2015 NFL DRAFT

After stating plans to return, Marcus Mariota requested NFL grade

By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

Quarterback Marcus Mariota is returning to the Oregon Ducks for the 2014 season, right?

Maybe not.

After releasing a statement Dec. 3 of his intentions to return to Oregon, the NFL Advisory Committee has since received Mariota's request for an evaluation, NFLDraftScout.com has confirmed.

The timing of Mariota's request has been a source of contention in the weeks since his announcement.

Former NFL scout and Senior Bowl contributor John Middlekauf initially reported that Mariota did not request his grade from the committee before announcing that he would return to Oregon. Rob Moseley, the editor of Oregon's official athletics website, GoDucks.com, refuted Middlekauf's report, stating that Mariota told him that he had, in fact, requested an evaluation. Considering that both reports came on December 7 -- four days after Mariota's statement -- it is possible that each is correct.

Update: According to Craig Pintens, Oregon's senior associate athletic director, Mariota requested his grade "the day after the Civil War." When asked today by Portland Sports Radio station 750 The Game if his plans had changed, Mariota said, "To clear any confusion, I'm very blessed and thankful to come back."

Regardless of the actual date Mariota requested his grade from the committee, what has become increasingly clear is that he made his statement without actually learning of his grade. Once he receives the grade -- expected to be a top 15 designation -- Mariota may have a harder time turning down the lure of an NFL paycheck.

Requesting his grade certainly does not mean that Mariota has changed his mind and will declare early for the 2014 NFL Draft. Many players check with the NFL's free evaluative service simply to get a better grasp on their prospects for the future and fully plan on returning for another year of collegiate action.

It isn't difficult to understand why Mariota may want to consider leaving now. The strong-armed, highly athletic passer boasts a more exciting skill-set than any other quarterback potentially available in 2014, including Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated quarterback at this time.

"Why wouldn't he want to look into [coming out this year]?" one high ranking NFL source said on the condition on anonymity. "[Mariota] could be the first quarterback drafted this year. That may not happen next year."

There is no denying that Mariota could polish his game with another season in Eugene. Returning, however, would put him in contention with Florida State's Jameis Winston, whose rise to Heisman Trophy winner hasn't gone unnoticed by NFL scouts.

Winston, a redshirt freshman, isn't eligible for the 2014 draft but will be eligible next year.

Mariota passed for 3,412 yards and 30 touchdowns against just four interceptions in 2013. He also rushed for 582 yards and nine scores. Mariota didn't play as well down the stretch (four interceptions in last two games) after suffering an injury to his left knee against UCLA but ended the Ducks' regular season in fine form by guiding them to an impressive comeback over rival Oregon State in the Civil War.

Regardless of prior announcements made, underclassmen officially have until Jan. 15 to request early admission into the NFL draft.

 
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