What's the Fantasy Football Impact of Marcus Mariota Signing With the Las Vegas Raiders?
Details of Mariota's contract have yet to be reported, so it's unclear what type of investment the team has made in the former Tennessee Titans first-round draft pick. However, Jon Gruden's continued praise of the incumbent Derek Carr makes it appear as though Mariota will not have a starting job handed to him.
Regardless of what Gruden says about the situation right now, however, Raiders fans will view this as a quarterback competition. After Carr's breakout 2016 season, he's been a consistent disappointment. And while Mariota wasn't any better in Tennessee, many frustrated Raiders fans will undoubtedly be clamoring for Mariota, just to see something different.
Can Mariota Still Play?
Mariota was inconsistent during his career in Tennessee, but he wasn't a complete bust. In fact, he excelled in certain areas of the game which bode well for a career revival in Las Vegas.
Arguably the best area of Mariota's game has been his ability to handle pressure. According to Next Gen Stats, during his last full season as the Titans' starter (2018), Mariota led the league in completion percentage and passer rating versus pressure.
Marcus Mariota enters a pivotal season in 2019, playing under the 5th year of his rookie contract without a long-term deal in place.
Last season, Mariota led the NFL in passer rating and completion % when under pressure.
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— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) July 25, 2019
Of course there were also areas where Mariota struggled, leading to his eventual benching in Tennessee. One of those issues was his tendency to turn the ball over when throwing downfield.
During his career with the Titans, Mariota attempted 22.6 percent of his passes at 15 or more yards downfield -- the eighth-highest rate among 34 qualifying quarterbacks -- according to Sports Info Solutions. However, on those downfield throws, he averaged an interception once every 17 attempts, the fifth-worst rate in the league.
If Mariota can't be trusted to take shots downfield, his future remains on the bench.
What Does This Mean for Carr?
Unlike Mariota, one of Carr's biggest issues in past seasons had been his inability to handle pressure. In 2017 and 2018, Carr averaged an interception once every 14.3 attempts versus pressure, according to Sports Info Solutions. This past season, however, he bounced back and didn't toss a single interception on 94 attempts under duress.
|Carr Under Pressure||Completion Percentage||Yards Per Attempt||TD-Int|
With Carr showing improvement in one of the key areas where Mariota has excelled, it seems unlikely they Raiders will simply hand the job to Mariota.
Additionally, Gruden praised Carr just days before signing Mariota, telling the Las Vegas-Review Journal: "We’ve got a good, young quarterback, and the film, the statistics and analytics prove it.”
We know Gruden has a tendency to be overly effusive in his praise, but, as those stats show, there's some truth to his comments. Carr's improved performance under pressure does give them some hope for further development. Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock have to see those numbers and wonder what might have been had the Antonio Brown experience not failed miserably.
Based on Carr's experience in Gruden's system and his improvement in 2019, we can probably assume he has the upper hand in this quarterback battle. However, it's probably best to avoid both quarterbacks in your fantasy drafts. Given Gruden's history of collecting and cycling through castoff signal callers, it's likely both Mariota and Carr will see action at some point during the season, making them each nothing more than potential streaming options.
While in Tampa, Gruden used Jeff Garcia, Tim Rattay, Brian Griese and Luke McCown -- all, for the most part, backup-quality quarterbacks who had been tossed aside by their former teams -- in addition to the failed draft picks of his own such as Chris Simms and Bruce Gradkowski.
Gruden is a quarterback collector, and despite ESPN's attempt to brand him as a quarterback guru on Gruden's Quarterback Camp series, he has a brutal track record with his projects. Gruden supporters will point to Rich Gannon, but that was nearly 20 years -- and many failed replication attempts -- ago.
Chances are the Carr/Mariota pairing will look a lot like Gruden's quarterback competitions in Tampa. It's best to avoid this duo all together in early fantasy drafts. If someone steps up and surprises us with their performance in September, you can snag them on the waiver wire then.