Will Marcus Mariota’s deep-ball struggles hinder his fantasy success?

The Tennessee quarterback had much worse numbers on deep passes as a rookie than he did in college.

| 3 months ago
(Al Pereira/Getty Images for New York Jets)

(Al Pereira/Getty Images for New York Jets)

Will Marcus Mariota’s deep-ball struggles hinder his fantasy success?


(Editor’s note: Our Crazy Fantasy Stat of the Day is an occasional free PFF Fantasy offering, highlighting something that catches our eye and helps us learn something for fantasy for 2016.)

It’s tough to really gauge the quality of the rookie season of Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota. On the one hand, he graded out slightly positive in PFF grades, ahead of bigger names like Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning and Andrew Luck. He threw 19 touchdowns against 10 interceptions, ran for two more scores and was the No. 1 quarterback in yards per rush, at 7.7.

On the other, though, Mariota was only 27th at the position in fantasy points per game, barely ahead of Sam Bradford and Brian Hoyer. He was 24th in adjusted completion percentage, 22nd in touchdown passes and was one of seven quarterbacks with double-digit fumbles.

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Most interestingly, though, was one part of Mariota’s game that changed significantly from his last season in college, and that’s the inspiration for our Fantasy Stat of the Day: In his last year in college, Marcus Mariota’s adjusted completion percentage on passes 20-plus yards in the air was 50 percent, third in the nation. As a rookie in the NFL, that number was 20.4, last among qualified passers. Tight end Delanie Walker had the second-most deep targets of anyone at the position last year, but caught only 17.6 percent of the targets.

The only member of the Titans who had a catch rate north of 20 percent on double-digit deep targets in 2015 was rookie Dorial Green-Beckham, which could be a point in Mariota’s favor; he and Green-Beckham both have an additional year of seasoning and should improve in Year 2. The team’s big offseason receiving acquisition, Rishard Matthews, caught 50 percent of his deep targets in 2015, but that was only on six chances.

[Where should you target Mariota in your fantasy drafts? Where should Walker go among tight ends? Check our new fantasy draft tool and see.]

Mariota offered several positives in his rookie campaign, and there is enough there to believe that he could be a strong quarterback down the road. But he has some strides to make. In a recent PFF Fantasy PPR mock draft, one of our drafters showed faith in Mariota, taking him in the 14th round as his first quarterback. Meanwhile, one of our experts says Mariota has some bust potential. Mariota is currently the No. 11 quarterback in our consensus rankings, which feels like a ceiling bid — he could certainly return that value, but it’s at the high end of his likely projections.

| Fantasy Editor

Daniel Kelley is the fantasy editor for Pro Football Focus. He has previously appeared at SB Nation.

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