FOX Sports South invokes a devils-advocate look at why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should bypass Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston with the No. 1 overall draft pick. For the record, we freely acknowledge that Winston -- the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner -- remains the prohibitive favorite to go first on Draft Night (April 30 in Chicago). But as history has taught us, it can be frivolous for teams -- along with the fans and pundits of NFL Nation -- to rubber-stamp a player for No. 1 ... without examining his long-range value/fit from all angles.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY SportsBob Donnan
Reason No. 1: Don't ignore the red flag of rising interception rates
SKINNY: I am a major consumer of pre-draft shows (TV, podcasts). In fact, it's the preferred form of entertainment when taking long runs or lounging by the pool. That aside, I've grown weary of the countless NFL pundits who dismiss Winston's INT tally from last season, as if the physical measurables trump on-field performance. Eighteen interceptions is quite high; it's even more damning when considering the following: Against Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Louisville, Miami, Florida and Oregon last season, Winston combined for 10 passing TDs/12 interceptions. Whoa! In Winston's defense, however, Matt Ryan (right -- 19 INTs as a senior at Boston College) and Dan Marino (23 INTs as a senior at Pitt) survived rough collegiate campaigns before entering the pros. (Photos: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports ... Assorted Images)
Reason No. 2: Marcus Mariota has a higher ceiling at the next level
SKINNY: Winston operated a friendlier pro-style offense than Mariota in the college ranks; and within that realm, Mariota will require some time to adjust to fielding snaps directly under center. But let's have perspective here: The majority of NFL offenses use the shotgun at least 50 percent of the time; and over three seasons in Eugene, Mariota attempted 779 passes. (Comparison: Bob Timberlake, a third-round pick from 1965 with the Giants, attempted only 259 passes in three years at Michigan.) Let's acknowledge two more supposed truths: Mariota, the 2014 Heisman, is a phenomenal physical talent (great size, strong arm) and apparently owns a spotless record, character-wise. We'll end with some accuracy praise: At Oregon, Mariota (134 career TDs) averaged one INT for every 55.7 passes.
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Reason No. 3: It's a banner year for elite-level pass rushers
SKINNY: Winston and Mariota have commanded the lion's share of attention for this draft. But beneath that layer of pomp and circumstance, NFL scouts/pundits have been glowing in their praise of the highest-rated defensive ends, D-tackles and edge-rushing linebackers -- starting with USC's Leonard Williams (the cleanest blue-chipper in the mix), Clemson's Vic Beasley (left -- 25 total sacks for 2013-14), Kentucky's Alvin "Bud" Dupree (right -- a supreme athlete), Missouri's Shane Ray, Nebraska's Randy Gregory, Washington's Danny Shelton and Florida's Dante Fowler, Jr., the most explosive, high-upside pass-rusher of the 2015 class. If the Bucs think creatively, they can trade out of the top spot, collect a boatload of extra picks ... and still land the defender of their dreams. (Photos: Brett Davis/Kim Klement/Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports)
Reason No. 4: It's too early to bail on QB Mike Glennon
SKINNY: What's not to like about Glennon, aka The Stork? He has the requisite size (6-foot-7, 225 pounds), accuracy and strong arm of a starter-worthy quarterback in this league. Of his 18 career starts, spanning two seasons, the 25-year-old has registered two outings of 300 yards passing and just two games of more interceptions than TDs. He also boasts eight total games of a completion rate above 60 percent. Bottom line: Glennon may never pass for 4,000 yards or be an annual lock for the Pro Bowl, but there's no reason for the Bucs to bury him on the bench, either. If the club truly loves Winston that much ... they should do everything in their power to bolster Glennon's trade value over the next four weeks.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsKim Klement
Reason No. 5: The trade value of the No. 1 pick typically trumps one player
SKINNY: If I was running an NFL team, trade down would be the operative phrase for Rounds 1-4, in terms of collecting picks/stockpiling assets at every turn. Bottom line: Even with an expanding salary cap, the best organizations still aspire to be financially flexible and super-deep with age-27-and-under talent. And from a leverage standpoint, there is no greater trump card than holding the No. 1 overall pick in a draft which stars two charismatic QBs. As such, the Bucs (six picks in the first 168 slots) would be wise to auction that top selection to the highest bidder ... and then use the extra capital to snag future stars like Oregon CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (left), UCLA QB Brett Hundley (middle) and/or LSU O-tackle La'el Collins (right) on Day 2. (Photos: Scott Olmos/Richard Mackson/Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
Reason No. 6: Coach Lovie Smith may prefer to spend lavishly on infrastructure picks
SKINNY: Yes, the NFL has evolved into a passing league. But rock-steady organizations can still win the Super Bowl -- or at least dominate a division for sustained periods -- with an elite-level rushing attack, stingy defense and efficient QBs playing under center. Take the Bucs: They're sitting on a potential powder keg at tailback (in a good way), with 26-year-old Doug Martin (left -- 1,926 total yards/12 TDs in 2012) and highly regarded Charles Sims (right -- 75 yards/1 TD in last year's season finale) possessing the dual capacity for 1,300 yards/double-digit TDs. Tampa Bay also has a few dynamic pieces on defense, with D-tackle Gerald McCoy and LB Lavonte David anchoring an emerging corps. (Photos: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
Reason No. 7: Beware of QBs setting up shop in their own backyard
SKINNY: Since 1977, only four first-off-the-board QBs have been drafted by an NFL team from the same state where they played college ball -- Blake Bortles in 2014 (Jaguars/UCF), Vinny Testaverde (left) in 1987 (Buccaneers/Miami), Steve Pisarkiewicz in 1975 (St. Louis Cardinals/Missouri) and technically Jeff George (middle), the Colts' No. 1 pick in 1991, who played at Purdue before transferring to Illinois. George had a 14-35 record with the Colts, never reaching 3,000 yards; Pisarkiewicz washed out after three seasons; Testaverde sloughed through a 24-48 record with the Bucs, posting 57 INTs for 1988-89; and Bortles tossed more INTs (17) than TDs (11) as a Jaguars rookie. One last note: In 2006, the Texans (drafting No. 1) wisely bypassed Houston native Vince Young (right) for Mario Williams. (Assorted Images)
Reason No. 8: History dictates the Bucs focus on defense at No. 1
SKINNY: Since 1976, the Bucs have drafted four times at No. 1; and for various reasons, the offensive selections didn't pan out. 1) Ricky Bell (1977) averaged 932 total yards through 1980, before a life-threatening illness curtailed his career. 2) 1985 Heisman Bo Jackson (middle), the top pick in '86, refused to sign after a pre-draft visit to Tampa broke NCAA rules and exhausted his baseball eligibility at Auburn. 3) Vinny Testaverde (previous slide) never led the Bucs to the playoffs. And don't forget about Hall of Famer Steve Young (right), Tampa Bay's No. 1 pick in the 1984 USFL-supplemental draft, who struggled with the Bucs (8 TDs/13 INTs in 1986) before getting traded to the Niners. Tampa Bay's only success story at No. 1? Defensive end Lee Roy Selmon (left) became the first player to enter the HOF as a Buccaneer. (Assorted Images)
Reason No. 9: The QB class of 2016 may be worth the wait
SKINNY: It's never easy for teams to delay the process of landing a potential game-changer at quarterback. But given Lovie Smith's firm status with the Buccaneers (proven track record of success in Chicago; only in Year 2 with new club), he and novice general manager Jason Licht can exercise some patience at QB -- either trading down with the intent of snagging Mariota (Reason #2), supporting Mike Glennon's progress as a starter (Reason #4) or waiting a full calendar year for next year's QB crop. The Class of 2016 features three Big Ten passers at the top -- Ohio State's Cardale Jones (left), Michigan State's Connor Cook (middle) and Penn State's Christian Hackenberg (right) -- along with a cast of Mariota-esque spread-attack options, led by TCU's Trevone Boykin. (Photos: Matthew Emmons/Kevin Jairaj/Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports)
Reason No. 10: Immaturity concerns
SKINNY: NFL teams aren't quick to dole out long leashes to immature players -- especially first-round quarterbacks. Either master a playbook the size of a James Michener novel, and commit to watching countless hours of film during the offseason ... or the clubs simply move on to the next talent who would gladly sell his soul to be a franchise QB. Exhibits A and B for this cold rationale involve JaMarcus Russell (right -- No. 1 overall pick in 2007) and Johnny Manziel (left -- the 22nd pick in 2014) -- first-round QBs who bought into the hype and fame of being purported saviors ... long before the actual production occurred. Winston had his share of off-field foibles at FSU, disturbing events which arose before cashing a single check as a professional. (Photos: Ken Blaze/Andrew Weber ... Assorted Images)