The name on many Jets fan’s Christmas wish list is Heisman Trophy winner and current University of Oregon Product Marcus Mariota.
There are two problems with Mariota. One, the Jets might not have a high enough draft pick to get him and two he, like Smith would be a project.
While Mariota might ultimately be the better pro than Smith he is not a finished product. Like Smith, he comes from a spread offense and will need time to adapt to the NFL.
He has rarely operated under center at Oregon and will have to improve his ability to read defenses. But Mariota has great size at six-foot-four, has a great arm and is a more accurate passer than Smith. He also is incredibly athletic and is a dangerous runner with 4.4 speed.
He has all the tools to succeed but it might not happen immediately. So will Jets fans that are calling for Smith’s head have the patience with Mariota?
The better pro prospect in the draft might actually be Florida State’s Jameis Winston.
The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner, plays in a pro-style offense, has shown that he is a good pocket passer, can read defenses well and he always keeps his eyes down the field.
While Mariota’s second option will be to make a play with his legs, Winston, who has scrambling ability will look to make a play with his arms.
That said, it is concerning that Winston’s interceptions have more than doubled from eight a year ago, to 17 this season.
Unlike Mariota, Winston’s character is an issue. He’s had off-the-field issues from an allegation of sexual assault, to stealing crab legs from a Florida supermarket and shouting expletives at Florida State University while standing on a table.
If the season ended today, the Jets would have the 4th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. While the 2-13 Titans like what they have in rookie Zach Mettenberger, a player of Mariota’s caliber would be hard to pass on. But the next two teams ahead of the Jets, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars might not pick a quarterback.
While the Buccaneers could use a quarterback and it would seem Winston would be the pick, head coach Lovie Smith is a defensive mind and the Bucs need pass rush and offensive line help and combine that with Winston’s off-the-field issues, it is possible that they would pass on him.
Jacksonville just drafted Blake Bortles with the third overall pick in last years draft so they wouldn’t take Winston and then the Jets would be left with a decision to make.
Given Winston’s off-the-field issues him being in New York could be a problem and the Jets might pass but if Winston had a clean cut image, he would be a top-two pick and perhaps the number one overall pick.
But if the Titans, draft Mariota and the Bucs draft Winston there are other options.
The Jets could acquire a veteran through free agency or a trade but there is a reason why guys like Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer or Sam Bradford may be available—it is because they all have question marks.
One thing the Jets cannot due is what they did this year, have a makeshift quarterback competition in training camp. Smith has not played well in either of his two seasons to come into camp as the unquestioned starter.
If the Jets have a high enough pick to draft either Mariota or Winston then that maybe the route they take but if they don’t, they need to acquire a veteran in free agency and/or pick a quarterback in the latter rounds of the draft.