Marcus Mariota’s veteran leadership will be valuable if Falcons select QB in 2022 NFL draft

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After the Falcons traded Matt Ryan to the Colts for a measly third-round pick, Atlanta very quickly went out and signed Marcus Mariota to a two-year deal. The former Titans and Raiders signal caller was seemingly brought in to be the position’s stopgap while Terry Fontenot searches for the long-term solution at quarterback.

Mariota hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations of a 2nd overall pick, but he can still be a productive quarterback in this league. The former Heisman Trophy winner entered the league with the Titans and took Tennessee to the divisional round of the playoffs in his third season with a weak supporting cast. However, fast forward three years and the Oregon product appeared in only one game for the Raiders during the 2020 season. Last year, Mariota was strictly used as a change-of-pace quarterback and only stepped on the field to throw off opposing defenses.

Still, the familiarity with Arthur Smith should greatly benefit Mariota and the Falcons offense as a whole. Regardless, if the Falcons draft a quarterback with their first-rounder, Mariota will be the starting quarterback come Week 1. He’s just more reliable and knowledgable of NFL defenses than any prospect in the 2022 draft class.

Mariota is an obvious bridge quarterback, which can be tricky. Some won’t buy into the idea of grooming a younger player to eventually become your successor. Those like Alex Smith do everything they can to make the rookie (Patrick Mahomes) a better player. It seems the Falcons have their Alex Smith-esque teacher in Marcus Mariota

In an interview with Steve Wyche, Mariota reiterated that he understands it’s an open competition and has the right attitude to mentor a rookie.

“This is just an opportunity,” Mariota said. “I feel like I have never been handed anything and I’m excited for this.”

“If things work out, hopefully I’ll be here for the next few years.”

Obviously, the Falcons could bring in a quarterback through the draft, but that doesn’t change his approach to 2022.

“If it’s not me, it’s okay too,” Mariota said. “I’ve been in this situation before. It’s a ‘control what I can control,’ mindset. I have no ego. I can be an ear and listen. Teams are going to do what they’re going to do. If they do draft someone, I’ll give as much advice and knowledge as I can. If not, I’m ready to roll.”

Having played with Arthur Smith already and the fact that no quarterback prospect likely can beat him out, Mariota is essentially a shoo-in for the starting quarterback job. Either way, he’ll be a great veteran leader for whichever signal caller the Falcons eventually select.



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