The first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, which is held in Chicago this year, is two weeks from Thursday (April 30). The Tampa Bay Bucs are on the clock and it seems apparent they have focused in on Jameis Winston. Is that a smart move?
Will Winston Be In Windy City?
Since the NFL Draft became a television extravaganza, I can't remember a potential No. 1 overall pick not being in attendance in New York to come up on stage and shake hands with or hug the commissioner. As of now, however, Jameis Winston isn't expected to attend. The NFL announced a list of 26 guys locked into attending this week and neither Winston nor projected No. 2 pick Marcus Mariota are on it. At Winston's recent Pro Day in Tallahassee, he said he wasn't going because: "My grandmother, she can't travel, she has Type-2 diabetes and has multiple surgeries and I want her to be there. I want the people who I've been with Day 1 to be around me and enjoy this moment."
Winston did admit there's been a "lot of pressure" to show up and it would be just the latest embarrassment for Commissioner Roger Goodell if Winston wasn't there. But it's not like the league can suspend or fine him -- Winston isn't a member of the NFL yet. I still think he might go.
The 2013 Heisman winner from Florida State had a solid Pro Day and apparently showed enough in private meetings that it would now be a huge shock if the Buccaneers don't take him. It was released this week that Winston scored a very good 27 on the Wonderlic test. That's one point shy of Peyton Manning, considered one of the most cerebral QBs in NFL history, and two points better than two-time Super Bowl-winning QB Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers. Don't read a ton into that because former Jaguars first-round pick Blaine Gabbert scored a stellar 42 on the test and look how his career turned out.
Sportsbooks give Winston an 'over/under' draft position of 1.5, with 'under' a huge -600 favorite on the NFL odds. The Bucs did also bring in Mariota and already the smokescreens have begun that perhaps the team is having second thoughts about Winston's off-field conduct and could take Mariota. Hogwash. Tampa is simply trying to drive up the price in case someone wants to offer a king's ransom for the No. 1 overall pick in trade. In a head-to-head prop on first to be drafted, Winston is -450 on BetOnline and Mariota +325. Winston wins that easily -- barring an arrest between now and April 30.
No Lock As Day 1 Starter
One advantage Winston has over Mariota is that Winston played in a pro-style offense at Florida State so he would presumably be NFL ready to start in Week 1. I'm sure he will be given every opportunity to win the job in camp. The Bucs already have released 2014 free-agent bust QB Josh McCown, who was 1-10 as a starter. The team does have a fairly solid young quarterback currently atop the depth chart in Mike Glennon. The third-year player completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 2,608 yards, 19 TDs and nine interceptions as a rookie in 13 games. He had the best rookie season of any QB that season. Last year in six games, Glennon completed only 57.6 percent of his passes for 1,417 yards with 10 TDs and six picks. Still not terrible, and better if you consider how bad the Bucs' offensive line and running game were under first-year coach Lovie Smith. I could see Glennon opening the season as the starter.
Whenever Winston gets in there, he has one of the better receiving duos in the NFL in 6-foot-5 veteran Vincent Jackson and 6-foot-5 Mike Evans, the Bucs' first-round pick last season. Evans caught 68 passes for 1,051 yards and 12 scores to finish third in the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year voting. The Bucs really have done nothing this offseason in terms of free-agent additions on offense other than re-signing running back Bobby Rainey. Maybe No. 1 tailback Doug Martin can re-discover his rookie year game, which could make more people pick the Buccaneers when placing NFL picks.
The Bucs are +7500 long shots to win the NFC title. They aren't as bad as last season but aren't a playoff team unless Winston is Dan Marino as a rookie.