new modes, becoming an All-State musician, avid sports journalist and by"Bodybuilding" to stimulate and heal his body. In an effort to assist others, Landin is currently pursuing Pre-Medical, Dosimetry and Sports Medicine degrees.

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Landin MurphyFF AnalysisFootballNFLNFL Draft#FantasyFootball,Jameis Winston,Marcus Mariota,NFL,Tampa Bay Buccaneers,Tennessee TitansWhich NFL Quarterback Will Have a Better Rookie Year: Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston? After being selected first and second overall in the NFL Draft, quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota enter the league with plenty of hype. Each has a Heisman Trophy to their name, and comes with his...