With the NFL Combine in the rearview mirror, the next thing to look forward to as an NFL fan is the Draft.
While the draft doesn’t start until April 30 this year, there are still plenty of places to look for opinions as if they’re word down from on high – I’m talking about mock drafts of course!
I was looking at a few mock drafts recently, because what else do I have to do, and found a few interesting ones. This includes a version from one of football’s most respected writers, Peter King. They both have the Eagles trading up to reunite Chip Kelly and Marcus Mariota in Philadelphia. While this may cause a lot of initial excitement among fans (“Chip and Mariota together again? Here comes the CHIP ‘SHIP!!! #Birdgang”), I’m not sure the player is worth the price. Here’s why.
The Risks of Trading Up for Marcus Mariota
Full disclaimer: there are going to be a lot of references to Robert Griffin III in this article. This is partly because he makes the case why it’s risky to high-steaks gamble on an unestablished quarterback, but also because there are similarities between the two situations.
First and foremost is the amount Washington gave up for Griffin. The price for them to move up from 6 to 2 was three first-round picks and a second rounder. The Eagles (picking 20th in the first round) are looking to move up at least 15 slots compared to Washington’s 4. Pat Kirwin at CBS Sports is saying it will cost two firsts (this year and next) plus LeSean McCoy to move up to 4th in the draft, while King says the Birds would give up two firsts (this year and next) plus a second (this year) and a fourth (next year) to get in position for Mariota. Kirwin also mentions Philadelphia should just throw in another player or pick, if Oakland happens to ask for it.
In these scenarios the Eagles are giving up less than Washington did 3 years ago to move up almost four times as many draft spots. NFL front offices use a points system I don’t completely understand to rate draft picks, and obviously the 5th pick is worth less than the 2nd pick, but I’m not sure there is enough value in these proposed trades for Oakland or Washington to move back. Also, in Kirwin’s scenario, what’s your plan to replace a franchise running back who’s rushed for over 2,900 yards and scored 16 TDs under Chip Kelly? I get that running backs are disposable in the NFL, but letting go of a known-quantity that productive for an unknown is too risky for me.
Now let’s look at the results of the Washington trade, seeing as that’s our reference point. St. Louis parlayed those four picks into eight core players for a team trending upward. Washington got a quarterback with a 14-21 record, one first-round playoff exit and an embarrassing coin toss on the field. Off the field, they got an immature quarterback who has shown as much interest in hashtag campaigns and fighting with people on Twitter as he has in football.
Safe to say Washington did not win this trade.
The Read-Option Risk
The other factor in deciding if the risk of trading up for Marcus Mariota is worth the reward has to do with performance. This train is gaining so much momentum because it would give Chip Kelly a hand-picked quarterback for the first time in his Eagles tenure. But is Kelly’s style of offense now guaranteed to work with his old signal caller?
The short answer is no. Here are some examples of read-option QBs and how they’ve faired. (All screeshots from ESPN.com)
I thought I would start at the top and get everyone excited. Season averages of 3,316 yards passing and 625 yards rushing to go along with 83 total touchdowns in three years would make a lot of people in Philadelphia very happy. Oh yea, HE WON A SUPER BOWL. I’d pull off a Mike Ditka-sized trade if you’re going to promise me one of those.
The minute Kaepernick replaced Alex Smith in San Francisco he set the world on fire and became the next great thing. Since then the hype has tapered off however, and so has the winning. He did get the 49ers to a Super Bowl, but that was in a year where teams didn’t know how to defend him. Coordinators are wising up to the read-option, and future read-option QBs may be a victim of that.
Robert Griffin III
And here we are, back to our old friend. This is the worst-case scenario, but it has to been seen as an in-play scenario. Injuries to a quarterback put at risk more often by running, questionable mechanics that haven’t been fixed. Washington took the same risk the Eagles would be taking, and this could be the result.
Don’t get me wrong here. I think it would be a lot of fun to watch Marcus Mariota leading an offense orchestrated by Chip Kelly. But I also think it would be a lot of fun to own a Lamborghini – the problem with that is it would cost me $4,000 per month. Mariota’s career would probably fall somewhere between Wilson and Kaepernick, but sometimes fans need to think long-term for the team rather than “gimme right now” (See: Philadelphia 76ers).
But I guess then we wouldn’t be fans.