Mariota Tops 2015 Mock Draft Boards

Contemplating the just-completed NFL draft, it was hard not to wonder where former Saint Louis and current Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota would have gone had he declared for the pros. Some insist he would have been the first signal caller taken, and maybe the No. 1 overall pick. Certainly he will be the front-runner prospect for 2015. The one criticism he will have to fight will be the system he plays in, which doesn’t closely resemble an NFL offense.

Well, there’s another criticism that you also hear: He’s too nice, too quiet and too humble. You wouldn’t want those attributes to completely fade away, but he may have to learn to be a bit more vocal.

But could he be any more different than the other top quarterback prospect in 2015? Florida State’s James Winston is as loud and brash as Mariota is thoughtful and reserved. But Winston doesn’t just have baggage – he’s developing the full matched set of luggage. Just something to follow throughout the fall of next year.

* Most longtime NBA observers will tell you that we’ve just witnessed the best first round in league playoff history. Five of the series went seven games, and another, between the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers, featured four overtimes in six games. Yes, there is more parity in the league than many thought, and somewhere David Stern is smiling.

And while we are all hoping the second round is as good, strange things happen in the NBA that are difficult at first blush to explain. How does Mark Jackson take Golden State to consecutive playoff appearances despite losing a key player each year in the post-season and still get fired?

Jackson has a ton of confidence, and his players, most vocally Stephen Curry, love him. But the swagger that players love rubs the ownership and front office the wrong way. In fact, when general manager Bob Meyers announced the dismissal, he noted that the decision was “unanimous” among the top executives. Owner Joe Lacob didn’t like Jackson’s imperiousness, and consultant Jerry West didn’t like the coaching.

It’s quite possible that anything short of an NBA championship would have brought the same result. But don’t worry for Mark Jackson. Coaches who win and are beloved by players don’t stay unemployed for long.

* When NBA officials present MVP trophies, we are accustomed to hearing speeches that claim humility but are generally about accepting the accolades of greatness. So, it was unusual and quite moving to see Kevin Durant speak for 26 minutes about almost everyone but himself. His tribute to his mother had grown men wiping their eyes. He told of the family struggles in an incredibly sincere fashion and mentioned every single one of his teammates. In a league full of self-congratulatory chest thumpers, Duran’s humility and emotion is like a beacon in the fog. He became the first player since Allen Iverson in 2001 to lead the league in scoring and win the MVP in the same year. He has led the league in scoring four of the last five years.