Prior to the NFL Combine, both NFL Draft experts, Mike Mayock, and ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. were predicting the Tennessee Titans would take the best player on the board after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers make the first selection in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Their Mock:2.0 had targeted University of Southern California DE Leonard Williams as the best player in the draft at two, and would be a natural selection for the Titans.
Most analysts were nixing a trade with the second pick because they were not convinced that there was enough value for whichever Quarterback that Tampa Bay did not select.
The NFL Combine put a different light on the subject, and although everyone expected Florida State’s Quarterback, Jameis Winston to do well, they seemed relatively surprised at how well Marcus Mariota responded during the workout.
Since losing the National Championship game to Ohio State last month, the stock in the University of Oregon’s standout quarterback had dropped in opinion polls until his fine performance on Saturday in Indianapolis started changing hearts, and minds.
"“The question I have this year is I’m not sure if either of these two guys are players you can mortgage your future on,” were Mayock’s exact words Monday regarding Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota."
On Saturday evening, after the workout, the NFL Channel’s top analyst addressed the media, and became more bullish on the trade value of Tennessee’s second pick on April 30th.
"“If you ask me that question in a vacuum it’s different than asking if number five can move up to number two or if number six can move to two as opposed to if 20 can move to two,” he said recognizing the hefty price the Eagles would have to pay to move from 20. “Is there value sitting at two for Tennessee? Absolutely. If a quarterback goes at one and they’re sitting at two okay with Zach Mettenberger, then yeah, the store is open, let’s see if we can barter a little bit.”"
Mayock on Winston: “I thought the top two guys were outstanding. The thing I like about Jameis Winston is I think he throws an extremely catchable ball. He’s got all the arm strength you want, but he makes it easy for the receiver based on the route. He understands that. He gets it.”
Mayock on Mariota: “What I liked about Mariota is just the footwork. You can see how athletic he is. He ran the 4.5 or whatever he ran, but you can see it translate to his drop-backs now. He has a sense of urgency with his feet. I know he’ll be able to adapt to being under center, it’s the pocket awareness part that you can’t tell out here. Physically he’ll be able to do all the things he’s asked to do.”
Mayock on Leonard Williams: “I compare him to Richard Seymour, who is one of my favorite five-techniques (3-4 DE) of all time. Richard Seymour could play up and down the line of scrimmage in any front – three-man front, four-man front, it didn’t matter. He could play every single position and that’s who I think Leonard Williams is, a guy with versatility who is gifted. He can play outside, he can play inside and it doesn’t matter. He’s scheme diverse. Any team at the top of the draft will be looking at him.”
As I checked around Twitter, with Tennessee Titans fans, most were still not convinced that Jameis Winston has changed his spots, and become the model citizen they would like see as the face of this franchise.
Further, most of them don’t think Marcus Mariota will fit the system, and become better than Zach Mettenberger in the near future. They feel he isn’t the game-changing quarterback that would fit in the Ken Whisenhunt game plan.
Most have also voiced their opinion, that the Titans should stand pat on the Leonard Williams selection with their second pick, unless a trade comes along with a boat-load of draft picks.
The staff in Nashville have some tough decisions to make between now and April 30th, and I don’t envy their position. They had to endure a 2-14 season to get here, and now they have a chance to change this franchise for the next decade.
The Tennessee Titans, and General Manager, Ruston Webster have made some good decisions in bringing Ken Whisenhunt to Music City, and followed with the hiring of a top-notch Defensive mind like Dick LeBeau.
I expect them to continue making good decisions going forward, and am sure they will sort this out to the betterment of this organization.