When the Tennessee Titans decided to select Montana WR Marc Mariani in the 7th round of this year's draft, one thing immediately stood out: the fact that Mariani was a college teammate of Jeff Fisher's son, Brandon.
Somewhat overlooked was the reality that Mariani was a highly productive player in the Big Sky conference, which inevitably led to him being branded with the dreaded "hasn't faced top competition" label that many small-school talents face on draft day.
Last week, during rookie mini-camps, Mariani apparently made a solid first impression as he showcased his ability to catch the football.
Can Mariani overcome the odds and make the Titans' roster in 2010?
Gazing upon his pre-draft scouting report, it's easy to see why the Titans would have been interested in drafting a player like Mariani. Known for his great work ethic, he's clearly a guy who works hard at perfecting his craft. Despite a lack of size, he runs great routes, has good quickness and is the anti-Nate Washington as a result of his cotton soft hands.
In addition to his receiving abilities, he's also adept on special teams. His punt-returning abilities are especially intriguing, considering the team's need to find a player capable of handling that responsibility. Third round draftee Damian Williams is the guy the team has pegged as their punt returner, but of course, a little competition from Mariani certainly isn't going to hurt.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the gaping hole in Mariani's game is his lack of upper-body strength, that, according to scouts, will hinder him in his efforts to overcome NFL cornerbacks. Considering he's a guy with an awesome work ethic, you'd think that he would continue to work hard to correct this weakness. Personally, I'd be more concerned if his greatest weakness was catching the football, a skill that some guys never master.
Let's interrupt this Mariani lovefest with a dose of reality: considering the team's depth at the WR position, Marc faces long odds to make the Titans' opening day roster. With vets such as Justin Gage, Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Lavelle Hawkins and Dominique Edison as well as fellow rookie Damian Williams ahead of him, the practice squad may be Mariani's ticket to stick around in 2010.
So what do you think, guys? Will Mariani distinguish himself as a player in this league, or will his claim to fame cling upon the fact that he was Jeff Fisher's son's former teammate in college?