The Falcons’ most drastic position change came this offseason as the team moved on from stalwart quarterback Matt Ryan to Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder. The two are similar in their play styles but couldn’t be further apart in terms of experience. This bodes well for Mariota to win the starting job, but Atlanta will still boast one of the league’s worst starters, according to The Athletic (subscription required).
A Tier 4 quarterback could be an unproven player (not enough information for voters to classify) or a veteran who ideally would not start all 17 games.
31. Marcus Mariota
Mariota is back in QB Tiers after a one-year absence, having fallen from as high as 16th in 2017 into the 30s now. This could be his final starting opportunity entering a season.
“The way he has been used is what he is,” a head coach said. “He is a change-of-pace guy, and if he does have to replace your starter, you hope you don’t have to play more than three or four games with him. There are only so many things you can do with him. It can be good in the short term because the opponent has not prepared for him, but after he has been a starter for three or four games, the field definitely tilts to the defense.”
Mariota hasn’t started since leaving Tennessee following the 2019 season. The Raiders used him as a changeup, giving him 13 carries with two pass attempts as Carr’s backup last season.
“Tough guy, teammates respect him, smart,” an evaluator said. “He has a chance, but they are not real talented around him and they are young, which who knows how that is going to go? If you were to make him a 4, it would be more about him staying healthy than his play.”
A quarterbacks coach compared Mariota to Trubisky.
“The biggest thing you have there in Atlanta is the lack of offensive line play,” a personnel director said. “They do have a good tight end, some rotational receivers, some runners that should help them. I just think Mariota does similar to Lamar in that he can run and pass, but at a much lesser production level. He is not as bad as some of these 4s. In a balanced offense, he can be productive.”
Ridder, among all rookies, wasn’t included in the rankings.
In Tier 4, Mariota joins Justin Fields, Tua Tagovailoa, Davis Mills, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Daniel Jones, Sam Darnold, Drew Lock, and Mitch Trubisky. That’s not exactly the company you want your quarterback to be mentioned with. However, purely based on circumstances, this is probably where Mariota belongs. The Falcons will have one of the worst offensive lines in football, so no matter how good Mariota can be, he’ll be limited.
I do think Mariota is as good as some Tier 3 quarterbacks — i.e., Jamies Winston and Carson Wentz. Still, Mariota hasn’t been a full-time starter in quite a long time, so nobody really knows what to expect. He could surprise a lot of people and still be the 25th-best starter in the league. This year will give us great insight into how creative and effective Arthur Smith can be as a play designer and caller.
Photographer: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire