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.

Almost all pundits from sea to shining sea have pegged Winston to the Bucs. Coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht have praised the former Florida State star. Now the men with the most important voices of all have chimed in. 

The Glazers, the ones who hold the pewter-and-red purse strings, are smitten with Winston too. 

Unless this is an elaborate smoke screen — something that’s possible but unlikely — it’s hard to ignore the Bucs’ heavy lean toward Winston. Sure, Winston’s Pro Day on Tuesday in Tallahassee must be digested. Sure, there are still four weeks of study to be done. 

But if this pre-draft experience were a horse race, Winston is looking more like Secretariat. Down the stretch he comes, that finish line of April 30 appearing closer by the second. Other options have become lost in his dust. 

Last week, the NFL owners meetings represented the site of Winston’s latest victory. It’s hard to imagine the Glazers ever saying that the young quarterback makes them uncomfortable. But they could have offered some hesitation. They could have presented carefully crafted praise of both Winston and Mariota without using the "comfortable" tag.

But they went there. They gave a verbal "all-in" on Winston. 

So unless we’re being duped to the nth degree, all the major players have two feet securely on Winston’s bandwagon: Smith, Licht and the Glazers. That should count for something, right? 

Previous installments

NEWS AND RUMORS ROUNDUP

Tampa Tribune: Ira Kaufman writes that the Bucs think Winston’s mistakes are behind him.

Tampa Bay Times: Rick Stroud writes that it’s not erroneous to assume the Bucs are leaning Winston.

USA Today: Jim Corbett writes that Smith would be comfortable with Winston as the No. 1 pick.

ESPN: Todd McShay explains Winston’s on-field edge over Mariota.

Bleacher Report: Mike Freeman writes that Winston-Mariota could become the next Manning-Leaf.

620 WDAE (via joebucsfan.com): Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is angry about media treatment of Winston.

Pro Football Talk: Michael David Smith writes that "everyone thinks Winston is going first" after studying mock drafts.

MMQB: Peter King draws comparisons between Mariota and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

FOX Sports: A fan mock draft has the Bucs taking Winston at No. 1.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: More fans who voted in an online poll would like to see the Bucs select Mariota over Winston.

USA Today: Rachel Axon writes that Winston’s accuser claims Florida State concealed information.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers news

MOCK DRAFTS

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

Rob Rang (CBSSports.com): Winston (as of March 23)

Dane Brugler (CBSSports.com): Winston (as of March 23)

Pete Prisco (CBSSports.com): Winston (as of March 24)

Bucky Brooks (NFL.com): Winston (as of March 23) 

Charles Davis (NFL.com): Winston (as of March 25)

Lance Zierlein (NFL.com): Winston (as of March 26)

TWEETS





QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"With anybody we’re looking to draft, we do an extensive amount of work on their background, history and all that. We spent time with Jameis and Marcus and went into everything into their background. After everything we’ve done and where we’re at right now, we’re comfortable where Jameis is at, we’re comfortable with Marcus or whoever else it could be." — Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer, when speaking to the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix. 

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