Through the popular series “Gruden’s QB Camp”, ESPN analyst Jon Gruden has spent time with both Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota during the weeks leading up to the NFL draft. And now, two days before Chicago’s prime time event, the former Buccaneer’s head coach believes it’s Mariota who should be leading Tampa Bay in 2015.
“I don’t understand why (Mariota) isn’t the No. 1 player in this draft on Mel Kiper’s Big Board,” Gruden said on Tuesday to Mel Kiper, via ProFootballTalk.com. “I don’t know anybody in this draft that can do for a football team what Mariota can do.”
Gruden went on to knock the common criticism that Mariota is a “system quarterback”, alluding to the spread-style concepts he ran in college at Oregon.
“He can read the field,” Gruden said. “That whole thing about Oregon being a no-huddle, dive-option team, that is just a narrative resulting from a lack of information. The Ducks run a lot of pro-style concepts. Mariota does a lot with the protections. I’ve seen him throw the ball with touch and timing in tight windows.”
In making his final case, Gruden pointed out the fact that Mariota not only ran a 4.52 forty (Winston ran a 4.97), but that he’s also the same size as the Florida State product, even drawing a comparison to Russell Wilson.
“He is incredibly elusive, and man, is he a playmaker and a great competitor,” Gruden said. “I see him functioning in the pocket, out of the pocket, and if you want to run a zone-read, he’ll rip the defense apart. He is like Russell Wilson, only he is 6-4.”