There is no other quarterback, or player for that matter, in the 2015 NFL Draft that has been inspected under the proverbial microscope by scouts and media members than Florida State redshirt sophomore Jameis Winston. Although Winston possesses talent that in my opinion puts him right up there with Andrew Luck and Teddy Bridgewater as elite quarterback prospects, his lack of maturity off the field have led to questions about whether or not Winston possess the mental makeup to be a franchise quarterback.
From strictly an on-field evaluation you will be hard-pressed to find a quarterback that is more prepared to run an NFL offense than Winston. Standing at 6'4" around 230 lbs Winston possesses the ideal frame of an NFL quarterback. While Winston will never be placed in the same class athletically as RGIII, Cam Newton, or Andrew Luck, Winston possesses more than enough athletic ability to make plays on the boundary of a defense.
Due to the experience in a pro-style system that Florida State Head Coach Jimbo Fisher employs I believe that Winston could make the transition to the pro game relatively quick. Not only does Winston have experience taking 3, 5 and 7-step drops that the pro system requires, but Winston does a great job anticipating when his receivers are going to break and throwing them open. While this sound simple a lot of young quarterbacks struggle to develop the timing/trust that those throws require.
Take the clip above for instance. Notre Dame is playing man-man coverage on the outside and the two FSU receivers are running a high-low combination route. When the ball is snapped Winston realizes that the slot receiver has single-coverage and throws the ball towards the boundary as the receiver is at the top of his route. This timing allows for the receivers to be able to catch, turn, and make a move that turns into 6 points for the Seminoles. While the play may seem elementary, the timing and placement of the pass are crucial if you want your receivers to have any chance to make a play after the catch.
The biggest issues that I see when evaluating Winston are his elongated release, as well as his tendency to have "what-the-hell" type plays far too often (most notably the play below). While Winston may not have the tightest throwing motion I believe a lot of these issues can be attributed to his time as a pitcher for the FSU baseball team. Now that Winston is no longer apart of the FSU baseball program I believe that working with an NFL quarterbacks coach on mechanics should be able to tighten up his delivery.
The other glaring issue that I see with Winston on tape is his tendency to try and do too much, resulting in a lot of negative plays/turnovers. Like I mentioned I do not think this issue is a result of Winston lack of preparation, or inability to read the coverage in front of him, but more that Winston is trying to hit the home run every play, instead of taking the check-down and living to play another down. If the biggest problem with a rookie quarterback is his aggressiveness, I think coaches can live with that.
- Experience in Pro Style Offense
- Premier Arm Strength
- Exceptional Accuracy/Ball Placement
- Stands Tall in the Pocket
- Athleticism to Make Plays Outside the Pocket
- Consistent Footwork
- Still Room to Grow Mentally/Physically
- Knows Where Check Down is
- Keeps Eyes Downfield
- Anticipates throws exceptionally well
- On-Field Leader
- Off-Field Concerns
- Weight Gain
- Mechanics worsened as year progresses
- Elongated throwing Motion
- Increase in Interceptions
- "What the Hell" Throws
Player Comparison: Ben Roethlisberger QB/Pittsburgh Steelers
Winston signed with the Seminoles as the #1 quarterback prospect according to Rivals.com, though the Seminole faithful would have to wait to see the talented young gunslinger due to the presence of senior quarterback E.J. Manuel. However, once Winston took over as the Seminole starting quarterback it proved to be worth the wait.
Winston was introduced to the national stage after shredding the Pittsburgh Panthers defense completing 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. This was just the first of stellar individual performances that Winston had during a freshman season that included a ACC title, BCS National Championship and to put the icing on the cake, a Heisman Trophy.
Winston finished his freshman season with an absurd 40 touchdown passes compared to just 10 interceptions. On top of the 4:1 TD:INT Winston also averaged 10.6 yards-per-attempt. Think about how incredible that is for a second, Winston averaged a first down every time he completed a pass.
The offseason into Winston's redshirt freshman was littered with off-the-field incidents, most notably rape accusations stemming from an incident between Winston and a FSU student during his freshman season. To top off the offseason from hell for Winston he was caught on camera shoplifting crab legs from a Tallahassee grocery store, resulting in his suspension from the FSU baseball program.
Now with all the off-field shenanigans involving Winston going on it may be hard to believe that he was actually preparing for his redshirt sophomore season. Winston was not as sharp during his redshirt sophomore season, seeing his touchdown passes(40-25), yards (4,057-3,907), and YPA (10.6-8.7) all dip. While some draftniks and fans may be worried about the dip in production you have to remember the Seminole offense lost their no. 1 receiver (Kelvin Benjamin), starting running back (Devonta Freeman), and starting center (Brian Stork) to the NFL. Could Winston have done better his redshirt sophomore season, sure, but with the loss of a lot of talent off the offensive side of the football I can understand why Winston took a step back this past season.
In my opinion Jameis Winston has a chance to come in an establish himself as one of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL. If Winston lands with the Buccaneers like anticipated he will will have plenty of weapons around him to help with his development, headlined by second year wide receiver Mike Evans and veteran Vincent Jackson. Along with the talented wide receivers the Buccaneers have they also have a tight end in Austin Seferian-Jenkins that is gaining some serious buzz going into his sophomore season.
While Doug Martin, Bobby Rainey, and Charles Simms are "serviceable" running backs the team needs more consistent production out of their backfield. It is rumored the Buccaneers are interested in Minnesota all-pro running back Adrian Peterson. Vikings GM Rick Spielman has been adamant about receiving at least a first-round pick, but with the no. 2 pick in the 2nd round, Spielman could pull the trigger and send his disgruntled RB to Tampa.
In standard leagues Winston should be viewed as a mid-level QB2 from day one, especially in an offensive system run by Dirk Koetter. With the lack of a consistent running game, and talented pass-catchers the Bucs could turn into one of the more pass-happy offenses in football.
In dynasty drafts Winston is my no. 1 quarterback target in rookie/free agent drafts. While I would have a hard time selecting him in the top-5 over the top WR's (Cooper, Parker, White), RB's (Gurley, Gordon), with talented skill-position players around him the no. 6 overall pick is the highest I would consider taking Winston. If you are like myself and drafted a veteran quarterback (Drew Brees) to fill the need for a couple of seasons and find yourself in a position to land Winston in your rookie drafts, it would be a dream scenario in my book.
There is no doubt in my mind that Winston possesses the skill-set of a franchise NFL quarterback. Despite the well-documented immaturity issues Winston has dealt with while at Florida State, Winston is the odds-on favorite to be the no. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota may possesses a more intriguing skill-set from an athletic skill-point, but with Winston's experience in a pro-style offense, and his ability to anticipate throws into tight windows gives him the edge in my 2015 quarterback rankings.
While it has been reported that the Glazer family will have final say in the no. 1 overall draft pick I doubt there is anything at this point that would prevent Winston from being the no. 1 overall pick when the Buccaneers are officially on the clock.
Grade: Top 3 Pick
Photo Courtesy of Kathy Vitulano Flickr Page