Looking out for No. 1: Mariota/Winston Watch

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers own the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL draft. Almost everyone agrees that they’ll choose a quarterback. But who will become their face of hope? Will Florida State’s Jameis Winston make the short trip south from Tallahassee to start his pro career? Or will Oregon’s Marcus Mariota be the answer? Each week until the selection is announced April 30, we’ll help you digest the latest news and rumors about the two quarterbacks and what the Bucs might be thinking.

He came, he saw, he left them in awe. 

Does that mean Winston is the Bucs’ choice at No. 1 after his Tampa trip Tuesday? Does that mean his jaunt to One Buc Place was an early coronation, one in which verbal roses were thrown at his feet by general manager Jason Licht? Does that mean the pre-draft drama is done? 

There are two ways to look at the development: Either (a.) the Bucs absolutely covet Winston, and they kick started the PR campaign to sell the love to a curious public or (b.) this is part of an elaborate smokescreen to conceal their passion for Mariota or a Door No. 3, which may lead to trading down with a franchise eager to sell its future for present gain. 

Chip Kelly, please pick up the nearest white courtesy telephone. 

It’s hard to ignore the noise, though. Winston’s momentum has gained strength in recent months, like a snow slide tumbling down a mountain. Why would the Bucs feel the urge to use misdirection with the draft’s top pick? Forget the need to juke the competition. They’re racing in the open field with their position, those golden goalposts of the offseason to be reached April 30 when Roger Goodell crosses that stage in Chicago for the first time. 

Here’s guessing the Bucs’ interest in Winston is genuine. Here’s guessing the Glazers wanted an up-close look at the former Florida State star, a figure who, if selected, will either steer Tampa Bay to The Promised Land or into darker waters. Here’s guessing this was a final step for ownership in convincing themselves that Winston is their man. 

The next time he travels to Tampa, Winston may be coming home. 

NEWS AND RUMORS ROUNDUP

Previous installments

— Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Scott Smith interviews Winston during the quarterback’s visit to One Buc Place.

— Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Licht speaks about Winston’s visit to One Buc Place. 

— Awful Announcing: Winston and Mariota will be part of former Bucs coach Jon Gruden’s sixth "QB Camp" on ESPN and ESPN2.

— Tampa Tribune: Martin Fennelly gives a humorous look at how Winston’s Tampa visit might have gone.

— Tampa Tribune: Roy Cummings spoke with former Bucs GM Mark Dominik about what Winston’s visit to Tampa might mean for Tampa Bay’s draft strategy.

— ESPN Radio: Analyst Ron Jaworski, speaking on Mike & Mike, says there are "real flaws" in Winston’s game.

— NFL Media: Charles Davis writes that we shouldn’t consider Winston to be a slam dunk to go No. 1 in the draft.

— NFL Media: Bryan Fischer makes the case for Mariota to be a top-five draft pick.

— MMQB: Peter King writes that no prospect is under more scrutiny than Mariota.

— Yahoo! Sports: Eric Adelson wonders if the Bucs would be better off dealing the No. 1 pick than selecting either Winston or Mariota.

More Tampa Bay Buccaneers news

— JoeBucsFan: Joe writes that he’s fed up with the righteous moralism directed at Winston.

MOCK DRAFTS

This is who the experts have the Bucs drafting with the No. 1 pick:

— Mel Kiper (ESPN): Winston (as of March 5)

— Dane Brugler (CBSSports.com): Winston (as of March 1)

— Rob Rang (CBSSports.com): Winston (as of March 2)

— Pat Kirwan (CBSSports.com): Winston (as of March 5)

— Lance Zierlein (NFL.com): Winston (as of March 3)

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"He’s lively. He’s engaging. He’s incredibly smart. He confirmed all the things we thought about him going into this process, but the process isn’t done." — Licht, when speaking about Winston’s visit in a video on the Bucs’ website posted Friday.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.