Both of the top QBs in this year's draft made the decision to throw at the Combine, but there are other questions that need to be answered. Jameis Winston has off the field red flags that he attempted to address at his media availability, and during team interviews. From all accounts, Winston aced everything at the Combine, and has solidified himself as the number one pick this year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If the Bucs decide to pass on him and take Mariota, it would be a surprise, but they will be doing extensive research on both players and things can change when you have all available information.
Peter King discussed the importance of Marcus Mariota's Pro Day yesterday, and how it could affect Washington's chances to secure a trade down this year. Teddy Bridgewater had a an 'average at best' showing at his Pro Day last year which helped drop his stock down to the bottom of the 1st round where Minnesota was able to trade up to draft him. No one expects that drastic of a drop for Mariota, but anything to keep him out of the top 4 could help the Redskins this year
I think the most important workout on the horizon is an early one. Marcus Mariota's pro day is March 12 in Eugene, and I talked to a couple of teams at the combine who will be watching to see how he does the kind of mundane things he didn't do much in college. Notably, dropping back, staying in the pocket and throwing from a stationary position. One of the other things Mariota's been working on is the simple calling of plays in the huddle. In college Mariota didn't huddle much, didn't take the snap under center much and didn't have a lot of power to change things at the line. All that is about to change, and how quickly he adapts will be vital to his early success as a pro.
We're going to assume that Winston is drafted #1, which leaves Mariota to the Tennessee Titans who did not pick up Jake Locker's 5th year option last season. Locker was injured again last year, and the Titans will likely move on from him this season. They have Charlie Whitehurst, who started 5 games for them last year, winning one against the lowly Jaguars. Clipboard Jesus is not the future for them, and they did draft a QB last year in the 6th round. The Titans want you to believe that they are very high on Zach Mettenberger, and will move forward with developing him to be the starter of the future. The Titans recently hired former Steelers DC Dick LeBeau and could be looking for a key piece for their defense. It is possible that they find a trade partner looking for Mariota which would lower the Redskins chances for a trade down at #5.
If the Titans do pass on Mariota, the next two teams, the Jaguars and Raiders, will not be taking him with both teams drafting a QB high last year. There is the possibility that a team could trade up with one of these teams for Mariota, but with both teams not having an interest in a QB, and the Redskins not posing much of a threat to take a QB(anything's possible but we're treating them like a competent organization for at least the 1st McCloughan draft) it seems unlikely. The Jaguars will likely go defense, and the Raiders are projected to take the top WR in this draft to pair with second-year QB Derek Carr.
This leaves the Washington Redskins in prime position to get trade offers from several teams. The New York Jets are one spot behind them, and while it's not a lock they go QB with a new defensive head coach(Todd Bowles), the possibility is very real. This presents a need to jump them in the draft for any teams that needs a QB. Several teams have been mentioned as possible trade partners at this spot, including the Jets(6th), Rams(10th), Browns(12th), and Eagles(20th). You can make the case for why each team would or wouldn't make the trade, but with this much perceived interest, a deal seems inevitable in this situation.
The Jets will know that if Mariota is still available at 5, teams will be calling Redskins GM Scot McCloughan about jumping them. What are they willing to give up to move up one spot to get their QB of the future? There is a premium on QBs, and with the terrible class of QBs in this year's draft, a very weak QB free agency group, and possible interest from other teams, it could be more than you'd expect. If the Redskins can get a 2nd or 3rd round pick this year and a high pick next year to move down one spot and still get your guy, that's a very tempting offer. It's hard to see Mariota making it past 6 this year either way.
The Rams pick at #10, and Head Coach Jeff Fisher reaffirmed his support for Sam Bradford at the Combine after reports came out that he was permitted to seek a trade. Bradford has been injured the last two seasons(this sounds familiar) and has a large cap hit($16.5 million with ~$13 million saved with a cut/trade). The Rams had an extra 1st round pick the last two drafts along with an extra 2nd in 2012 from the RG3 trade, but did not address the QB position. Will they bet on Bradford to stay healthy this year and earn a new contract, or go for someone like Mariota in a trade? This one seems the least likely to me, since the Rams brass relishes the amount of picks they received from Washington, and don't seem likely to give them back. But strange things happen on draft day.
The Browns could be a very real possibility to make this deal happen, even though they have used a 1st round pick on a QB in 2 of the last 3 drafts. The first QB, Brandon Weeden, quickly flamed out in Cleveland and is currently a backup for the Cowboys. The second QB, Johhny Manziel, flamed out even quicker, and looked lost in his rookie year, and recently checked into rehab for his problems with alcohol and other things. The Browns new QB coach, Kevin O'Connell has been working closely with Mariota in preparation for the Combine, and was only formally announced by the team last week. The Browns brass is reportedly open to finding a QB in any way possible, and they will be sitting there with two first round picks this year(#12 and #19). They might not be willing to part with both firsts, but trading down to #12, and getting more picks this year and next would help a rebuilding team with a new GM.
Then there is the big whale of the group, Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles. Could this possibly happen, are there enough draft picks and players that the Eagles could give up for the Redskins to trade down 15 spots, and give the Eagles the QB they covet? It's a general rule that you don't help teams in your division, and you definitely don't facilitate them getting their franchise QB. The fact that Chip Kelly is intimately familiar with how to use Mariota makes the proposition even less appealing. This isn't like the Eagles sending a broken Donovan McNabb to the Redskins, this is giving a division rival a young, cheap QB who knows their system. But what if newly empowered Chip Kelly goes crazy and offers an RGIII/Ditka/Walker level trade? Does McCloughan have enough confidence is his drafting and team building that the bounty of picks will allow him to build a team to compete in the division? Will he factor in the crippling effect losing multiple high picks will have on Philadelphia's ability to build around Mariota, especially with their aging offensive line? It would take a staggering deal from Philadelphia for this to happen.