2015 NFL Draft Preview: QB Jameis Winston
The Sports Quotient’s annual Draft Preview series returns! Over the course of the 10 weeks leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft, we will take a look at the top NFL prospects at each position. This final week we take a look at any players we might have missed. Today's prospect is QB Jameis Winston out of Florida State University.
Coming out of college, Winston's impressive resume speaks for itself. He was an All-American and the Heisman trophy winner in his 2013 national championship season. Throwing for 7964 yards to go with 65 passing and 7 rushing touchdowns, Winston led his team to victory in his first 26 consecutive starts. Although his latest season ended disappointingly, he showed in his redshirt freshman year he was capable of handling big moments, winning offensive MVP in a comeback victory against Auburn in the BCS Championship. Oh, and in his spare time he played baseball, holding opponents to below a .200 batting average as a relief pitcher.
If you could design the ideal athlete to play quarterback in a laboratory, he wouldn't look dissimilar to Winston. At 6'4" and 231 pounds, he has the frame to withstand hits from defenders, and he has the arm strength to deliver throws to any part of the field. He is equally comfortable standing in the pocket under pressure or scrambling to create plays with his legs or his arm, and scouts have praised his decision making and ability to make complicated reads. The easy NFL comparison is Ben Roethlisberger, based on body size, arm strength, and play-making ability, and the best case scenario for Winston is probably similar to Roethlisberger's.
There are some concerns with Winston's 18 interceptions this year, and although he has the arm strength to make tough throws, he sometimes tries to do too much, throwing dangerous passes instead of checking down.
However, these on-the-field concerns are not enough to prevent scouts from taking interest in Winston. More than anything football-related, teams are questioning Winston's maturity based on a series of now-infamous legal and disciplinary incidents. Winston has been accused of sexual assault, shoplifting, using vulgar language in public, and taking benefits breaking NCAA regulations. In a year where the private lives of NFL players has become increasingly of public concern, Winston's talent on the football field will be of no benefit if he can't behave well enough to stay on it.
Once again, this comes down to how much stock you put in Winston's off-the-field concerns. From a talent standpoint, Winston is undoubtedly worthy of being the top pick; his play wasn't perfect in college, but no one's is, and he has the physical tools to succeed. Without a doubt, Jameis Winston the quarterback gets a high first round grade.
Jameis Winston the person is a different story. Investing in someone with Winston's character issues is a risky proposition, and teams near the top of the draft will have to decide how concerned they are about his troubled past. However, it's important to remember Winston is still a kid. At 21 years young he will probably mature as time goes on, just like most 21 year olds do. So while I see many people treating his character as something set in stone, his future ability to stay out of trouble will depend on whether he learns from his past mistakes, and for his sake I hope he is able to do so. I'm giving Jameis Winston the person not a low grade, but an incomplete.
Unless something changes drastically before the draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will select Jameis Winston with the first overall pick. He will compete for the starting job next year in Tampa with an excellent chance to win it. In terms of his off-the-field issues, he is in good hands, as Lovie Smith is the type of level-headed coach who will provide the guidance necessary for Winston to mature. From there, Winston's fate is up to him. Jameis Winston the quarterback has all the skills to succeed; he will go as far as Jameis Winston the person takes him.