The most polarizing draft pick this side of 2014 and Johnny Football, was Jameis Winston. Winston was selected #1 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, finding a home with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While Johnny Football went on to lead the league in being benched, excessive partying, and flamboyant costume design, during his rock star rookie season, the physically gifted Winston went on to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with an admirable effort during his. Although, his rookie season wasn’t perfect, it offered plenty of hope for Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans and dynasty owners alike.
Turbulent Success in Tallahassee
Long before Winston hit the NFL he was a lightning rod of both criticism and praise, while attending FSU. Winston stepped on the campus in 2013 and burst onto the football field like a supernova. As a true freshman, Winston produced eye-popping numbers with 44 total touchdowns against 10 interceptions for a 66.9% completion rate, and a 184.8 passer efficiency rating. To cap it all off, Winston took home multiple awards including, college football’s top award, the Heisman trophy. While his ascension towards on-the-field greatest continued, his sheer stupidity off-the-field not only highlighted his social immaturity, but began to create a stir of concern with the draftniks. Captain Crab legs simply couldn’t stay out of the media’s cross hairs, enduring multiple incidents which continued to plague him leading up his 2014 collegiate season.
Nevertheless, expectations in 2014 continued their ascent, regardless of the off-the-field distractions. Ultimately, Winston found it hard to recreate the magic he so beautifully created during his freshman season. Thus, Winston encountered a sophomore slump which brought more doubters on board, while the off-the-field mental mistakes continued their blend into his image. Winston ended the season with 28 total touchdowns, 18 interceptions, a 65.3 completion percentage, and a 145.5 passer efficiency rating. For perspective, his numbers continued to lead many of the standard passing categories in the ACC, but as the draft landscape started to take shape it was clear that some pro scouts had their doubts heading into the 2015 NFL Draft.
*Includes bowl games
As scouting reports started to take shape for the 2015 NFL Draft it was clear that Jameis Winston was neck and neck with fellow QB prospect Marcus Mariota from Oregon. The consensus was that the Tampa Bay Bucs were going to take a quarterback. Therefore, the hot topic of the day was, which one would be selected #1 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Both quarterbacks were considered strong candidates to lead an NFL franchise into the future. Many thought Mariota seemed more mature, polished, “pro ready”, and ultimately less of a risk, given Winston’s past off-the-field transgressions. Although, heading into the final weeks, before the draft, Tampa Bay found it difficult to overlook Winston’s on field prowess. At 6’4” and 230 lbs. Winston stood tall in the pocket as a passer, had the arm that made all the throws scouts drool over, while also being able to thread the needle to his receivers. For every detractor out there, it was hard to argue that Winston wouldn’t make for an exceptional field general, at the next level, if he could keep his head removed from his posterior. During workouts scouts continued to be dazzled by his football IQ and timing and with the 1st overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Jameis Winston.
Jameis Winston ended his rookie campaign with 4,042 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, and passer rating of 84.2. By and large, Winston saw improvement over the course of the season especially down the stretch. As his rapport grew with the team and his receivers he continued to show that his progression at the next level was tangible and he was deserving of the #1 overall selection. As the season wore on his maturity highlighted his prowess as a field general, as he led the Bucs on a run of tightly contested matchups, over the course of the second half of the season.
Forecast calls for a Bright future in Tampa Bay
Assuming Winston continues to holster his past transgressions we may be looking at a rising dynasty stud. The Buccaneers have gone out of their way to continue to stockpile offensive weapons to aid in the development of Winston. With Mike Evans, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, along with the possibility of Doug Martin returning to the fold, Tampa Bay has a solid core of players to build around for the foreseeable future. Even with the loss of Lovie Smith as head coach, the Bucs did well to promote Dirk Koetter from offensive coordinator. This continuity will only brighten the outlook for Winston. This should also mitigate the effects of changing offensive coordinators, which has a tendency to slow a young quarterback’s development.
If I’m a QB needy team that isn’t in “win-now” mode, I would definitely see what it would take to bring Winston on to my squad. On the other hand, if I needed depth at QB, I think it would be shrewd to add a player like Winston to your squad as a 2nd or 3rd QB, while he continues to develop. I would expect his numbers to continue to improve, while he continues his growth in the Koetter system. Winston’s potential has the look of a top 10 QB with potential to slide into the top 5 or higher. Use the possibility or projection of a sophomore slump to your advantage if you plan to try and acquire Winston this off-season.
Thanks for reading. You can find me on Twitter @DFF_Andy.