Analysis: Bucs consensus points to Jameis Winston

Team officials are all on board with whom to draft No. 1. All signs point to FSU QB.
A civil lawsuit filed against Jameis Winston will not affect the Bucs' draft plans. A trade offer would have to be in the blockbuster category. Associated Press
A civil lawsuit filed against Jameis Winston will not affect the Bucs' draft plans. A trade offer would have to be in the blockbuster category.Associated Press
Published April 20 2015
Updated April 21 2015

TAMPA — Larger than Lee Roy. Bigger than Bo. More vital than Vinny.

That's how ginormous this NFL draft is to the Buccaneers, according to general manager Jason Licht.

"Personally, I think it's probably the biggest draft in the history of the organization," Licht said Monday. "We've got a real chance to really put us over the top and get us to the level that we think we're going to be at this year, which we think is competing for a championship. It's a great draft, and it's a great draft to have the No. 1 pick."

Ten days before the draft, Licht and coach Lovie Smith said the Bucs have reached a decision. They know which player they are taking No. 1 overall on April 30.

"Yes we are. We're in total agreement," Smith said. "As a staff, not just Jason and I."

The Glazers have signed off on the player as well. But during their pre-draft news conference Monday, nobody was ready to spill the beans.

"Going all the way back to (the NFL scouting combine) in Indianapolis, we said we had a leader in the clubhouse," Licht said. "We still do. If we had to pick today, we'd feel very comfortable making that pick. With that said, we'll wait."

Unless the information that's been circulating for months contains more whoppers than all the Burger Kings in Tampa Bay, all signs point to the Bucs selecting Jameis Winston.

Sure, the Florida State quarterback has been in more hot water than Mueller's.

As recently as Thursday, Erica Kinsman filed a civil suit accusing Winston of sexual battery, assault, false imprisonment and intentionally inflicting "emotional distress" during their December 2012 off-campus sexual encounter in Tallahassee. The lawsuit comes after multiple investigations ended without criminal charges for Winston, who has maintained his innocence.

The Bucs say nothing in the civil suit is new, nor will it affect their decision. They also say they have done exhaustive investigation into Winston's background. "A lot isn't a big enough word," Licht said.

From the start, the Bucs have been focused on drafting a quarterback, either Winston or Oregon's Marcus Mariota.

Winston is plug-and-play. He operated in a pro-style offense. He played under center, he checks protections, reads coverage and throws with accuracy and anticipation. On the field, there were always more questions about transitioning to the NFL for Mariota, who played almost exclusively in the shotgun, never called a play in the huddle and benefited from the Ducks' spread option system.

Once the Bucs were satisfied that Winston wouldn't be too much of a risk off the field, this became a football decision. The BB guns, the crab legs, a vulgar obscenity shouted in the student union — all were not forgiven but chalked up to a lack of maturity.

Remember, Smith used the word "exonerated," regarding Winston and the sexual assault allegation before the NFL scouting combine began in February. Licht said they had a leader in the clubhouse before ever having worked out either quarterback.

Last month at the NFL owners meetings, Smith said it would not be an "erroneous assumption," that Winston was the leading candidate to become the No. 1 pick.

Unless there is a legal land mine that detonates, or he steps out of line, Winston is likely going to remain at the top of the Bucs draft board. Licht says they also will wait to see if any blockbuster trade comes forward. With the rookie salary pool, there is no reason to begin negotiations with any player.

As for trading the pick? "It's fair to assume someone is going to have to make a really good offer," Licht said.

That's because the Bucs have made a decision. A betting man might wager a Cadillac to a cookie that it's Winston.

"I think in the end, most decisions aren't that hard if you put the work in to try and get as many questions as you can answered on what you should do," Smith said. "What we will do … it isn't as hard as you might think.''

Advertisement