Jameis Winston is going to be the new starting quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
This time of year, narratives floated to the media are intentionally misleading so it’s hard to know what to believe. If anything.
So it comes with great comfort that I can report that I have no sources, no inside information, no shadowy figures telling me that Winston will be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
It would just be that stupid for the Bucs to pass on the Florida State signal-caller.
Like most who have covered Winston’s transition from five-star prep recruit to Heisman Trophy quarterback to NFL prospect, I’m as tired of talking about his maturation process and personal decision-making as much as the next guy.
His behavior has been highly suspect at best and allegedly abhorrent at worst. But when it comes to his on-the-field talent, Winston is the best quarterback prospect to enter the NFL Draft since Andrew Luck.
He was the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the nation coming out of Hueytown (Ala.) High School in the class of 2012. After redshirting, all Winston did was lead his team to an undefeated BCS national championship, winning a Heisman Trophy and smashing the NCAA record book along the way.
In 2014, against a much tougher schedule with a less talented supporting cast and under a significantly brighter spotlight (some of his own doing), Winston led Florida State to another undefeated ACC championship.
He’s big. He’s strong. He’s got a great arm. He’s a leader. He’s a winner. He produced big numbers. And he’s clutch when the game is on the line.
What more could you possibly want on the field from a quarterback prospect?
Facing certain playoff elimination against Notre Dame in the final 10 minutes? No big deal, Winston drove the Noles for the game-winning touchdown. Trailing 24-7 in the third quarter on the road against Louisville? How about 35 points in the final 24 minutes. Down six points with 11 minutes remaining against rival Miami on the road? Yawn, two drives produce 10 points and another come-from-behind victory.
Boston College? Florida? Georgia Tech?
And it seems entirely too convenient to forget the final 1:19 of the BCS era. Winston’s seven-play, 80-yard touchdown drive against Auburn in the Rose Bowl was downright masterful. He completed 6-of-7 passes to win the national championship.
Time and time again, Winston did what the NFL defines as the ultimate success: Just win baby. Only once in 27 tries did anyone ever beat Winston during his entire college career. He started 25 regular season football games and he won every one.
The off-the-field decision-making is a major issue that only hours of face-to-face meetings clarify.
But with a strong personality for a head coach in Lovie Smith, a host of elite playmakers surrounding him and a Sunshine State zip code, the Tampa Bay Bucs would be absolutely foolish not to take Jameis Winston with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.