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Should the 2015 NFL Draft Have Gone the Way It Did?

Football vs. Iowa

The 2015 NFL draft class looked like a promising one, with several versatile collegiate athletes such as Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Leonard Williams, Dante Fowler Jr., Vic Beasley, Danny Shelton, Shane Ray, Amari Cooper, Brandon Scherff, Ereck Flowers, Kevin White, and Todd Gurley. The big question of this draft concerned which player would go number one overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who were in desperate need of a quarterback. Would it be Jameis Winston, out of Florida State, or Marcus Mariota, out of Oregon? Winston ended up going number one to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Mariota went second overall to the Tennessee Titans, but after seeing both players perform in the first four weeks of their NFL career, critics were left with the question: did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers make the right decision?

Winston was a two-year starter at Florida State. He won twenty-six of the twenty-seven games he started in. He was the Heisman Trophy winner in 2013. He was therefore a very popular draft choice, because of his college background. He is coming from a program where he was predominantly used as a pocket passer, which would help him carry over to a more pro style offense in the NFL. Although Winston did have some trouble off the field and some weaknesses at his draft showcase, he was still a popular choice for the number one overall pick because he knew how to run the pro style offense coaches and scouts were looking for.

Mariota was a freshman redshirt, meaning he was on the team but did not play, and transitioned into a two-year starter at Oregon. He won the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Davey O'Brien (National QB Award) and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award in 2014. He was also selected as Walter Camp Player of the Year, Associated Press Player of the Year, Walter Camp first-team All-America and Associated Press first-team All-American. He was also selected as Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and 2015 Rose Bowl Offensive MVP. Marcus Mariota looks very good and dominant on paper, but he is coming from a top program in the Pac 12 conference, and Oregon dominated the conference. Scouts and coaches love the way he performs, his attributes, mechanics, and form, and the way he moves and throws the ball. They also love how he knows so much about the game, and his awareness on the field.

During the NFL off-season, scouts and coaches congregate and discuss what is absolutely necessary for the franchise to be successful. For example, last year the New York Giants drafted Odell Beckham Jr., a wide receiver out of Louisiana State University (LSU). Beckham, also known as OBJ, was not a necessary pick for the Giants, but the Giants took a chance with him hoping that it would pay off from what they saw on season highlights. OBJ went on to win rookie of the year last season and has become a huge asset to Eli Manning and the entire Giants franchise. This past season the Giants drafted an offensive lineman, Ereck Flowers, out of the University of Miami. This pick was a necessary one for the Giants because last season the offensive line struggled with personnel and injuries. This is not specific to the Giants franchise only. For example, last year the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Blake Bortles out of University of Central Florida (UCF), a pick that was one hundred percent necessary, as the Jaguars desperately needed a quarterback. This past season the Jaguars did the same thing: they took a great draft pick for what they desperately needed—running back T.J. Yeldon, out of the University of Alabama. The Jacksonville Jaguars are on track to rebuild their franchise using young athletic players. With the past pick of Jameis Winston, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on track to rebuild as well.

Before the NFL season kicks off there are four preseason games so rookies and other players get a few games under their belt before diving head first into the fast pace, hard hitting, and intensive NFL season. Preseason games mean nothing to the veterans or established starters, but to rookies and undrafted players this is the chance of a lifetime. These games mean everything to them. They can dictate whether or not they will have a career for the next six months. Mariota preformed better than Winston, completing more of his passes, and throwing two touchdowns and one interception. Winston, on the other hand, threw 23 for 47 (one hundred yards less than Mariota), no touchdowns, and two inceptions.

As fate would have it, during week 1 of their professional career the two rookies would face each other. Going into the game people said that Winston was the favorite because he went number one overall and had two threatening receivers, Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans; he could also throw the long ball. The Titans also had weapons: wide receiver Kendall Wright and tight end Delanie Walker. Stacked up, these teams didn’t seem very different. Both had rookie Heisman winning quarterbacks and a solid receiving core, but what separated them were the unsung heroes of football: the offensive line, which can make or break a team. Those players play every play of every drive on offense; they bang heads and play in and play out to protect their star players. The difference between the offensive lines in this situation was that the Tampa Bays’ line had played together for a while, while Tennessee had a few rookies on the line who were trying out different positions to see what would work best. After week one Mariota came out on top with a crushing victory of 42-14. After week one the question then became, was Winston the correct number one overall draft pick?

Now that three more weeks have passed, critics are left to wonder whether Jameis Winston should have gone number one overall? Or should that position have gone to Marcus Mariota, the former quarter back of the Oregon Ducks? Although Mariota is coming from a totally different offensive play style, he has proven himself to be able to learn and adapt to his new offense. He and the Titans stand at a record of 1 win and 2 losses. Winston, on the other hand, has proven himself as well. Although this past week Winston struggled with throwing the ball, going 26 for 43, he also had 287 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. His team came up short against the 4 and 0 Carolina Panthers with a loss of 23-37.

 

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