Jameis Winston’s clash: Should he stay or should he go pro?

Jameis Winston wants to play baseball, but would he risk giving up millions of NFL dollars to do it?

USA TODAY Sports

With Florida State’s school-record 29-game win streak now over, Seminoles Nation has turned its attention to the Jan. 15 deadline by which Jameis Winston must decide whether to declare for the 2015 NFL Draft or return to Florida State.

The redshirt sophomore quarterback is now three years removed from his high school graduation and eligible to continue his career in the NFL.

However, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner still has two years of collegiate eligibility remaining, which offers him the option to return to Florida State and continue his academics along with his football and baseball careers.

Winston has held any decision he may have made close to the vest thus far and when asked about his plans after the Rose Bowl, he replied, "Looking forward to next season and playing baseball."

But with millions of dollars staring him in the face, what is the smartest decision? What should he do? Let us ponder for a moment …

REASONS TO STAY

1. He doesn’t want end his collegiate career on a sour note.

Winston is 26-1 as a starting quarterback. The sole blemish came on New Year’s Day, when the Oregon Ducks dominated the Seminoles on their way to a 39-point Rose Bowl win. Florida State’s loss will undoubtedly leave a bad taste in Winston’s mouth; he’s a player teammates and coaches describe as the ultimate competitor. A way to cleanse his palate of the Pasadena beat down would be to return and attempt to once again lead his team to a national championship.

If he were to return, Winston would have a more experienced group of skill position players around him in wide receivers Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph and running back Dalvin Cook, the team’s leading rusher in 2014 as a freshman.

Time to reflect

2. He’s no longer facing code of conduct charges.

In December, Winston faced a university Student Code of Conduct hearing stemming from 2012 sexual assault allegations. Florida State brought in former Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court Major Harding to preside over the hearing. Harding found that there wasn’t enough evidence to find Winston guilty of any violations.

If the quarterback had been found guilty, he would have faced suspension or expulsion from the university. Now that this won’t occur, it leaves the door open for Winston to return to Florida State and focus on school and athletics without facing penalty.

3. He wants to play baseball.

If Winston declares for the NFL draft, he will be unable to play collegiate baseball — a main reason for his signing with Florida State. Drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 15th round of the 2012 MLB draft, Winston takes great pride in his baseball abilities and views himself as a dual-sport athlete, not a football player playing baseball.

In 2014, he struck out 31 batters and walked seven in 33 1/3 innings.

REASONS TO DECLARE

1. He has achieved everything a college football player can.

Winston has a BCS National Championship Trophy, two ACC championships and a 26-1 record as a starter. He has won a Heisman Trophy, a Walter Camp Award and a Davey O’Brien Award. The quarterback set a Florida State record for most touchdown passes in a season (40) in 2013 and his 4,057 passing yards that season set a national freshman record.

Making their mark

Many players cite "unfinished business" — like winning a conference championship or breaking school records — as a main reason to return to school. Winston has nothing left to prove or win.

2. Risk of injury.

Most early reports have Winston as a top-five pick in the draft, and he’ll more than likely be one of the first two quarterbacks taken off the board (along with Oregon’s Marcus Mariota).

Last year, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was drafted No. 1 overall by the Houston Texans and given a four-year contract worth $22.3 million, while the first quarterback taken, UCF’s Blake Bortles, taken third by the Jacksonville Jaguars, received $20.7 million over four years.

Why risk injury and possibly lose out on millions of NFL dollars? Even if it’s not career-threatening, Winston could suffer an injury that nags him all season and hurts his performance and lowers his draft stock.

3. A chance to start fresh.

Outside of Johnny Manziel, Winston has been the most scrutinized college athlete in recent memory. His questionable decision-making away from the field resulted in around-the-clock media coverage that turned him into a polarizing figure whom many people wanted to see fail. He has been cast as a villain of college football with every slight misstep turned into a national news story worthy of a top headline.

This isn’t to say leaving for the NFL would erase what he’s done in the past or change people’s opinion of him. But it is a chance to fix his image, start new and allow fans to look at him in a new light. The media attention likely won’t disappear if he makes the jump. In fact, it may even intensify (Manziel is proof of that). However, if he’s drafted by the right organization, it would give Winston the opportunity to learn from veteran leaders who would hopefully keep him out of the headlines and on the field.