Looking out for No. 1: Mariota/Winston Watch

BY foxsports • April 26, 2015

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.

In less than a week, the answer will come.

There will be no more draft build-up. There will be no more wonder and best guesses about which way the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will go with the No. 1 overall pick. There will be no more speculation, mock drafts or the static from pundits that has made the Internet hum since January.

Winston or Mariota?

There doesn't seem to be an absolute "right" or "wrong" choice between the two, at least to start. Both quarterbacks seem smart. Both seem capable of evolving into successful pros. Still, the NFL is littered with stories of players who have underachieved, whether the fault was their own or because of some other reason beyond their control. Health, environment and circumstance determine so much about how someone's career will go. The same will go for Winston and Mariota.

Have you picked a side?

Winston is the popular choice among many. He seems like the better plug-and-play answer for the Bucs. Remember, coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht must show measurable progress next season. Another 2-14 failure won't cut it. The urgency should be clear.

Still, Mariota has positives. Has he done anything in the past to suggest he won't embrace what's necessary to be a solid NFL quarterback? He's grounded and humble. Unlike Winston, he won't come with the thought that perhaps off-field trouble may trip up a promising career. He's the safer pick.

Come Thursday night, the time will arrive for the Bucs to announce their decision between the two, or perhaps they'll throw a curveball. (Select someone else? Trade the pick?) It's about time. 

The moment has almost arrived for the next step in this journey to begin.

NEWS AND RUMORS ROUNDUP

-- FOX Sports: Joel Klatt speaks about red flags in the NFL draft.

-- Tampa Tribune: Martin Fennelly writes that chances are, the percentages are in the Bucs' favor in the draft.

-- Tampa Tribune: Roy Cummings writes about how Winston said Publix crab legs were given to him, not stolen.

-- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Bob McGinn writes that Winston is seen as having similar faults as bust JaMarcus Russell.

-- ESPN Radio (via Joe Bucs Fan): Former Bucs GM Mark Dominik defends Winston against unnamed sources.

-- Orlando Sentinel: Brendan Sonnone writes that ESPN analyst Jon Gruden is not sold that the Bucs will draft Winston.

-- Tampa Bay Times: Rick Stroud writes that a consensus from the Bucs' brass points to Winston being the choice.

-- Boston Herald: Ron Borges writes that Winston creates a dilemma for Bucs.

-- Yardbarker: The Sports Post writes about perception vs. reality as it relates to Winston and Mariota.

-- FOX Sports Florida: Andrew Astleford writes about the Bucs' final preparations in the calm before the storm.

-- FOX Sports Florida: The Bucs' 2015 schedule could feature a matchup between Winston and Mariota in Week 1.

MOCK DRAFTS

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

 -- Todd McShay (ESPN): Winston (as of April 22)

-- Rob Rang (CBSSports.com): Winston (as of April 21)

-- Pete Prisco (CBSSports.com): Winston (as of April 22)

-- Will Brinson (CBSSports.com): Winston (as of April 22)

-- Dane Brugler (CBSSports.com): Winston (as of April 25)

-- Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com): Winston (as of April 20):

-- Lance Zierlein (NFL.com): Winston (as of April 22)

TWEETS

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"Well, a week before it was my buddy's birthday and we had got a cake and we met a dude that worked inside Publix and he said, 'Hey, anytime you come in here, I got you.'" -- Winston, when describing the Publix crab legs incident during a taping for ESPN's "Draft Academy." The former Florida State quarterback directed his comments toward Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and Michigan quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch.

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



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