Best Quarterback 25 and Under: Marcus Mariota

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NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 27: Quarterback Marcus Mariota #8 of the Tennessee Titans looks for a receiver during a NFL game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Nissan Stadium on October 27, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/ Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Marcus Mariota

There is a slew of talent at the quarterback position amongst starters who are age 25 or younger. Names like Derek Carr, Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz, Teddy Bridgewater, and Jameis Winston highlight the most talented of the age group, but perhaps none of them are the best signal caller under 25. That man may reside with the Tennessee Titans.

Best Quarterback 25 and Under: Marcus Mariota

The Tennessee Titans certainly knew what they were doing when they took quarterback Marcus Mariota with the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. The 23-year-old Hawaii native has blossomed into one of the brightest young signal callers in the league, and possesses a rare combination of athleticism, running ability, and accuracy that most quarterbacks could only wish to have. Clearly, this is the kind of player that a franchise can truly be built around.

When looking at his yardage and touchdown totals over the two years he’s been in the league so far, one must consider the receivers he’s had to work with. The top option on the Titans offense is former round seven selection Rishard Matthews. Behind Matthews on the receiving depth chart is fifth-round rookie Tajae Sharp and former first-rounder gone bust Kendall Wright. The Titans offense does possess a talented pass catching tight end in Delanie Walker, but one man alone can’t create a successful offense. Yet despite the lack of playmakers around him, Mariota put up 3,426 yards and 26 touchdowns to just nine interceptions along with 349 rush yards and a pair of scores, in only 15 starts.

Comparing the Age Group

When most people think of the best young quarterback in the game, two images typically appear in their mind. The first is an Oakland Raider by the name of Derek Carr, and there is indeed reasoning as to why he could be the best. The second image people get when asked about the best young quarterback in the league is an extremely hyped rookie by the name of Dak Prescott. While both of those players exhibited the skill and on field performance of a high quality NFL quarterback, neither can claim to be the best under 25. Let’s look at the age group’s stats in comparison. All stats will be from 2016 only, due to the fact that multiple rookie passers will be profiled.

Derek Carr

There is absolutely no denying that Carr is a special talent and will be the face of his team’s franchise for years to come. Carr possesses great touch, accuracy, and clutch ability and without him, the Raiders are a five win team. Below are his 2016 stats (From 15 starts):

  • Passer Rating: 96.7
  • Completion Percentage: 63.8%
  • Average Yard Per Pass: 7.03
  • Passing Yards: 3,937
  • Passing Touchdowns: 28
  • Rushing Yards: 70
  • Rushing Touchdowns: Zero
  • Interceptions Thrown: Six
  • Fumbles: Five

Dak Prescott

Prescott just may have had possibly the greatest rookie season for a quarterback ever. It must be remembered, however, that everything about his situation made it easier, and lessened the amount of adversity he faced. With weapons including the likes of future hall of fame tight end Jason Witten, All-Pro receiver Dez BryantEzekiel Elliott, and a dominant offensive line, this was clearly a fantastic situation. Below are his 2016 stats stats:

  • Passer Rating: 104.9
  • Completion Percentage:  67.8%
  • Average Yard Per Pass: 7.99
  • Passing Yards: 3,667
  • Passing Touchdowns: 23
  • Rushing Yards: 282
  • Rushing Touchdowns: Six
  • Interceptions Thrown: Four
  • Fumbles: Nine

Jameis Winston

Tampa Bay’s second year man has lived up to his first overall draft slot. Well, kind of. Winston is the first player to ever top 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, but he is also a turnover machine. He threw a whopping 18 interceptions, which is more than the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Blake Bortles. Only Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers threw more. Below are his 2016 stats:

  • Passer Rating: 86.1
  • Completion Percentage: 60.8%
  • Average Yard Per Pass: 7.21
  • Passing Yards: 4,090
  • Passing Touchdowns: 28
  • Rushing Yards: 165
  • Rushing Touchdowns: One
  • Interceptions Thrown: 18
  • Fumbles: 10

Carson Wentz

Wentz had a nice rookie season in Philadelphia, considering what he was given. Considering that was sacked 33 times, had a terrible run game to support him, and quite possibly the worst group of wide receivers in the league, Wentz seemingly made something out of nothing and he will be solid for years to come. Below, his 2016 stats:

  • Passer Rating: 79.3
  • Completion Percentage: 62.5%
  • Average Yard Per Pass: 6.23
  • Passing Yards: 3,782
  • Passing Touchdowns: 16
  • Rushing Yards: 150
  • Rushing Touchdowns: Two
  • Interceptions Thrown: 14
  • Fumbles: 13

Teddy Bridgewater*

Bridgewater missed the 2016 season after a gruesome knee injury suffered in training camp, but his name still belongs in this discussion. Bridgewater has looked promising so far in his young career, and many had him slated for a breakout season before the injury. Bridgewater’s stats from the 2015 season are below.

  • Passer Rating: 88.7
  • Completion Percentage: 65.3%
  • Average Yard Per Pass: 7.23
  • Passing Yards: 3,231
  • Passing Touchdowns: 14
  • Rushing Yards: 192
  • Rushing Touchdowns: Three
  • Interceptions Thrown: Nine
  • Fumbles: Eight

Marcus Mariota

Mariota has no real top option to throw to, and yet he still managed to be top ten in touchdown passes, and was nothing but solid all year long. The former Heisman trophy winner’s play was never in doubt, and he was one of the most consistent players at the position in his second year. Below, his 2016 stats.

  • Passer Rating: 95.6
  • Completion Percentage: 61.2%
  • Average Yard Per Pass: 7.6
  • Passing Yards: 3,426
  • Passing Touchdowns: 26
  • Rushing Yards: 349
  • Rushing Touchdowns: Two
  • Interceptions Thrown: Nine
  • Fumbles: Nine

Why Mariota Stands Out

Simply put, Mariota posted a great year without a great surrounding cast. Having displayed dynamic playmaking ability through the air and on the ground, it’s clear that once he has a top weapon, the sky’s the limit for him. The biggest argument against his status as the best under 25 is probably Carr, but it should be noted how close their stats are despite the starkly different situations.

Carr has a top two offensive line in the league and a pair of high-caliber weapons in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Mariota’s line is good as well, but he’s got a makeshift group of wideouts to throw to with no real standout, and is on a run oriented offense that aired it out much less than Oakland’s.

Despite these factors however, Carr edges him by just 500 passing yards, which is to be expected since Carr threw the ball over 100 more times than Mariota did. When it comes to yards per attempt, Mariota ranks eighth among quarterbacks with a minimum 100 attempts. Carr ranks 20th in this category. Carr did throw two touchdowns more than Mariota, however Mariota also scored twice on the ground, meaning they accounted for the same amount of scoring. With mobility being a trait now highly favored in quarterbacks, it’s significant that Mariota blew Carr out of the water. Mariota ran for almost 400 yards compared to Carr’s 70. Of note is that both of these quarterbacks accumulated these statistics over only 15 starts each.

Conclusion

It seems safe to say that Mariota has flown under the radar. Passers like Carr and even rookie Prescott are already being called top ten quarterbacks, yet Mariota is just as good in a less friendly situation. The former Oregon Duck has shown bigger potential than perhaps any quarterback mentioned in this discussion. Considering Mariota’s stats, skill set, and situation in comparison to others, he stands out as the best signal caller under 25 years of age.

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