Last year at this time, many believed Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota would head to the NFL draft. He didn’t.
This year at this time, even more believe Mariota will head to the NFL draft. He hasn’t, yet.
Mariota has one more day to apply for early admission to the draft. If he doesn’t, he’ll be back for one more year of college football — and one more chase for a national championship.
With most believing Oregon would run circles around Ohio State, the thinking was that Mariota would have nothing more to prove in 2015 and that, if he’d spend another year in college, his desire to compete at the highest levels would be questioned. Matt Leinart invited those concerns a decade ago, when he opted for one more year at USC despite winning the Heisman and the national title.
Much of the eventual decision depends on the kind of advice Mariota receives from those close to him. And whether Mariota is listening to it.
“I’m sure it will weigh in a little bit,” Mariota said after Monday night’s loss regarding the impact of the defeat, “but there’s a lot of other things that have to play into that decision. There’s starting grad school, coming back for another year to improve, there’s a lot of other things that could bring me back. It’s just not specifically this loss.”
Mariota’s so-so performance in the national championship game has sparked plenty of speculation that perhaps he won’t be the odds-on No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Over the years, great performances on the biggest stages in college sports have resulted in players climbing and falling the board. If Mariota slips, maybe the Eagles will be in better position to slide up to get him.
Then again, now that former Oregon coach Chip Kelly has full control of the football operations in Philly (and a well-documented belief that the draft is a crapshoot), he can give up whatever he wants in order to get in position to snag Mariota.
Regardless, Mariota can’t be snagged if he doesn’t enter the draft. By Thursday, we’ll have the answer.