Teams looking for a quarterback in the 2015 NFL Draft have limited options to choose from this year. There are plenty of developmental options, intriguing players who need time to pick up the pro game, but with so many teams in dire need of a franchise player at the position, all eyes are on Jameis Winston of Florida State and Marcus Mariota of Oregon.
Both are regarded as players who can come into the league and start as rookies. Both have their share of things to work on as they adjust to the NFL. Starting 16 games as a rookie might not be ideal, but Mariota and Winston have the kind of high ceiling that has teams scheming and dreaming about how they can find a way to land them with a top pick in the draft.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, owners of the first pick, appear to be locked in on Winston. Leaving Mariota up for grabs for the other quarterback-needy teams who think they have even the slightest possibility to draft him.
But who is going to wind up with Mariota? Does selecting him make sense? Let's take a look at the teams linked to him thus far and whether or not he's feasible or realistic.
Tennessee has the second overall pick in the draft, have nobody of note at the quarterback position and would probably need Mariota to start as a rookie. Zach Mettenberger has some potential at quarterback, but he's a former sixth-round pick and has dealt with injuries dating back to his college days.
The problem for the Titans is that they have needs all over the roster. Luring a team to trade up for the second spot in the draft order could give them a package of picks rivaling what the Rams got from Washington in 2012, a bounty that could go a long way toward restocking the roster with affordable, young talent.
A handful of teams have been linked to the Titans in trade rumors, sometimes with scenarios involving Philip Rivers or Sam Bradford in the deal. One GM said last week that Mariota was going to be the second pick of the draft; he just didn't know to which team. In the end, passing on a QB just might be riskier than the sure thing of extra draft picks.
Likelihood of drafting Mariota: 60 percent
Coaches don't seem to like Robert Griffin III, including current head coach Jay Gruden. He'll say what he needs to say to make it seem as though Griffin has every opportunity to succeed going forward, but he's also made it clear that Washington won't blink at using the No. 5 overall pick on a quarterback. Picks No. 3 and 4 go to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders, teams that won't pick Mariota, so Washington is next on the list.
The rumor mill has connected Washington and Mariota, and the team has a private workout with him. On the other hand, there are indications that could just be a smoke screen to entice a team to trade up if Mariota falls to the fifth pick. Don't discount Dan Snyder here either. If the owner is still committed to RG3, Washington won't pull the trigger for another quarterback.
Likelihood: 20 percent
This is the easy connection, given that head coach Chip Kelly coached Mariota at Oregon. Kelly has also been proactive in bringing in the players he wants, including some of his former Oregon players, and has full control over the roster. That's still a tenuous link. The Eagles traded a whole lot for quarterback Sam Bradford (most believe they overpaid) and it would cost an awful lot to move up from No. 20 overall to whatever it would take to get Mariota.
It seems so unlikely, but so has everything else the Eagles have done this offseason. Kelly's made this franchise as fun to watch in the offseason as it is on Sundays in the fall.
Likelihood: 40 percent
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New York Jets
If Mariota makes it past the Titans and Washington, and if nobody trades up to get ahead of them, the Jets should be on him. Todd Bowles is doing his best to make Geno Smith seem like a legitimate option going forward, but that probably has more to do with the fact that Smith is the best of the worst at this point.
The real question for the Jets is what they do if they don't believe Mariota will fall to the sixth pick. Is it worth a move up to the second spot? That could be pricey.
Likelihood: 50 percent
San Diego Chargers
Here's an odd one: the Chargers have met with Mariota thus far and are interested in him. The team shot down rumors about trading Rivers, but it is worth noting that Rivers is entering the final year of his contract. If the San Diego coaching staff really thinks Mariota can be their franchise quarterback for a post-Rivers future, the interest makes sense.
The Chargers don't pick until No. 17. By that point, the multiple teams who could benefit from Mariota, teams with more ammunition to move up, could keep San Diego out of the mix.
Likelihood: 20 percent
St. Louis Rams
Talk of the Rams drafting Mariota has picked up in recent weeks. They swapped Bradford for Nick Foles, but Foles only has one year left on his contract. The Rams offense has struggled to find an identity since Jeff Fisher took over head coaching duties in 2012. For now, they look like a team committed primarily to a basic running game, which doesn't exactly require much more than an average signal caller.
With three straight losing seasons and the failure to find a starting quarterback to groom with the picks from the RG3 trade, there could be just enough pressure in St. Louis (or Los Angeles) to trade up from No. 10 and finally get a franchise cornerstone they thought they had in Bradford. On the other hand, we should know by now that Fisher rarely does the right thing when it comes to quarterbacks.
Likelihood: 25 percent
It's fair to wonder at this point if Johnny Manziel will even be on the team's roster when the 2015 season starts. Cleveland offered a first-round pick for Bradford already this spring, and the team's owner, who has a demonstrated tendency to meddle directly in personnel affairs, is on the record stating that they need to "fix" their QB situation.
But what about Josh McCown, you say? Ha! Ha! Stop being silly.
Mariota and the Browns make a lot of sense (poor kid), but much of that depends on whether or not the Browns think they can make a draft-day deal for Mariota, which won't be cheap. The Browns are one of two teams with a pair of picks in the first round this year (12th and 19th).
Likelihood: 40 percent
New Orleans Saints
Yes, they have one of the few truly elite quarterbacks in the league, so why are they even on this list? A flurry of Saints trades and free agent signings had the rumor mill working overtime, leading some to speculate about Drew Brees' future with the team. GM Micky Loomis shot that talk down pretty quickly, but rumors don't fade so easily in the constant hum of the NFL news cycle. Keeping Brees and drafting a quarterback aren't mutually exclusive.
Brees is still playing at a high level, but he is 36 years old. His contract is a nightmare with more than $50 million in cap costs this year and next. He only has two years left on that deal, at which point he'll be 38. If New Orleans wants to stay competitive when Brees' playing time there is up, they'd be smart to find a replacement before that day comes.
The Saints are the other team with two picks in the first round (13th and 31st).
Likelihood: 30 percent
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