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NFL Draft Watch: King says Winston is ’10 times’ the prospect Mariota is. By Eric Edholm October 23, 2014 2:48 PM .      The conversation will grow over the next six months. So let’s start it early.You’re a quarterback-needy team and your choice is this: Florida State's Jameis Winston or Oregon's Marcus Mariota.On the surface, it appears easy. Winston has trouble written all over him, with off-field problems galore, and Mariota, the clean record and clean-throwing (zero interceptions in 188 passes this season) quarterback, is the obvious choice.Right?It’s not that clear-cut. Not at all.If we are to boil the players down simply on football talent and quarterbacking potential on the next level, Winston — not Mariota — might be the more enticing prospect.So says former NFL quarterback and Yahoo NFL analyst Shaun King. I asked King to ignore character completely, for argument's sake, and strictly grade each player on their talent and NFL upside.“In my opinion, if I am grading them, Winston is 10 times the prospect Mariota is,” King said.What, then, makes Winston so special?“Physically, he has great size — 6-4, very sturdy build. Built like a pro prospect. Big-time arm — can make all the throws. Great intangibles. Winner. Big-time, big-platform résumé.“He plays his best on the brightest stages. Last year in the Clemson game, the second half of the national title game, this year’s Notre Dame game. Early in the season, second half against [Oklahoma State], he always plays his best in those moments. He just has a knack for it.”Not that King is down on Mariota. There’s a lot to like, he says.“I think he has elite athleticism,” King said. “Whereas Winston has great athleticism for a guy his size, Mariota has elite athleticism. He has a good arm; he doesn’t have as big an arm as Winston. He has good size. He’s tall. He’s smart, too.”King is careful not to make too deep a character assessment on either player but says you can tell a lot about their personalities based on the way they play.“The difference between the two … Winston is a football player. He rises to the occasion. He has that emotion in a player that you’re looking for,” King said. “That’s a question about Mariota, as is him playing his best when the lights are brightest.“The difference in their personalities comes through in how they play. Mariota is really laid back. He plays like that. At some point, I think in football I think you have to be ratcheted up a little bit. I’ve never seen him call out one of his teammates for messing up. Winston is the polar opposite.”We don't yet know what Mariota's plans are following his junior season, but reports have surfaced that Winston is planning to leave school after this season. At this point, it would be a surprise if either returns. NFL scouts already have done work on these underclassmen with the idea that they will be available in the 2015 NFL draft.I suggest a Winston comparison of Ben Roethlisberger and a Mariota comparison of Alex Smith, or perhaps a slightly better-running version of Smith. King agrees on both — to a certain extent — but says he thinks he knows whose personality Mariota is most similar to.“See, I think Mariota, personality-wise, is like Joe Flacco. He has a really laid-back off-field demeanor,” King said.And as for Winston …“Yeah, [Winston is] a special athlete, but he’s Big Ben special not RG3 special. For a big guy, he’s a great athlete. He’s got a lot of Big Ben to him. Gets out of a lot of sacks. He’ll pick up a first down [with his legs].”In terms of temperament and being prone to extend plays, even when that’s not the best idea, the Roethlisberger comparison also works for King.“Absolutely,” King said. “In my opinion, that would be one weakness right now. He’s overaggressive at times. There are some inconsistencies in his decision-making. But you’ll take that. A lot of great ones have that.”Winston is a pro-style quarterback, King said, and Mariota still has not shown that in his mind.“I do think there are some question marks about [whether] can Mariota adapt to a different system,” King said. “If I was a team that was really interested in him, I would have to be convinced that he can come from under center, take five- and seven-step drops, and can throw an NFL route tree.“Winston makes those NFL-type passes. Mariota doesn’t. He throws a lot of screens. He throws a lot of gimmicky stuff with guys running wide open because of their tempo. The windows Mariota is throwing into are nowhere near as tight as the ones Winston is throwing into.”And yet, there still remains the daunting character issue, which could be a game-changer. There will be no dirt on Mariota, unless people nitpick with his laid-back style. As for Winston, it’s not going to be pretty — from his sexual assault allegations to bouts of immaturity with suspensions at Florida State.King says that could be a game-changing factor for their draft stocks. But in his mind, there isn’t enough dirt that he knows of to knock Winston down too far next spring. King’s belief: Teams will be enamored with his talent.“If you’re asking will it affect him with some teams? Absolutely. Do I think he falls outside the top 10? Absolutely not,” King said. “Would it impact me if I was making that decision? No, I’d take him No. 1.”

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