It’s that time of year once again! Football Absurdity will bring you a breakdown of every notable fantasy football-relevant player throughout June, July, and August. Our main push of five profiles per day has come to a close, but we still want to provide you with information on fantasy-relevant players, and as such we are continuing our player profiles. Today, we take a look at a quarterback who struggled to start his career, spent a couple of years as a backup, and now returns to play for the head coach that previously benched him. What can we expect from Marcus Mariota in your 2022 fantasy football leagues?
Marcus Mariota ADP and AAV:
Average Draft Position: QB31, 222 overall
Average Auction Value: $0
Marcus Mariota Statistics:
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2022 Marcus Mariota Overview:
The last time we saw Marcus Mariota get any extended run was in 2019 before the Titans benched him for Ryan Tannehill. Since then, he’s thrown 30 pass attempts (28 in one game) as Derek Carr’s backup in Las Vegas. Now, he’s reunited with Arthur Smith, who was the offensive coordinator when the Titans benched Mariota in 2019. Some want to put Marcus Mariota’s time with the Titans in the “Arthur Smith System” bucket. And, while Smith had spent a decade with the Titans, he spent just three as the offensive coordinator, and he spent just six of those games with Marcus Mariota as his quarterback.
Still, we’ve seen some high highs from Mariota, assuming that Arthur Smith imports what worked from his time with the Titans. In 2016, Mariota had a 12-game stretch with multiple touchdowns in ten games, while averaging 276 total yards and 2.3 touchdowns per game. That was fully actualized Marcus Mariota, passing for about 250 yards, and rushing for about 25 yards per game. Despite Mariota’s output, the Titans were just 5-5 in these games, and if Arthur Smith intends to win, he can’t put it all on Mariota’s shoulders like that.
And the Titans stopped putting it all on Mariota’s shoulders. That 2016 stretch was the last time he had three or more consecutive games with multiple passing touchdowns. Marcus Mariota essentially forced the Titans’ hands to bench him. In his last seventeen games with the Titans, he averaged 186 passing yards, 1 touchdown, and half a pick per game. He still rushed, notching 22 yards per contest, but that barely got him over 200 total yards per game.
Then, Marcus Mariota went into the ether, a backup quarterback for the Raiders in their inaugural season. He finished with just one game over one pass when he had 28 pass attempts in week 15 of 2020 after the Chargers knocked Derek Carr out after five pass attempts. Mariota played like a man with his hair on fire, but outside of his rushing yards, he had a completely pedestrian statline: 226 passing yards, one touchdown, one interception, to go along with 9 rush attempts for 88 yards and a score. All told, he had a big fantasy day, but for a real-life quarterback, 37 passes and runs for 314 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception in an overtime loss sounds more like an okay quarterback against a bad defense than a quarterback who turned everything around.
So, now Marcus Mariota is the starting quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons… for now. The Falcons took Desmond Ridder in the third round of the draft after many thought Ridder could go in the first round. Granted, Ridder is not a first-round talent, given but the way that the NFL boosts quarterbacks into the first round, we thought that would happen with Ridder.
2022 Marcus Mariota Fantasy Football Draft Strategy:
Marcus Mariota has a timer on his viability as a fantasy football asset. Sooner or later, his limited ceiling will make Arthur Smith’s chair wobbly enough that circumstances will force his hand to turn to the kid. In that case, Mariota is worthless and needs to end up back on the waiver wire. Mariota and Ridder aren’t that different as players, and Arthur Smith will likely stick with the kid once he turns to him in a futile bid to say that he’s building for the future.
But, in the meantime, in a 2QB league, Mariota is a worthwhile investment because he does offer a good amount of rushing to offset his otherwise low ceiling productivity in the Arthur Smith offense. He likely tops out at 30 pass attempts per game, as the Falcons had Literally Matt Ryan in basically the same situation last year, and they only let him throw the ball 33 times per game. It’s going to be a slow-it-down, grind-it-out offense, with lots of short passes to Kyle Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson, letting them do the hard work. There will be shots to Pitts, Bryan Edwards & Drake London deep, as well, but Mariota is unlikely to do a lot of work with those targets.
In the end, Mariota is QB32 and is the last of the guys who might stick around for a while or might not, alongside Mitchell Trubisky. If you’re in a 2QB league and you have waited around long enough to consider Marcus Mariota, you have to snag him. Beyond him are guys who aren’t likely to start the year under center (Drew Lock, Jimmy Garoppolo, and… Desmond Ridder).
Best Case Scenario:
Mariota returns to his 2016 form and staves off Desmond Ridder all season long. Kyle Pitts and Drake London both finish with over 1,000 yards, and Mariota is a top-15 quarterback.
Worst Case Scenario:
Arthur Smith starts to watch Mariota’s Raiders’ tape and decides to turn him into a gadget quarterback again. This starts Mariota’s E.J. Manuel Phase, where he roams the league as a wildcat quarterback until he decides to push back against this, going on a wildcat strike (a little labor joke for everyone).
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[Statistics are sourced from pro-football-reference.com, airyards.com, and ftnfantasy.com]