Marcus Mariota shows arm is worthy of high draft pick; Jameis Winston explains shoulder issue
INDIANAPOLIS – Slow and sharp, fast and steady. That's how Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota finished their respective NFL scouting combine performances on Saturday.
There were no unexpected bumps for either Winston or Mariota when each went through their 40-yard dash and throwing drills during the final phases of workouts for NFL brass. Winston ran an expected slow 40-yard dash (4.97 seconds) but dominated his throwing drills, smoothly completing most passes and showing elite arm strength and accuracy. Conversely, Mariota blazed a 4.52-second 40 and had a sharp, steady throwing session with plenty of zip on his ball.
Ultimately, Winston still looks like he's the odds-on favorite for the No. 1 overall pick, largely due to his polish and arm strength in a pro-style offense. But Mariota isn't far behind, and could still snag the top spot should the Tampa Bay Buccaneers decide they aren't comfortable with Winston's character off the field. Regardless, Mariota appears to be worthy of the No. 2 overall pick, giving the Tennessee Titans the ability to dangle the selection on the trade market should head coach Ken Whisenhunt decide Mariota can't fit his system.
While both players will go through a battery of more challenging individual team workouts, each showed well in their opportunities. Winston was particularly impressive, likely dispelling any of the talk of "shoulder weakness" that surfaced on Friday. That certainly wasn't evident Saturday as Winston showed a remarkably fluid, more compact motion that he has been working on since the end of the college football season.
That's something of a new wrinkle, as he moves beyond his days as a reliever for the Florida State baseball team. As a pitcher, Winston spent months each year throwing with a more wide motion. That has been eliminated as he has moved his development solely to quarterback. He was particularly impressive on 10-yard out patterns, which are among the NFL's most challenging because of the timing and velocity requirements. As is Winston's calling card, he was particularly vocal throughout his workout, throwing in some good-natured trash talk and pushing his wideouts to get into a groove. He has also gained momentum for his work in team interviews, discussing offensive design and theory.
Some of Mariota's passes were slightly less perfect, but his accuracy and arm strength were easily within the range of what NFL teams want to see from a top-end draft choice. He also displayed good footwork in his three- and five-step drops, something that was a question coming into the combine.
Neither spoke to the media afterward, but the pair did an expansive interview with the NFL Network, expressing happiness with their performances – save for Winston's pedestrian 40-yard dash.
"I felt good, but I wanted to run faster in the 40, though," Winston said with a smile. "That's my last one, though."
Winston elaborated on his shoulder inspection, admitting that NFL teams prodded it more than expected.
"I actually feel good," Winston said. "The thing is, they [medical staff] actually shocked my shoulder and all that stuff and it made it sore a little bit. So I'm like, 'Y'all tried to do that. You tried to get all in my shoulder and shoot me and stuff. I had this shoulder all my life, and you're going to try and make my shoulder sore.' So my shoulder was sore, but hey, ball is life."
It's not known if either player will throw again publicly before the first day of the draft on April 30. Oregon's pro day is scheduled for March 11. Florida State's pro day is slated for March 31.