A sprained AC joint suffered in the national championship game loss to Ohio State could keep the reigning Heisman Trophy winner from throwing at the Combine. That could put the pressure on Mariota to excel during his Pro Day in March, while giving NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated passer, Jameis Winston, an opportunity to build momentum as the draft approaches.
The Titans at No. 2 would have a chance to draft the quarterback who doesn't go first overall. However, Tennessee might elect to stick with Zach Mettenberger as the 2015 starter and address another need area.
The Heisman Trophy winner gets most of the fanfare but the Oregon Ducks qualified for the National Championship because they are loaded with NFL talent. In fact, this year's class could be the most gifted in the university's rich history.
In the final game of his collegiate career, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley showed off the big arm, graceful running and improved poise in the pocket that could force a QB-needy team in the NFL to gamble early.
Scouts crave opportunities like this to compare players on an apples-to-apples level; it is among the reasons why the Senior Bowl practices (and those in other all-star games) and the workouts at the Combine are so valued. "Vince Young against Matt Leinart in the 2006 Rose Bowl was close," one 20+ year talent evaluator said, "but this game is even bigger."