In a very close decision, I would take the Oakland Raiders' Derek Carr over Marcus Mariota. Both quarterbacks deserve a lot of consideration, but in the end Carr is the choice. The reasons are that Carr is playing better than Mariota at the moment. Mariota likely has more potential, but you can go broke banking on potential. Carr has shown what he can do on a weekly basis. Carr currently is tied for third in the NFL in touchdown passes with 21, and has thrown just six interceptions; he ranks in the top 10 with a 101.5 passer rating. Carr has very good arm strength and mobility, and possesses the leadership skills needed to win games.
This is one of those debates that there is no right answer right now. The good thing about this situation is that there is a lot of bright futures at this position.
In the past, the general rule was that if two QBs were selected early in the draft (Peyton Manning/Ryan Leaf, Andrew Luck/Robert Griffin III, etc.), one would go on to stardom, and the other would not. But, in this case, in the small sample I've seen, I'm predicting that both will be very successful, and play in multiple Pro Bowls ... and make their teams consistent winners.
Personalities could not be more different, but their effect on their teammates, organizations and fan bases cannot be underestimated. Both are the proverbial "gym rats" who will put in whatever time is necessary (and then some) to prepare for each practice, meeting and game. And, their talents have translated very well into the NFL (maybe a bit of a surprise with how easily Mariota has adapted from his college system and style), and both have had plenty of success ... while weathering the bumps and bad moments that all QBs, especially rookie QBs experience.
There are several intriguing options to choose from the past two classes, but I would hang my hat on Jameis Winston as my franchise quarterback. He's not only a proven winner capable of reversing the fortunes of a franchise with his confidence, energy and charisma, but he is a classic drop-back passer with the arm talent to make every throw in the book. While most have focused on his early season turnover woes, Winston has quietly become a solid game manager and leader as a first-year starter. Not to mention, the strong work ethic that Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM Jason Licht discussed on a recent "Move the Sticks" podcast. Considering his immense talent, potential and leadership skills, I'm going with Winston in this debate.
If Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles can get some real help around him offensively, he'll develop beyond anyone else picked at the position in the last two years. T.J. Yeldon was a good start, but he needs more, particularly in the way of pass protection. Bortles is well on his way to being sacked 100 times over his first two seasons in the NFL (83 and counting). Yet despite pass protection that hasn't significantly improved, his TD-INT ratio is far better this season (19-11). Give Bortles an above average line and another dynamic receiving weapon, and he'll ascend.
Based on what we've seen over the last two seasons, I would take Derek Carr as the quarterback to build a team around. He has elite arm talent, but I've been even more impressed with his decision making and poise. I believe several of these quarterbacks will eventually develop into Pro Bowl-caliber players, but in my opinion Carr is almost there right now.
Without question it would be Derek Carr. Carr faced a good deal of adversity last season with limited weapons inside that offense, and he still played with poise and showed improvement as the season progressed. That is the sign of a mentally tough, confident player. He's got the physical tools and has proven that he knows how to get the ball in the hands of his best receiver this year with Amari Cooper. While the other quarterbacks are definitely showing signs of potential success, Carr is my choice.