AnalysisWinston had an amazing two year starting run at FSU, going 26-1, losing in his final game against Oregon. In 2013 he led his team to an unbeaten season and a national title. This freshman sensation also took home the Heisman Trophy. Winston showed some struggles this past season, throwing 18 interceptions. Still, when Florida State needed him, Winston came through in big ways leading the ‘Noles from behind in many games. There are not many that question Winston the player, the teammate or leader. This kid works hard and some say he’s a football savant. It’s Winston the person that have people worried. Does he have character flaws or just maturity issues? Do you feel comfortable calling him your franchise quarterback?
Dave-Te' Thomas Player Evaluation
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is the first pick of the 2015 NFL Draft to the Buccaneers. It’s the fifth time Tampa Bay has had the first overall pick. Winston will soon become the Bucs 38th starting quarterback in 38 seasons. Winston had an amazing two year starting run at FSU, going 26-1, losing in his final game against Oregon. In 2013 he led his team to an unbeaten season and a national title. Winston showed some struggles this past season, throwing 18 interceptions. Still, when Florida State needed him, Winston came through in big ways leading the ‘Noles from behind in many games. There are not many that question Winston the player, the teammate or leader. This kid works hard and some say he’s a football savant. It’s Winston the person that has people worried. Does he have character flaws or just maturity issues? He will be counted on to come in and earn the starting job. Winston should have an easier transition than most coming from the Jimbo Fisher pro-style system and learning from new Bucs offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. He has size, strength in the pocket, a good arm and throws with good anticipation. It will that he will have two huge wide receiver targets in veteran Vincent Jackson and sophomore Mike Evans.
To most scouts, Jameis Winston possesses all the tools you look for in a pro passer – impressive size, decent mobility and a cannon-like arm. He has a quick over-the-top release that sees him consistently connect when heading down field, as he displays that rare quality to “thread the needle.” He has good balance to throw on the move and enough functional foot speed to be a running threat. That confidence in his scrambling ability does lead to trouble though, as he is often too quick to bolt the pocket rather than scan the field.
As good as he is with the long ball, he will struggle just as much with his short-to-intermediate passes. He needs to be more consistent setting his front foot, as he does have balance issues when he fails to properly transfer his weight stepping into his tosses.
Off the field, his antics have been well-publicized and the school’s idea to play the “Three Monkees” (see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil where football players are concerned) is alarming. Two words to any team thinking of drafting this Seminole – RYAN LEAF. Still, there is no question that he is a viable talent, but one that will either mature like Cam Newton did, or will revert to the con/sell that JaMarcus Russell was famous for. Considering the stat of affairs in Tampa Bay last season, from a football and marketing stand-point, Winston will likely remain in the state of Florida as a Buccaneer.
Winston has excellent height, good arm length and average hands, but could use some more muscle tone and seems a bit fleshy in the midsection. He shows good strength and balance as a runner, doing a nice job of breaking arm tackles, but he is not going to fool anyone and “go to the races” on any long distance runs. He has good quarterback skills with a quick release and certainly displays a pro caliber arm. He has decent change of direction agility running with the ball, but will struggle when trying to escape pressure, as he will often just run into spots.
The Seminole has marginal lower body explosion in attempts to run into the second level. He generates better footwork and quickness driving back from center to his pass set point. He is not the type that can keep defenses honest as a scrambler, but can make things happen rolling out of the pocket, as he has that strong arm to make throws on the move (must set his feet better though) and has the arm velocity to get the ball deep.
Winston sets up quickly and shows good mechanics and precision in the intermediate passing game, but must do a better job of anticipating receivers coming out of their breaks, as he tends to be late hitting his targets on deep throws, even though he can push the ball down field. What has led to close to 380 yards in losses as a ball carrier is because he gets his feet crossed at times, and being a long strider makes him look a bit awkward when having to run past the line of scrimmage.
Most of his pass thefts last season could be a result of him trying to throw, even though he might not have his feet properly set to step into his throws. Winston is a good rhythm passer, but last season, he did not do a great job of anticipating his receivers breaks on deep routes, unless that receiver’s name was Rashad Greene (too often he stood locked on Greene rather than trying to locate secondary targets).
Simply put, Winston must do a better job of reading coverage and making checks, as he is prone to throwing balls into tight areas that should never be attempted. It is not as if he has problems retaining plays, but his desire to create something out of nothing, rather than take what a defense gives could be an issue. There could be those that will question his ability to make proper reads or act instinctively on the field.
One positive when examining his development is the fact that Winston came out of high school system that featured the spread, but in two years at Florida State, he adapted so well to the pro-style that is in place at Florida State, he captured Heisman Trophy honors. When his head is in the game and he shows good focus locating all of his targets, he can create fits for opposing defenses because he can make all the throws, even if he has to throw on the move.
The thing that separates Winston from the pack in this draft class is that he is a master at improvising, thus leading to a slew of nail-biting come-from-behind victories. When this occurs, he will more often than not be seen keeping his eyes downfield, showing good awareness of where his targets are when chaos ensues.
Winston has a very good arm, but does not always shows great ball control or velocity. He is a former baseball player and as a result, even he admitted at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine that he can wind-up a bit with his throwing motion. Still, he does show good quickness and power when coming over the top to drive the ball when his feet are set. He has shown flashes of being able to make some very difficult throws both from within the pocket and on the run to both sides.
Winston is a true playmaker, one that seems to thrive on making something happen when you think he is going down or about to take a negative play. He routinely “pulls a rabbit out of the hat” and keeps the drive alive, which is why some team will overlook his immaturity, at times.
Those are the times when his coach would like to see him show more patience in the pocket and work through his reads before taking off, as only bad things happen when he bolts the pocket (13 fumbles the last two years, five that the opponent converted into touchdown drives). His natural instinct is to get on the perimeter, but the play may need him to stand in there and deliver a strike to a second or third option.
One other area he needs to improve is reading defenses. This is an area that you might say is still a “work in progress,” as he lacks a good feel for progressions and seems to be a second late, at times, anticipating his targets coming out of their breaks to hit them in stride. He is a tall pocket mover, but for some reason, despite having the height to scan the field, he fails to recognize backside pressure.
When Winston steps into his throws, he generates better quickness getting the ball through the throwing arc, but must be conscious of not getting a high push with his delivery. In 2014, he sometimes ran his feet too much and must do a better job of squaring his shoulders and stepping into his throws. But, he also showed better ability to take the hit and complete the hot read with his quick release.
Winston still needs to develop a better touch for the underneath ball, but he did a much better job of delivering the ball with timing in 2013 than he did last season. In 2013, he threw the fade more effectively and knew how to time the receiver’s breaks better than he did as a sophomore. When he’s under duress, he does not show enough patience and poise to step up in the pocket and will bolt and run when he should be throwing the ball away. He just needs to do a better job of anticipating backside pressure and know when the pass rush is coming.
Jameis Winston NFL Scouting Combine measurable
6-4/231 (4.97 forty)
32-inch arm length
9 3/8-inch hands
28.5-inch vertical jump
103-inch broad jump
7.16 3 cone drill
4.36 20 yard shuttle
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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