Lovie Smith: Winston still on Bucs' board

Bucs coach Lovie Smith said QB Jameis Winston is still on their draft board, despite several questions about his character.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Love Smith said controversial quarterback Jameis Winston hasn’t been removed from their draft board.

The Bucs have the first pick in the draft and there is little questioning Winston’s physical skills, but with multiple run-ins with the law, including an allegation of sexual assault during his time at Florida State, the Bucs are still interested.

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“I understand the allegations against him. I understand that he went through the justice system, the court system to be exonerated on some allegations against him,” Smith said Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I understand the college things that a lot of guys do that you wish you wouldn’t later on. I understand some of the things that he did that are on his record right now, but you just take all the information that we could possibly get at this point, and it’s early. Keep in mind that we’re just to the Combine. We have a lot more research to do that we’ll do. But with the information I have right now, we haven’t taken him off our list right now or anything.”

Winston is the second-ranked quarterback on Scout.com’s draft rankings, and No. 8 overall. Many have him as the top-rated prospect, but character questions will be the main thing coaches and general managers will want to know about Winston.

Scout.com has Marcus Mariota ranked just ahead of Winston in both the quarterback and overall rankings, but there are injury questions with him and how quickly his college system at Oregon will be able to translate to the NFL.

“I’m looking forward to getting to know and spend time with, not only Jameis but Marcus also and the rest of the athletes,” Smith said.

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“I think you just start the process … you just start asking questions on a lot of different topics. Of course we understand the obvious ones. We do our research,” Smith said of Winston. “We’ve talked to a lot of people so far on both players if we’re just talking quarterbacks and we’ll continue to do that. I think you just start the process and in the end you gather all the information that you have and you make a decision. And for us, with the first pick in the draft, it will be an organizational decision where everybody’s on board.”

Mariota confirmed that he will throw at the Combine on Saturday.

“I think whenever you get an opportunity to prove to people what you can do – we haven’t seen any of the players live – get a chance to compete. All of the competition that you’ll have throughout the rest of the draft is here. For a player to choose to work out in this environment is probably not ideal,” Smith said. “It’s probably the first time, for the quarterbacks, they’ve thrown to the receivers. … It says a lot.”

The Bucs will have the ultimate decision to make for the future of their franchise and the offense. They finished with the 30th-ranked offense and 25th in passing offense in the NFL last year, and they hired Dirk Koetter as their new offensive coordinator.

Mike Glennon is the only experienced quarterback on the Bucs roster, and Smith said he can “play at a high level,” but the Bucs will clearly be in the market for at least one other quarterback through free agency and the draft.

“We like having options. All options are on the table for us,” Smith said. “We like being in our position and seeing what happens.”

General manager Jason Licht said Smith has high character and the organization has tools in place to ensure they make a sound decision.

“We are using a lot of resources – a lot – to dig into every players’ background,” Licht said.

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