I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.
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Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State - 6'4, 227 - RS Sophomore - 4.97 40
Having written profiles for over 50 players so far, it is pretty easy to assume that many will vanish into thin air and never be referenced again. But, this particular profile seems like it might be the type of thing that is put up to prove I have no idea what I am talking about 10 years from now. For there is no more polarizing prospect in this draft than the controversial QB from Florida State, Famous Jameis Winston.
This sport starts and ends with the Quarterback position and franchises who do not have one of the Top dozen or so "QB1s" are bound by the reality that if they can't find their guy, they will continue to wander in the wilderness indefinitely. They must find their next field general or nothing else matters. This, of course, leads us to look at every draft from the standpoint of which QBs are available and which one is the best of the bunch. With almost no exceptions, Winston has been placed at the top of the heap by the majority of experts who are ranking the prospects and will likely go in the first few picks at the end of the month in Chicago. To break down his game, I studied his games against Notre Dame, NC State, Florida, and Oregon off his 2014 schedule.
What I liked: Winston is a large QB who looks like the definition of today's QB who can stand tall, withstand pressure, and often shed off tacklers with great ease. In a league where Ben Roethlisberger has succeeded, you can clearly see how that is an attribute that helps keep plays alive and where many big moments can occur. His arm is big and confident with darts thrown all over the grid. His fastball is clearly his favorite pitch and he guns the ball into traffic and gets away with it often enough. His best attributes are those QB characteristics that are often used in profile pieces because he does seem to "rise to the occasion", "knows how to win", and get better as the game situation gets more vital. He is as confident as it gets and wants the ball in his hands in the critical junctures of games. He is capable of the back shoulder fades that are so key in the modern game with timing and velocity to beat most coverages. His highlight tape demonstrates his quality and his ceiling that many seem focused on.
What I did not like: Unfortunately, I am not the type to focus on the good when it comes to QB play, because I believe that the worst attribute a QB has is recklessness and the "rush of blood to the head" instinct throws into traffic that become turnovers and game killers. Below are 2 plays - one in the first Quarter on 2nd down against Florida and the other on a 1st down in the 2nd Quarter against Notre Dame where his awareness is absolutely brutal. He throws picks at a high rate and they are often nobody's fault but his own. He will throw off his back foot into a crowd of defenders that make you think he is out to lunch at the most important position on the field for a guy who is always locked in. They are rookie throws and he threw 18 interceptions this season which is way too high for a NFL prospect to ever throw (the game study shows you he could have thrown a dozen more, too) - only Matt Ryan and Colt McCoy have thrown 18 or more in this decade and gone on to play in the NFL for any amount of time. His ability to read coverages that are meant to trick him seems very elementary at this point and this combined with his abundance of (irrational) confidence is another red flag that is difficult to project. His accuracy is also frustrating for a guy who has had this much success. Needless to say, on a player where people talk constantly about his off-field conduct, I have many concerns about what the game tape shows, despite the fact that he won almost every game he ever played in.
Summary: Some years, there just isn't a superstar QB in a draft. It happens. When it comes to Jameis Winston I just do not see the quality that is being advertised for a superstar QB who can match what we have seen from other #1's overall in the last several years. He has too many instinctive short-circuit moments that overshadow his great moments and sabotage them in a way that Eli Manning or Jay Cutler could tell you all about. These are moments that are often not coached out of a guy as he develops unless he completely stops looking down the field. Winston had great success with short throws to superior athletes and seam throws where he would fit it in tight windows. But, as the defenses get more talented and more disguised, I am not confident that this QB is going to be able to engineer an offense that brings the league to its knees. Even without the questions of his conduct off the field (which I am not evaluating on any level), I just don't care for the chances he takes as a QB and the arm ability to back those chances up with the precise execution required. I completely understand that if you are a team without a QB, you are willing to take a chance and hope that you can coach his issues out of him and capitalize on the positives, but sitting here in March of 2015, I am just not seeing the "can't miss" attributes that many are selling by saying he is the clear best player in this draft. With every back foot interception into traffic that he throws, I was less and less interested in handing the keys over to him for the next decade. Consider me among his skeptics.
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