Most defenses would like very much to face rookie quarterbacks. The Bears, switching to a 3-4 after decades as a 4-3 team, may be in line to face both of the consensus top two quarterbacks – Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston – in the 2015 draft.
The Bears’ 2015 schedule includes road games to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers and to San Diego for an afternoon with the Chargers. As the draft analyses intensify, both teams are projected by some to have rookie quarterbacks.
Myriad draft scenarios have been posited and more will surface in the week-plus remaining before the first round unfolds in Chicago on Thursday Apr. 30. Virtually all of them have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers taking either Mariota or Winston with the No. 1 overall pick.
“Tampa Bay isn’t etched in stone as to who they’re taking,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said via conference call on Tuesday. “They could take Mariota. And then where does Winston go?”
And if Tampa Bay opts for Winston, the Chargers have been reportedly entertaining thoughts to trade quarterback Philip Rivers. The most likely landing spot for Rivers has been speculated to be Tennessee, where the Titans hold the No. 2 overall pick. If San Diego swings a deal with Tennessee, the Chargers are projected to be making that trade expressly for purposes of grabbing Mariota.
“The only way that deal takes place if Mariota is available at No. 2,” Kiper said. “I don’t think they make that deal for Jameis Winston.”
Both Mariota and Winston come with caveats and concerns, Mariota because of the wide-open offense he ran at Oregon, Winston because of his off-field incidents. But the questions about Mariota because of scheme experience are “ridiculous” in the mind of someone involved in high-level quarterback evaluations.
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“I think the idea that [Mariota] is a spread-quarterback who runs read-options every play is ridiculous,” said Jon Gruden, Super Bowl-winning coach and ESPN “Monday Night Football” analyst. “I think he’s very poised. I’ve seen him run through some progressions…. He’s been asked to do a lot with pass protection.
“He learned the Oregon offense inside and out, and he’ll learn your offense. It’s just a matter of you teaching him and surrounding him with a support system, good players, good game planning, and an opportunity to be great.”