NFL Combine: Eyes on the Prize

BY NATASHA GEIGER

The NFL Combine invites elite college athletes to test their athletic abilities and catch the attention of teams and their recruiters. The combine runs the players through six different skill testing drills: 40 yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, board jump, three cone drill and the shuttle run. These high intensity and athletic drills are able to give an idea to teams how the athletes would fit in with their franchise.

Over 300 players were invited to attend and participate in the combine on Feb. 17-23, 2015; two of them were the NCAA’s top quarterbacks: Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. These two had outstanding college careers and hope to continue that success in the professional league.

Marcus Mariota played for the Oregon Ducks and was a top performer in the quarterback section through all drills. Mariota stands at 6’4”, 222 pounds with an arm length of 32”. He is a remarkably quick quarterback and deadly once outside the pocket. He ran the 40 yard dash in 4.52 seconds and the 20 yard shuttle run in 4.11 seconds, showing off his speed. Mariota also has good ball placement which will increase his worth to many teams that have struggled in the quarterback department.

Jameis Winston played for the Florida State Seminoles and had a solid season but had some unfortunate off-field problems that placed him in a negative spotlight. Winston stands at 6’4”, 231 pounds with a 32” arm length. He is a natural born leader with a strong arm to get passes anywhere. It is important that he is able to be in the pocket without getting nervous, allowing him to throw where he wants. Winston will take chances that many other quarterbacks won’t.

Mariota and Winston are the top two quarterbacks in the combine and there is no denying that. These two players will no doubt go in the first round. Most projected drafts show that Winston will go as the first pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They have not had a decent quarterback for a couple of years and Winston will be able to change that with his exemplary talent. Mariota is projected by many analysts to be taken at pick six by the New York Jets who will do anything to erase the years of Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith and Michael Vick.

When comparing these two players, they are actually very similar in stature. They stand at 6’4” and both weigh between 220-230 pounds. They even have the same arm length, both at 32”. Mariota is fast inside and outside the pocket. With his long legs he is able to run outside the pocket for good yardage. Winston has a little more bulk on him and his throwing accuracy is excellent. Whether he is bumped around in the pocket or tip-toeing around the outside of the pocket, he uses his arm strength to get the ball anywhere he wants. He can run outside the pocket which enables teams to utilize his strengths if the team does not have a solid offensive line.

After watching these two quarterbacks play in their last season as a college quarterback and looking at video from the combine, I would be more willing to take Marcus Mariota. The reason why I would take Mariota is his speed and agility to run outside the pocket. It is always important to have another running option outside of the running back. You can depend on Mariota to make plays for big gains. These two amazing talents will no doubt draw attention throughout the next couple of months until the NFL Draft. With help from the franchise and fellow teammates, Mariota and Winston will contend for Rookie of the Year.

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