Front Office Insider: 3 things Winston can do to become No. 1 pick
The Senior Bowl kicks off this week, and the annual event held in Mobile, Ala., marks one of the first steps in a four-month process in which prospects are observed and analyzed by NFL personnel in just about every way imaginable before the draft.
Maybe none more so than Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and have a glaring need under center. So much that general manager Jason Licht and head coach Lovie Smith traveled to Pasadena, Calif., on New Year’s Day to watch the Rose Bowl, where Winston squared off against Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.
While Winston won’t be in attendance this week because he’s not eligible to play, he’s starting to be talked about as the frontrunner for the top overall pick.
"There’s no doubt he’s a first-round talent," one AFC scout told FOXSports.com earlier this month. "If you can live with the off-the-field stuff, he’s going to be someone’s franchise quarterback. Guys with his talent only come into this league so often. He has the tools to be a potential superstar in this league."
Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans agrees.
If you can live with the off-the-field stuff, he’s going to be someone’s franchise quarterback.
- An AFC scout
"I know Oregon beat Florida State pretty bad, but I like Jameis’ game a lot," Mike Evans told FOXSports.com in a telephone interview last week.
Evans, whom the Bucs selected with their first-round pick a season ago, isn’t the only one dressed in pewter and red that might prefer Winston over Mariota. Two Bucs sources indicated to FOXSports.com that the team would consider using the No. 1 overall pick on Winston if he can sell them that he’s capable of becoming a franchise leader.
That’s the real key. While Winston won the Heisman Trophy and lost just one game during his two years as a starter in Tallahassee, Winston comes with baggage and continues to have his off-the-field judgment questioned.
With that said, let’s take a look at three things that Winston can do from now until draft time in order to be selected No. 1 overall:
Throw at NFL Combine: Winston has spent the past month training with quarterback guru George Whitfield in San Diego. Whitfield has worked with other high-profile quarterbacks during the draft process such as Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel and Andrew Luck.
Winston has displayed an unparalleled competitive fire during his days in Tallahassee, and one would expect him to do so in Indianapolis during the NFL Scouting Combine. Winston needs to prove that he can uncork his hips and throw with some zip accurately and decisively from the pocket.
"I think he is ready to make the step," Whitfield said earlier this month to ESPN. "He has a competitive temperament. He’s elite. You see him out there. We saw him out there doing that when he was 17 years old competing with a no-flinch mentality.
"From a game perspective, he flies a similar type of vehicle they fly in the NFL. You watch him and he has a great understanding of pocket awareness. He makes a lot of anticipatory throws. He can throw guys open. He’s been doing this not for an incredibly long time, but for the 30-plus games we’ve seen him do this, he’s done it arguably as well if not better than anybody else has."
Winning a national championship during his redshirt freshman season, Winston isn’t afraid when the lights are brightest. Making a statement in front of 32 general managers and head coaches would go a long way for him.
Address off-field concerns: The biggest question mark surrounding Winston is his maturity.
Winston would be wise to not hide from the legal issues and questionable judgment in the past. Turning 21 earlier this month, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound quarterback must be honest with himself and everyone moving forward. He must show that he has been humbled from his mistakes and is willing to take the next level more seriously.
Winston has been advised to pull back and stay out of the spotlight during this process, yet he makes headlines anytime he posts on one of his social media accounts. If he wants to be the No. 1 overall pick, he must treat this process like a professional, not an entertainer.
Nail the interviews: This is an opportunity for Winston to show off his high football IQ. Teams will put him on the white board and will test his football aptitude.
Beyond X’s and O’s, team brass will be analyzing how he reacts in an uncomfortable environment and the tone in which he answers his questions. This will be done to see if he can truly handle adversity and be a franchise leader. The next 90 days are the biggest in determining where Winston will play in the future.