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Marcus Mariota Decision Effects Falcons Draft Strategy

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With Oregon QB Marcus Mariota opting to return to school for another year, each Falcons win affects which playmaker the team could wind up with in the first round of the NFL Draft. Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images.
With Oregon QB Marcus Mariota opting to return to school for another year, each Falcons win affects which playmaker the team could wind up with in the first round of the NFL Draft. Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images.

The Atlanta Falcons are 3-10. The Washington Redskins are 3-10 too.   

Not exactly the battle of 2012 division winners that one might have circled on the calendar before the season got underway. Even though the records are putrid and the spectacular moments have been few and far between in 2013, the most important player in this game for the Falcons will be sitting thousands of miles away.  

That player is Oregon QB Marcus Mariota. Go with me here, as the Falcons are a team that is playing for pride at this point. The organization has instilled a culture of winning that has been unmatched by any other era in Falcons’ history. But the need to land the highest and most valuable draft pick makes losing football games a little more tolerable. Once Mariota announced his intention to return to Oregon next season, the top of the draft lost another premium player at the all-important position of quarterback.  

The Falcons were going to benefit more than any other team at the top of the 2014 draft because of the amount of quarterbacks in the draft. Atlanta does not need one, and could have picked the best player available or traded the pick to a quarterback-needy team for a king’s ransom.  

With Mariota out of the draft, each Falcons win potentially threatens their ability to land one of the premiere position players they could immediately use. The Falcons currently hold the third overall pick, but could fall to ninth with a victory over the Redskins this Sunday.    

Ranking 27th in the NFL in sacks, South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney or UCLA LB Anthony Barr would each be happily taken by Atlanta. The same goes for Texas A&M LT Jake Matthews, who would instantly upgrade one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. For every elite QB in the draft, the potential to land one of these players increases.   

Mariota decided school and development were more important for his immediate future. You can’t fault a young man for having a clear vision of what he is and what he needs. But as the Falcons and Redskins battle this Sunday to see who lands the No. 2 overall pick (the Rams own the Redskins pick), sometimes a win can actually turn out to be a loss when it comes to draft order.