The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had their choice of two Heisman-winning quarterbacks with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. They went with Florida State's Jameis Winston. Is he good betting value for Offensive Rookie of the Year?
Bucs Better Babysit Winston
Look, I don't know Winston from a hole in the wall personally, but obviously I've read all about his off-field problems. Talent-wise, he's the best quarterback prospect to enter the NFL since Andrew Luck (who didn't even win a Heisman). But talent isn't the question with Winston -- it's his off-field decision-making that leaves much to be desired. Luck came into the NFL without a single question about his character, and this isn't a race thing. Winston brought all this on himself with the rape accusation, the stealing of crab legs, the yelling of a crude sexual comment in the FSU cafeteria, etc. The guy is a knucklehead but then we all probably did stupid things while we were young and in college.
The Bucs certainly did their homework on Winston, interviewing perhaps 100 people -- although oddly not the victim of sexual assault and she's from the Tampa Bay area. Clearly the jobs of General Manager Jason Licht and Coach Lovie Smith are now tied to Winston. If Tampa struggles this season and Winston has some sort of off-field issue, the Glazer family that owns the Buccaneers has to fire those guys. Meanwhile, the guy who went No. 2, Oregon's Marcus Mariota, the 2014 Heisman winner, is considered a high-character guy with not a single off-field issue or question.
In many ways, this year's draft reminded me of 1998. There were plenty of general managers in the NFL who were higher on a Washington State quarterback named Ryan Leaf back then than they were a Tennessee QB named Peyton Manning. Colts GM Bill Polian liked Manning, took him No. 1 and the rest is history. Leaf is one of the biggest bust in NFL history; he also had all the talent in the world but some character issues that became very apparently quickly. The San Diego Chargers moved up to No. 2 overall in the 1998 draft to take Leaf and it took that franchise a handful of years to recover.
Third OROY For Tampa?
Winston is currently the +500 favorite for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year at 5Dimes. Not a surprise. We know Winston is going to start from Day 1 -- in fact, the Bucs are reportedly shopping his backup, Mike Glennon. Quarterbacks usually win this award, although not the past two years. Giants receiver Odell Beckham took the award home last season and Packers running back Eddie Lacy the year before. A quarterback has won it every other year this decade.
The Bucs last took a quarterback first overall in 1987, Miami (Fla.) quarterback and Heisman winner Vinny Testaverde. That didn't work out -- although as far as I know Winston isn't color blind like Testaverde was. Tampa has had two OROTY winners, both running backs: Cadillac Williams in 2005 and Warrick Dunn in 1997.
So what to make of Winston's chances? I love his receiving duo in veteran Vincent Jackson and second-year Mike Evans. Both are big guys who can go get those jump balls if necessary, thus saving Winston a few interceptions at least. Evans caught 68 passes for 1,051 yards and 12 scores last year, while Jackson had 70 grabs for 1,002 yards and two scores. Pretty good numbers for both considering how bad the Bucs' quarterbacking was with Josh McCown (now in Cleveland) and Glennon.
The receivers are a plus. The offensive line and running backs are a problem. Pro Football Focus ranked the Bucs' offensive line 25th in the league last year and 26th in pass blocking. It looks to again be a running back-by-committee with some combination of Doug Martin, Bobby Rainey, Mike James and/or Charles Sims. Yeah, expect Tampa to take a running back high in the 2016 draft.
As for the schedule, Tampa's ranks as the fourth-easiest in the NFL thanks in part to six games inside the terrible NFC South. I think the Bucs match last season's win total by Week 5, at least, as they should beat visiting Tennessee in Week 1 and the visiting Jaguars in Week 5.
NFL Free Pick: I don't think Winston wins the award. He's too interception prone and I'm not sure Tampa wins more than 4-5 games overall. While amazing numbers can sometimes be enough to win Rookie of the Year, at least moderate team success does play a role in this award.