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.
"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.