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Is Marcus Mariota Elite?

By on November 15, 2016

Drafted second overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, Marcus Mariota has played up to his potential thus far for the Tennessee Titans. This season, the Titans are 5-5 and in contention in the AFC South division. With both Mariota and his team trending up this season, it is fair to start thinking of him as an elite quarterback?

It’s Hard to Accurately Gauge a Young Quarterback

In 10 games this season, Mariota has thrown for 2,482 yards and 21 touchdowns. In 1996, that would have made him among the elites of the game. In 2016, it puts him on par with Blake Bortles and Joe Flacco. That isn’t meant as a sign of disrespect toward Mariota , but more of an indication that stats don’t really tell the whole story when it comes to describing how well a quarterback has played. If anything, it shows that teams throw more than ever before, and this is especially true for teams like Jacksonville and Indianapolis who throw a lot late in games because they are behind.

His Completion Percentage Is Relative Pedestrian

In 2016, Mariota has completed 64 percent of his passes. While that isn’t bad, it is lower than Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees. It is also lower than the completion percentage of Dak Prescott and Matthew Stafford. Therefore, it may be easier to put his yardage and touchdown totals on the fact that he plays against a weak division. In fact, the last three weeks he has played two of the worst teams in the league in Jacksonville and San Diego and then Green Bay, which is not exactly a murderer’s row on the defensive side of the ball.

What’s His Fantasy Value?

Five or 10 years ago, this may have seemed to be a ridiculous barometer of whether a player is elite or not. However, as fantasy sports become more popular and more sophisticated, fantasy players aren’t going to choose guys who can’t put up numbers on a regular basis. That’s why Drew Brees and Ezekiel Elliott are the most valuable in auction drafts or on daily fantasy teams. If he keeps getting picked up by fantasy owners, it’s hard to argue that he isn’t a top 10 player at his position.

Will the Titans Keep Winning Games?

Ultimately, a quarterback is perceived based on his team’s ability to win games. Almost no one is going to criticize Alex Smith, Brock Osweiler or Trevor Siemian for having poor games yesterday because their teams won. However, the talk in Green Bay is focused on how poorly the Packers offense played yesterday in spite of Aaron Rodgers throwing for 371 yards against the Titans.

Is Marcus Mariota an elite quarterback? At this point, it would be hard to make an objective case that he is better than Brady, Brees or Matt Ryan. However, he is certainly a player who will make his way to that level over the next year or two if he continues to put up numbers and leads his team to the playoffs.

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