It’s widely assumed that Jameis Winston will be taken first overall next week at the NFL Draft. The early football odds say Winston is a –400 favorite to go ahead of Marcus Mariota. Is this a bargain price?
Strange things are happening. As we told you earlier this week, there are some early NFL odds floating around the Interwebs for the 2015 NFL Draft props market. The king of all draft props is who will be selected first overall; this year, we have two Heisman-winning quarterbacks from which to choose, but it appears the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will select Jameis Winston with their No. 1 pick.
Or will they? Winston is pegged at –400 to go first, which seems like a small price to pay given how effusively talking heads and draftniks are talking about Tampa Bay’s love for Winston. Is there blood in the water? Are the Bucs thinking about taking Mariota instead? Or will we see these early football odds get even chalkier once the wider betting market opens?
Built for Comfort
There’s enough doubt in Tampa’s intentions to get people talking. When asked if Winston was still the projected No. 1 pick, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. compared the situation to the back-and-forth between Drew Bledsoe and Rick Mirer in 1993. But Kiper still has Winston going first overall. Most professional talkers and writers do, although it’s not unanimous.
Let’s go straight to the horse’s mouth instead. Buccaneers GM Jason Licht went on local radio station WDAE 620 AM earlier this week and pretty much gave away his hand on who they were taking. “I’m not giving away our hand on who we’re taking,” Licht said, “but (Winston’s) been somebody that we’ve really gotten to know, and we feel more and more comfortable every time we’re around him.”
Licht went on to talk up Winston’s growth over the past few years, deflecting concerns about his off-field behavior. Then Licht mentioned that the Bucs had spent “almost an equal amount of time” getting to know Mariota. “There’s more things with Jameis off the field that we had to become comfortable with than Marcus,” Licht admitted. Notice the past tense in that statement. He’s saying the Bucs are comfortable with Winston.
No big surprise there. The front office has had nothing but good things to say about Jameis Winston throughout this process, from head coach Lovie Smith to co-chair Joel Glazer. Early concerns about Winston’s sore shoulder, possibly stemming from his time as a pitcher with the Florida State Seminoles baseball team, were quickly forgotten when Winston put in a strong performance at the NFL Combine. And nobody batted an eye last week when the woman who had previously accused Winston of sexual assault filed a civil lawsuit.
Even hard data doesn’t seem to faze Tampa Bay. That report from Football Outsiders giving Winston a 61.3 percent chance of turning into a draft bust? You can hear the crickets chirping outside Bucs HQ, even as draft analysts are starting to put Mariota at No. 1 on their QB depth charts – just not on their mock drafts. Everyone seems to be locked into the idea that Tampa Bay needs a pro-style quarterback, including Tampa Bay.
At least the increased buzz around Mariota has pushed him into the clear No. 2 pick this Saturday when the teams convene at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. It’s just a question of whether the Tennessee Titans will take Mariota, or if they’ll trade down. That doesn’t matter too much on the props market, where the early NFL odds have Mariota priced at even money to be taken anywhere in the Top 3. But if you’re thinking about taking that bet with your NFL picks, it’s good to know that so many teams are reportedly interested in trading up for Mariota, even if the Buccaneers and Titans don’t seem all that enthusiastic.