Marcus Mariota might be reconsidering his decision to return to the Oregon Ducks for at least one more season.
The standout redshirt sophomore quarterback announced on Dec. 3 that he intended to return to the Ducks in 2013, but has since requested his grade from the NFL Advisory Committee, NFLDraftScout.com has confirmed.
Underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to declare for the NFL Draft, and the Advisory Board is a free evaluative service regularly utilized by underclassmen to gauge where they may be drafted before making the decision to forgo eligibility. Mariota's request would appear to indicate he may at least still mulling his options.
Mariota's decision-making process has been a source of contention in the weeks since his Dec. 3 announcement. Former NFL scout and Senior Bowl contributor John Middlekauf initially reported on Dec. 7 that Mariota did not request his grade from the Advisory Committee before announcing that he would return to Eugene. Rob Moseley, an editor for Oregon's official athletics website, GoDucks.com, refuted Middlekauf's report, stating that Mariota told him that he had, in fact, previously requested an evaluation.
Regardless of the actual date Mariota requested his grade from the committee, what has become increasingly clear is that he made his statement without actually learning of his grade. Once he receives the grade -- expected to be a top 15 designation -- Mariota may have a difficult time turning down the lure of an NFL paycheck.
The strong-armed, highly athletic Mariota boasts a more exciting skill-set than any other quarterback potentially available in 2014, including Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated quarterback at this time. While Fresno State senior Derek Carr and Texas A&M redshirt sophomore Johnny Manziel - who has not stated his intentions yet - are also rated as top 12 prospects, Mariota was regularly among NFLDraftScout.com's top five eligible prospects for 2014 before announcing he would return to school.
"Why wouldn't he want to look into (coming out this year)?" an NFL source told NFLDraftScout.com on the condition on anonymity. "(Mariota) could be the first quarterback drafted this year. That may not happen next year."
There is no denying that Mariota could polish his game with another season in Eugene. Returning, however, would put him in contention with Florida State's Jameis Winston, who will be eligible for the NFL Draft after completing his redshirt sophomore season next year. There could be additional competition among quarterbacks in 2015 depending on what Manziel and UCLA redshirt sophomore Brett Hundley ultimately decide to do following their bowl games. Michigan's Devin Gardner and Baylor's Bryce Petty will be seniors next year, and Stanford's Kevin Hogan is another potential quarterback in the class for 2016 who could make the NFL jump after next season.
Mariota has thrown for 3,412 yards and 30 touchdowns against just four interceptions in 2013. He has also rushed for 582 yards and nine scores. Mariota didn't play as well down the stretch (four interceptions in last two games) after suffering an injury to his left knee against UCLA, but ended the Ducks' regular season in fine form by guiding them to an impressive comeback over rival Oregon State in the Civil War.
Rob Rang (@robrang) is a Senior Analyst for www.NFLDraftScout.com, a property of The Sports Xchange distributed in partnership with CBSSports.com.