In my first Mock Draft, back before the season was even over, I had Oregon quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the top pick in the draft. In my two mocks since, and in my Perfect Draft I had the Bucs taking Winston despite the off-the-field concerns.
The Bucs have seemed virtually locked into picking the Florida State star, but according to ESPN’s Ron Jaworski, Tampa Bay ownership may take Mariota instead, who appears to be squeaky-clean as far as off-the-field problems go, with the No. 1 pick.
“The latest I’m hearing now from my sources around the league, who are pretty wired in, is that he (Mariota) is going to go No. 1 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers,” Jaworski told CSN’s Philly Sports Talk. “…There’s a lull every year until about 30 days before the draft. Now the coaches get involved. Prior to that, it’s the scouts, it’s the roadies that are filling out the paper work. Now the coaches get involved. Now team owners get involved. Now general managers get involved. So you’re starting to see, in my opinion, Winston’s stock starting to slide a little bit and Mariota’s stock starting to go up a little bit.”
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@TBBuccaneers) April 13, 2015
According to Jaworski, Mariota’s previous head coach, Chip Kelly, is doing nothing to hurt his draft stock, telling other coaches that he “loves” him.
“I’ve heard it from a couple or three people that have had conversations with Chip Kelly,” Jaworski said. “And Chip Kelly said, ‘Marcus Mariota will win multiple Super Bowls in the National Football League.’”
— Casey Phillips (@caseyreporting) April 8, 2015
Winston’s case to be taken No. 1, or anywhere near the top of the draft, has taken a few hits over the last week or so. Winston is now facing a second rape accuser, according to Jason Cole. This new accuser is expected either join the civil suit from Erica Kinsman already in progress in regards to the rape that Winston was accused, and cleared by both the Florida police and Florida State, last year.
— Brett Boese (@PBbboese) April 10, 2015
According to Cole, this second woman had an encounter with Winston back in 2013. Kinsman is featured in “The Hunting Ground” documentary about college campus sexual assault that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last January.
Winston’s own attorney, David Cornwell, has stated that the quarterback is “not ready to be an NFL player off the field,” although he later clarified the statement to say no college player is ready at this point for their off-field responsibilities in the NFL.
Winston’s on-field talent is obvious. His 2013 campaign was incredible, with 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns with just 10 picks and a 66.9 completion percentage. His numbers weren’t as good in 2014, but a 65.3 completion percentage along with 3,907 yards and 25 touchdowns is still plenty good. Especially if you factor in he was suspended for one and a half games and would have likely surpassed his 2013 yardage total and thrown another five TD passes at least.
Clearly the Buccaneers have a legitimate tough call to make, and one that I’m sure the Tennessee Titans, the New York Jets and every other team that would be tempted to take Winston was glad they were going to avoid. Now, they can’t be so sure.
While the rape accusation was dismissed, Winston was still guilty of doing plenty of stupid things that should raise more red flags than a military parade down Tiananmen Square.
"There's nothing Jameis Winston can do to change my opinion. I'm not falling for that 'Johnny Manziel' routine again." – @RossTuckerNFL
— PFTonNBCSN (@PFTonNBCSN) February 11, 2015
So if Winston falls, how far does he go? I think he should last at least until the second round, if not for his own good, but for the example it would set for upcoming quarterback prospects. That probably won’t happen. If the Bucs don’t get him, the Titans might (though I think they’ll pass and try to get their QB in round two).
I’d be shocked if he made it past the Jets at No. 6, but Mariota wouldn’t either. The Washington Redskins? The St. Louis Rams? No way they take Winston, even if he falls to them. The Cleveland Browns, the Arizona Cardinals and the Houston Texans would all snap him up if he lasts that long.
Who else is falling?
Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory was long considered a Top 10 pick, even a Top Five pick, but a failed drug test at the NFL combine back in February has raised plenty of questions that have lowered Gregory’s draft-day value and suddenly gotten the attention of teams picking in the lower half of the draft. Gregory has spent the last week visiting the San Diego Chargers, the New Orleans Saints and the Pittsburgh Steelers, teams that wouldn’t even be in the conversation with the 6-foot-5, 235-pound pass rusher.
A DUI has hurt the stock of Florida State cornerback P.J. Williams, a guy that was already plummeting down draft boards. Williams picked the wrong time to screw up, getting nabbed drunk behind the wheel on April 3 in Tallahassee, Fla. Williams has plead “not guilty” but the case won’t be resolved before the draft.
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