Can Marcus Mariota be a starting quarterback in the NFL still?
NBC Sports analyst Chris Simms thinks so.
Simms began his annual top-40 quarterbacks ranking this week, listing his No. 36-40, with the former Heisman Trophy winner coming in at No. 36.
"A guy that I still think, if he gets his opportunity, can be a starter in the NFL," said Simms when explaining his ranking on Episode 268 of Chris Simms Unbuttoned.
After missing out on his list last season following a benching in Tennessee, Mariota showed enough in his lone game action on Thursday Night Football to get back inside the top-40.
"He ran the ball well and he made some big-time passes," said Simms about his relief effort against the Los Angeles Chargers last season. "In a game where it was a good defense and he led them down late to tie the game."
In relief of Derek Carr, Mariota balled out - completing 60.7 percent of his passes for 226 passing yards, a touchdown, and one interception to go with 88 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground.
"He's not the most pure passer throwing the football all the time but again, what I'll say about Marcus Mariota in the game he got to play in this year... I do think he threw the ball better. Was it perfect? No.
"He has a presence about him. He's a man in the pocket, he has been to the playoffs, he can lead people that way and his skill set is still pretty special too."
When the NFL has begun to embrace dual-threat quarterbacks, Mariota has the skillset to excel in that offense more similar to what he ran in college under Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich. But, Simms says for a team to give him a chance to start, he needs to limit the passing hiccups where he misses easy reads to sails balls to the defense.
"He's going to have to improve [his passing accuracy] for someone to sign him as a starter again... I don't have the 100% confidence he can dice you up in the passing game if need be."
Will Mariota get his shot next season? Considering the play of Carr last season, it won't happen in Las Vegas barring injury but after restructuring his contract this offseason, should another starter get hurt during training camp, acquiring Mariota seems like a logical move to come into a franchise and start right away.