All aboard! What, you say? Why, it's the Marcus Mariota train. You'd better get on now before it runs you over. For the first time this season, Oregon was playing meaningful snaps late in a game on Saturday. In a 45-24 win over Washington, the redshirt sophomore quarterback had arguably the best game of his college career.
For record-keeping purposes, here is Mariota's stat line from Saturday: 24 of 31 passing for 366 yards and three touchdowns. Thirteen rushes for 88 yards and another score on the ground.
Mariota delivered spot throws of varying distances, several to freshman Bralon Addison. This year, Mariota's deep passes are looking much crisper and he's doing a better job of reading defenses before the snap. Watch Mariota's performance for yourself:
Bruce Feldman of CBS properly warned us following Mariota's dazzling performance. "You're going to hear -- and read -- a ton about Marcus Mariota over the next week," he wrote in his weekly (must-read) column. The obvious narrative for college football fans is Mariota as Heisman Trophy frontrunner.
For those of us who have chosen the oft-mockable task of talking NFL Draft 12 months of the year (explain that to your parents), it's now time to consider Mariota highly in the 2014 NFL Draft. Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian thinks he's a top-five pick.
Top five may not be high enough. In Peter King's weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column, he said there is less certainty around Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney as the No. 1 pick. Insert Mariota, King notes:
And at least two teams love Mariota to the point that I believe if he comes out those teams would have him higher on their board than Bridgewater.
But should Mariota be rated higher than Bridgewater? As we here at Mocking the Draft ponder this, let us know in the comments who you think is the better prospect. While think about it, consider that Mariota is doing it without injured offensive weapon De'Anthony Thomas and deposed tight end Colt Lyerla.
Unlike Mariota, this week's "stock up" choices don't get a lot of publicity.
Alex Amidon, WR, Boston College
Amidon may not have the size that wows people (he's listed at 6-foot, 182 pounds), but he should latch onto an NFL roster as a dependable pass catcher. He picks apart zone coverage, especially on crossing routes. Amidon knows how to play in the space between the linebackers and safeties better than most college receivers. On Saturday, Amidon used his speed to run right past a Clemson defensive back on what turned out to be a 69-yard touchdown reception. He finished the game with six receptions for 121 yards and a score.
Trey Hopkins, G, Texas
During Texas' tone-setting first drive, many of the designed run plays either came to Hopkins' side (the left) or he was in on a key block. Hopkins doesn't look like a typical big-bellied interior lineman. He's a solid athlete at 300 pounds and showed a few times he can get out on pulls. Hopkins has been praised by head coach Mack Brown for his ability to play all five positions on the offensive line. While he doesn't get to show it exclusively playing left guard, it's something NFL evaluators will value.
Stephone Anthony, LB, Clemson
Most of the headlines on the Clemson defense justly go to end Vic Beasley. But it was Anthony who stood out against Boston College. Anthony flashed speed, closing ability and solid instincts. While his position is listed as outside linebacker, he lines up just as much in the A- and B-gaps. Anthony leads Clemson in tackles this season with 77 and has 7.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. He's only a junior but his athleticism makes Anthony look like a next-level player already.
Charles Sawyer, CB, Ole Miss
Against Texas A&M, Sawyer didn't have an impeccable game. Lined up against massive wide receiver Mike Evans on several occasions, Sawyer had a solid game. With Evans able to easily win jump ball situations against the much smaller Sawyer, the Ole Miss did a nice job of relying on his instincts. He got in trouble a couple times playing too far off, but plays more physical than his 178 pounds suggests. Next up for Sawyer is a tough matchup against LSU's duo of Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.
Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
When the college football season started, Gardner was overwhelmingly more potential and projection than finished product. That's what you would expect from someone who came into the year with less than a season of starting experience. Gardner, who is a junior, looks like a player who should strongly consider staying in school for another season. Gardner had two more interceptions on Saturday, raising his season total to 10. Gardner's decision making isn't as advanced as it could be, but the potential remains. From Maize N Brew:
Gardner has the physical tools to be an elite NFL quarterback, yet he constantly makes the same mistakes that (Denard) Robinson made. His Jekyll and Hyde act will continue to give Wolverine fans heart attacks.
NFL personnel members may not be having heart attacks, but they may only be viewing him as a Day 3 prospect at this point.
Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
Moncrief barely got looked at against Texas A&M, finishing with just one reception for three yards. While the Rebels' pass offense can be part of the blame, Moncrief has to make the most of every opportunity. Letting a third quarter pass bounce off your stomach will have quarterback Bo Wallace looking more and more for wide receiver Laquon Treadwell instead.
Cassius Marsh, DE, UCLA
Marsh makes the downer list solely because he got himself kicked out in the first half of UCLA's 37-10 win over California by punching an opponent. That followed two consecutive offsides penalties. Marsh now faces disciplinary action. NFL teams want tough players. Not tough players who do stupid things.