Lutz Blog

Bob Lutz: Is Jameis Winston worthy of being the No. 1 pick?

Dejected FSU quarterback Jameis Winston tries to inspire teammates late in the game against Oregon during the Rose Bowl College Football Semifinal game on Jan. 1.
Dejected FSU quarterback Jameis Winston tries to inspire teammates late in the game against Oregon during the Rose Bowl College Football Semifinal game on Jan. 1. TNS

I’m glad I’m not the general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Bucs, the worst team in the NFL, will have the first pick in the draft on April 30.

Under more normal circumstances, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston would undoubtedly be their man. But there’s never been anything normal about Winston, on the field or off.

He’s done some knucklehead things during his time at FSU and there is an ongoing accusation by a Florida State student that sexually assaulted her in her apartment on Dec. 7, 2012. Attorneys for the woman, so far rebuffed by a legal system that has refused prosecution because of insufficient evidence, filed a civil suit Wednesday against Florida State, alleging it didn’t properly protect her Title IX rights.

Nobody except the woman and Winston, presumably, knows what happened 25 months ago. But the red flags are everywhere and they make Winston’s draft status murky.

NFL teams are about winning, first and foremost. So if Tampa Bay believes Winston is the quarterback who can help them move up in the NFC South, the worst division in football this season, it’s hard to believe the Bucs won’t seriously consider him.

But in doing so, how apprehensive will Tampa Bay’s executives be about Winston’s behavior? Besides the sexual assault allegation, Winston was cited for shoplifting crab legs and suspended one game for shouting obscenities on campus.

Then, in last week’s College Football Playoff semifinal loss to Oregon in the Rose Bowl, Winston got into a screaming match with Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher on the sideline after a costly turnover.

Things add up. And despite Winston’s talent – a rocket right arm and the ability to read defense and utilize advanced pocket sense – there are undeniable concerns.

The NFL is stressing its code of conduct in the wake of embarrassing and serious situations with running backs Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, among others. At least that’s what the NFL says it’s doing.

If the league is serious about cleaning up its act when it comes to domestic violence, doesn’t it make picking Winston even more of a risk?

It would be fascinating to sit on the interviews teams will conduct with Winston over the coming weeks. What questions will be asked? How will he answer them?

The goal will undoubtedly be to determine whether or not Winston, 27-1 as Florida State’s starting quarterback, is mature enough to handle the rigors of the NFL. His physical ability isn’t a question, despite an increase in interceptions this season.

Winston, who seems gregarious and intelligent in interviews I’ve seen and heard, is 6-foot-4, 235 pounds. His size must make NFL teams salivate. He can take punishment and move well. There’s nothing not to like about Winston as a quarterback.

It’s interesting that ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, who is as conflicted as the rest of us about Winston’s pro prospects, has him at No. 6 on his latest Big Board on ESPN.com. It’s just as interesting that the New York Jets will be picking sixth in the draft.

Winston in New York City?

The more important question is this: Who is Jameis Winston?

That’s the question teams will try to answer between now and the draft. He’ll be tested, prodded and pricked over the next few months as NFL officials try attempt to figure him out.

I wouldn’t pick Winston high in the draft. He scares me. The risks outweigh the potential reward.

Then again, I’m not Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht. Thank goodness.

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