Buccaneers with No. 1 Overall Draft Pick in NFL: Is Winston or Mariota a Better Fit?

Matthew Jordan

Friday, March 6, 2015 6:45 PM GMT

NFL Draft moves to Chicago for the first time, with the first round on Thursday, April 30. The Tampa Bay Bucs are on the clock with the No. 1 overall pick. Would Jameis Winston be a good fit?

Character Questions
You thought Johnny Manziel was a polarizing player entering the 2014 draft? With all due respect to Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, he doesn't possess anywhere near the skill set suited for the pro game (other than mobility) than 2013 Heisman winner Jameis Winston does. That Winston has the arm and football acumen to success as an NFL player isn't in question. ESPN's Todd McShay ranks him as the second-best QB prospect to enter the league in the past 10 years behind Andrew Luck. Obviously the big question about Winston is his off-field problems. While Manziel was known as a party boy, he was never charged with any crimes. That's not the case with Winston, who also was suspended a game at FSU for yelling an obscenity in the student union. (Yet not suspended despite being accused of sexual assault.)

Draft wonks are very undecided on Winston. For example, ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski said he wouldn't take Winston with the No. 1 overall pick. Oddly, Jaws isn't even talking about the non-football stuff: “I'm not talking about the off-the-field stuff. I have no comment on that because I'm not privy to that kind of information. But there are certainly mechanical flaws in his game that are troubling to me.” It should be noted that Jaworski wasn't high on Manziel, either, and that's looking like a good call so far.

 

Will Bucs Take Him?
Some believe that it would be a positive for Winston to leave the state of Florida as a professional to get away from all the negative stuff. However, the Buccaneers are very high on Winston after he excelled both on the field and in interviews at the NFL Combine. True, he was a bit overweight and is really slow, but Tom Brady couldn't run, either. Tampa hosted Winston for a visit earlier this week so the Glazer family, which owns the team, could get to know Winston. It was fairly unusual for a team to host a prospect so far ahead of the draft.  Usually prospects don't begin visiting teams until April.

There's no question that Tampa is going to take a quarterback. The Bucs already have waived last season's big free-agent pickup, QB Josh McCown (who signed with the Browns). Mike Glennon isn't the answer under center for Coach Lovie Smith, and Glennon could even be traded. So it's either Winston or Oregon's Marcus Mariota, the 2014 Heisman winner, for the Bucs. While Mariota has zero character concerns, the worry about him is how little he operated out of the pocket at Oregon, while that's all Winston did at Florida State. Mariota also will visit with the Bucs at some point.

Winston should be happy to land in Tampa Bay as the Bucs have two excellent, big receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. The latter was third in the 2014 NFL Rookie of the Year voting, finishing with 68 catches for 1,051 yards and 12 TDs despite lousy quarterback play. Evans could be Calvin Johnson to Winston's Matthew Stafford.

Let's say the Bucs go with Mariota. Where would Winston fit? He would seem a perfect fit in Coach Ken Whisenhunt's offense in Tennessee, which picks second. However, the Titans seem to like Zach Mettenberger and will draft for defense. No. 3 Jacksonville took Blake Bortles last year so the Jags are out. No. 4 Oakland has Derek Carr and is out. No. 5 Washington? The Redskins are going to give Robert Griffin III one more year. The Jets at No. 6 need a quarterback badly, but If Winston can't stay out of trouble in Tallahassee, how do you think he will fare in New York City? No. 7  Chicago? Likely stuck with Jay Cutler. No. 8 Atlanta? Matt Ryan. No. 9 NY Giants? Eli Manning and same issues as Jets. At No. 10, the Rams would be a great fit. They claim to want to keep former  Heisman winner Sam Bradford, but he's brittle and vastly overpriced in the final year of his contract. I believe Winston would be a fantastic fit there, although the Rams may move to Los Angeles and then you have the off-field worries again. Other great fits would be Houston (No. 16 overall pick) and Buffalo, but the Bills don't have a first-round NFL pick

At the end of the day, barring some off-field problem before the draft, Winston probably lands in Tampa.