There’s just about three hours remaining until Roger Goodell declares that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on the clock, and I just now decided to write a full article regarding it. Forgive me for my tardiness in posting this and enjoy (look on the bright side: there’s more information available now than there was a week ago).
Since I don’t have the time to write a full mock (and wouldn’t be good enough at it even if I were ambitious enough to try), I will instead focus on the most intriguing story line entering tonight: Which team will trade up to draft our favorite Hawaiian Heisman winner, Marcus Mariota? At this point, it seems likely that the Titans will choose the best of many offers on the market for the No. 2 pick and continue to toil at the bottom of the AFC South with Zach Mettenberger as their starting QB. This whole article hinges on the Bucs taking Jameis Winston with the first pick, which seems all but guaranteed at this point (my two cents: Mariota is the best quarterback in the draft, followed by Winston and Baylor’s Bryce Petty).
Possible trading partners for the Titans:
San Diego Chargers
This one is a long shot that has been debated for weeks ever since speculation emerged that Philip Rivers would not stick with the Chargers organization if they moved to Los Angeles. The Chargers’ offer would most likely be Rivers for the No. 2 pick straight up, which the Titans would most likely decline. Tennessee will not make this deal unless San Diego throws in their first rounder this year (pick 17). Since the Chargers don’t want to give up a franchise QB and a first round pick for Mariota, this transaction seems to be off the table.
My favorite potential trading partner for the Titans. If I were Chip Kelly, I would be doing whatever it takes to get Mariota at this point. The Eagles have gone 10-6 the past two seasons with Nick Foles/Michael Vick/Mark Sanchez as their quarterbacks. Add Mariota, an upgrade at running back, and Byron Maxwell at corner, and I think the Eagles would go 12-4 and make an NFC Championship game appearance.
Rumors have ranged broadly. One of the top theories is Philly trading recently acquired Sam Bradford to Cleveland for the twelfth or nineteenth pick, then flipping that along with their own first rounder (pick 20) and more to Tennessee. They could also ship Bradford directly to Nashville with pick 20, a future first rounder and another less valuable player/pick. Although the first alternative is more appealing to Philadelphia, the Browns have concerns regarding Bradford’s willingness to sign a long-term contract extension when he lands in Cleveland. I like both options for the Eagles here. With that being said, the next team with a chance to land Mariota is…
ESPN reported yesterday that Cleveland offered both their first round picks (12 and 19) to the Tennessee Titans to draft Marcus Mariota. Both teams are denying the report.
Last season, Cleveland infamously took Johnny Manziel with the 22nd overall pick. The pick resulted in a train wreck, the degree of which that is rarely discussed in the football world without the words “Ryan Leaf” or “JaMarcus Russell” (Current event bonus: Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan) Now Cleveland is eagerly lining up in the bidding for the Heisman winner. The deal would make some sense for Cleveland, having Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas to protect any rookie quarterback brought in by the Browns. However, they have no competent receiving options with Josh Gordon suspended for the season and Jordan Cameron taking off for Miami. A smarter move for Cleveland would be drafting Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams in the second round and trading back to the end of the first round to draft Bryce Petty (I said I wouldn’t make a mock draft, but I said nothing about telling NFL franchises what they should and should not do).
New York Jets
The Jets possess the sixth pick in the draft, the same spot the Washington Redskins found themselves in 2012 when they traded up to No. 2 to pick a fleet-footed Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. The circumstances here are certainly similar, but the Jets won’t have to give up nearly as much as Washington did to find their franchise QB. Instead, they’d give up their current pick, a future first-rounder, and a middle-round pick for each of the next to drafts. What seems more likely for the Jets here is holding onto their pick and drafting a pass rusher to get to the quarterback (there have been rumors of New York trading star defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson) or trading back to get a lineman to protect their current QB, Geno Smith.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams recently acquired a quarterback when they received Nick Foles for Sam Bradford. The Rams round out the top 10 in this year’s draft. To move up eight spots to No. 2, they would have to trade that pick as well as second rounders the next two seasons, and their new QB, Nick Foles. Even then, Tennessee may not accept. The Rams have been the dark horse to acquire Mariota for weeks now and it seems possible that they don’t believe in Nick Foles enough to ride with him this season. If they fail in their pursuit of Mariota, they would likely hone in on wide receiver Kevin White for their first round selection to give Foles some receiving options.
Chicago are the late risers in the Mariota sweeps, and their disaster at the quarterback position is as well-documented as any. They are currently in the middle of a 7-year, $127 million contract calamity. They would have to trade pick No. 7, with which they are expected to take WR Kevin White, OL Brandon Scherff, or DL Danny Shelton, along with other high draft picks. It is unclear whether Jay Cutler could be part of this hypothetical deal or if the Titans would not want to touch his monster contract. I would expect the latter.
Lastly, there is always the possibility that no one meets the Titans asking price for No. 2 and they remain there. Despite their confidence in Zach Mettenberger, they could still take Mariota if they really like him and have a competition in training camp. Better yet, they could want to stay in the top 5 but not want Mariota, so they just pull the trigger on USC defensive end Leonard Williams, which would almost certainly cause David Caldwell’s (Jacksonville’s general manager) phone to blow up right in the middle of the Jaguars’ war room.
Who will actually land Mariota?
Of these seven options, I like the Eagles, the Jets, and the Titans’ scenarios the best. Chip Kelly has done his best to shoot down rumors of the Eagles trading up. Six weeks ago, he called thoughts of him doing so “crazy.” He also says that he would never “mortgage his future” to draft any player. These Kelly quotes make me even more certain he’s going to try his best to get Mariota. He’s a sneaky guy, and I love him for it. I think he’s one of the top coaches in the league and will silence all his critics when his team wins the division this season.
With Mariota as his quarterback, of course.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Sean Gallipo