Former Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston has been the talk of this week’s NFL Draft, and his being the first overall pick is becoming more and more of a certainty. He has phenomenal athleticism and plays the position well, and is in line to be the first quarterback taken first overall since Stanford’s Andrew Luck was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in 2012.
However, like any draft prospect, there are questions surrounding Winston.
For every Andrew Luck-type first round pick, there is always a JaMarcus Russell. Sure, scouts and executives are high on Winston now, but what if he doesn’t produce on the NFL level? What if he fizzles out in three years?
Lots of questions surround Winston, but we’re not here to put him under the microscope and single out just his flaws. Let’s take a look at him as a complete player and figure out just how well he can perform in the pros and which player he is most like.
The first thing people tend to notice about Winston is his size. He has classic quarterback build at 6-foot-4, 231 pounds, and his also being a baseball player, specifically a pitcher, accounts for him having a strong throwing arm. In two seasons at FSU, he threw for 7,964 yards to go with 65 touchdowns and just 28 interceptions. Winston also completed 66.1 percent of his passes.
This can be attributed to Winston’s uncanny ability to read defenses and anticipate routes. His QB vision is off the charts and his near-psychic ability to figure out where to put the ball is something that every coach dreams of.
Winston can also use his legs when necessary. He only ran for 284 yards across two seasons, but scored seven touchdowns. Just the same, despite this ability not being a giant part of his game, it led to him only being sacked 11.5 percent of the time. Though he’ll likely be a pure pocket passer with minimal footwork in the NFL, it’s good to know that he won’t immediately crumble in the pocket, a la Tom Brady. Long story short, Winston is in a position to have a great NFL career, especially on skills alone.
Some people may point to Winston only averaging 9.5 yards per pass attempt as something of a weakness, but that can be attributed to Florida State’s offense. If Winston needs to go deep, he’ll do so without issue. On top of that, considering how the NFL leader in that same statistic last season was Tony Romo with 8.52 yards per attempt, Winston should be just fine in that department.
However, the one glaring weakness that is going to follow Winston for the rest of his life, even if he wins multiple Super Bowls and is enshrined in Canton one day, are his myriad number of off-field issues. From the crab legs incident to his being suspended for immature behavior to the infamous sexual assault investigation, the man doesn’t exactly have the reputation of a boy scout. As he prepares himself for the NFL, that is not the image he’ll want attached to him as teams consider whether or not to draft him.
This presents the question: can Winston handle being in the NFL? It’s not going to be anywhere near the same lifestyle as in college, and the leash will be off as whichever team selects him will trust him to be an adult and make the right decisions away from the field. Concern about this has been so high to the point where Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM Jason Licht has said that the team spoke to over 75 people during Winston’s vetting process. The Bucs hold the No. 1 pick and need a QB, so whether or not they pass on Winston could affect his draft stock tremendously.
Moreover, I have been incredibly critical of Winston’s character in the weeks leading up to the draft, and the fact of the matter is that these issues can’t be ignored even if he is the heir apparent to the Tom Bradys and Peyton Mannings of the NFL.
Just the same, it’s even harder to ignore the level of potential that this young man has.
Final Thoughts and Pro Comparison
Jameis Winston’s potential success is easy to determine. So long as he stays out of trouble and has enough talent around him, from offensive line protection to top-of-the-line receivers, he will have every tool necessary to make an impact and enjoy a long and successful NFL career.
Pro comparison is a bit tougher. He has a gun for an arm and projects as a pure pocket passer in the NFL, but can also use his legs when called upon. Throw in his overall athleticism, and it becomes even tougher.
That all being said, after a lot of coffee and note-scribbling, a conclusion has finally been reached. I look at Winston, and see a man very similar to Big Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Here we have a man who is big and strong with a fine arm, and is also athletic enough to move around a bit when needed. Roethlisberger also tends to throw shorter passes in the offense he plays, though he can rear back and throw long downfield when needed.
Considering the similar skillset and the fact that Roethlisberger has two Super Bowl rings and three Pro Bowls on his resume, those hoping for Winston to succeed in the NFL should be very excited with the draft just a few days away.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports