No. 3: Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
This might sound “homeristic” — no, that’s not a word, but who cares? — but people should get on board the Marcus Mariota hype train.
The Tennessee Titans’ third-year quarterback is poised to have a true breakout year in 2017. His team could easily be one of the sleeper picks to steal away the AFC South this season. They’re that improved.
A year ago, Mariota completed 61.2 percent of his passes with an impressive 26-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio before a season-ending leg injury at the tail end of 2016.
And that was without a true No. 1 wide receiver.
So what did Tennessee do? Well, drafting former Western Michigan wideout Corey Davis — widely viewed as the top prospect at his position — at No. 5 overall this year was smart. Adding fellow receiver Eric Decker in free agency helps matters too.
Yeah, Mariota should have a big year. And he could have a big game in Week 15 against the 49ers.
Why It’s Difficult for the 49ers
Mariota has never faced the 49ers, so splits don’t mean a thing here.
What does matter, however, is how San Francisco will defend against him. Big-play receivers are something the Niners may have trouble with in 2017 (more on that later), so Davis and Decker should make San Francisco a bit uncomfortable.
Mariota only took 23 sacks last year — tied for 24th most in the NFL — which is a nice testament to his elusiveness and ability to avoid pressure.
If San Francisco’s pass rush can’t get home, Mariota will be a problem.