Where does Marcus Mariota rank among rushing quarterbacks in fantasy football?
Fantasy Football has not been kind to Marcus Mariota throughout his NFL career, largely due to injuries and the fact that he just doesn’t get the passing volume that other quarterbacks get.
However, there is one fantasy stat where Marcus Mariota has always stood out: rushing.
Mike Clay of ESPN has never been a huge fan of Mariota, and whether that is right or wrong is the debate that every Tennessee Titans fan has been arguing for nearly two years now. So when he gives MM8 praise for something it is important to take note.
That is exactly what happened in the new ESPN+ article (subscription needed) where he ranked the quarterbacks who add the most to their offense on the ground.
Mariota ended up in the second highest tier, which Clay explained:
"Despite missing two games and close to half of three others in 2018, Mariota reached the 60-carry mark for the third consecutive season. He has finished top-10 at the position in both rushing yards and touchdowns in all four of his NFL seasons. Durability remains a concern, but Mariota is unquestionably an asset with his legs."
With everything Marcus Mariota related, there are two ways to unpack this.
The negative is that the odds that this is the year where Mariota stays healthy for 16 games is low, and there is a good chance that he might not have a season like that in his career after the freak injuries he has had.
If you can’t rely on him to stay healthy then there is no way you can view him as anything less than a QB2 on your fantasy football team.
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The positive is, you have a chance to get a real steal in the late rounds of the draft. In fact, you could wait to address QB until late in the draft and just double dip and grab a vet like Tom Brady or Phil Rivers after the rest of your roster is filled.
Once you have your safe starter, go ahead and take a swing on Marcus Mariota. For the weeks he is healthy, you are going to get a bump in production from his new arsenal of weapons: Delanie Walker, A.J. Brown and Adam Humphries were all either not on the roster or hurt last year.
Combining that potent batch of skill position talent with an offensive coordinator in Arthur Smith who has spent his whole career watching what Mariota can and can’t do well, should be a lethal combination.
Expect to see more designed QB runs, RPOs, deep passes, and creative offensive plays. In exchange, hopefully the run-into-a-wall mentality will be gone and we will see less jumbo package runs up the middle on first and second down.
I don’t think Mariota will ever be a lock for a 300+ pass yard, 3 pass TD game, however I could easily see him having several 250+ pass yards, 30+ rush yards, 3 total TDs.
One final note, if you want a potential stretch when Mariota could go off the look at the most important weeks of the season: playoffs.
From Weeks 14-16 the Tennessee Titans will be three weeks removed from their bye week so they should be relatively healthy and they will face the :
-Oakland Raiders: (worst team in the NFL in 2018 in points allowed)
-Houston Texans: (5th worst in passing yards allowed in 2018 and Mariota went 22 of 23 for 303 yards and 2 TDs against them the last time they played)
-New Orleans Saints: (4th worst in passing yards allowed in 2018)
It couldn’t hurt to have Mariota on your bench for that stretch, so he could be a great late stash option when everyone else is thinking about over drafting a kicker.