What’s one more bad decision for Florida State QB Jameis Winston?


According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, reigning Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston is planning to declare for the NFL Draft after he finishes this season at Florida State.  Despite speculation and even some legal experts suggesting that Winston might be prudent to drop out of Florida State to avoid prosecution over various allegations, Winston plans to finish the season with the Seminoles, currently undefeated and the #2 team in the country.  Winston is a fantastic college quarterback, but this would cap off a series of terrible decisions he has made during his collegiate career.

From a pure financial point of view, Winston is making the best decision in terms of ensuring he gets money from the NFL by declaring next year.  In terms of overall development as a quarterback, selling himself to the NFL as a potential face of a franchise and his overall maturity, this is an awful move.

First, take every character concern out of the conversation; both those that may be legitimate and contrived.  Purely from a quarterback point of view, Winston has been overrated since late in his redshirt freshman campaign.  No quarterback is ready to make the leap to the NFL after just two seasons.  Winston may not lose a single game in his two years of playing quarterback, but the track record for redshirt sophomore quarterbacks is horrible.  Experience is an enormous factor in being able to succeed in the NFL.  Russell Wilson, for example, played 51 games in his collegiate career between N.C. State to Wisconsin.  His success early in his career was in no small part due to the amount of snaps he took at the collegiate level.  Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning are two more examples of quarterbacks that played a ton of games in college football and were extremely mature, prepared to take on the challenge of the NFL.

The 2014 NFL Draft provided a great deal of recent context for how difficult it is to make the transition from college to NFL quarterback with after being a redshirt sophomore.  Despite absurd media speculation that Johnny Manziel would come in and just do what he did in college, Manziel was the 22nd overall pick of the draft and looked lost both in practice and in preseason; as he should.  National media pundits went as far as to say the Cleveland Browns were bullying Manziel while local media saw more of the struggles and issues he was having making the jump.  Manziel, himself, more than anyone else, was cautioning everyone that it would take time.

Manziel has an enormous amount of talent and in the end, he could end up becoming the best quarterback from this year’s draft, but at this point, he may not see a single snap this year in Cleveland.  Right now, Manziel could be at Texas A&M getting more live snaps and getting better at his craft on the field.  There are certainly plenty of benefits to sitting and learning in the NFL.  The quarterback playing over him, Brian Hoyer, is a good example of this, but Hoyer was an undrafted player who had to scratch and claw his way into the league.  More experience in college, even it still amounts to unpaid internship in College Station, could have been far more beneficial for Manziel.

Winston has a big time arm, impressive velocity and can make some outstanding passes.  He also has runs of horrific decision making and will force passes into situations that truly hurt his team.  Some of this is purely making incredibly foolish decisions, such as moving backwards and just throwing up a prayer in the middle of the field, but it also suggests he does not know what he is seeing from defenses all of the time.  This is something that Manziel did not know how to do when he left for the NFL either and it takes time to learn.

Winston also has a long throwing motion that keys defenders on what he is doing and the zip on his passes can only do so much to make up for it.  He can rifle the ball into some tight spaces but college defenders are keying in on some of his passes, being able to come in and make plays on the ball.  If he is unable to shorten his motion, this will become a major issue in the NFL and there are comparisons being drawn to Byron Leftwich in that regard.

His athleticism, while effective, is not outstanding.  He has pretty good mobility; enough to extend plays, but he is not a big threat to pick up a lot of yards with his legs.  Winston’s athleticism appears far nearer to Blake Bortles than it does Manziel or Derek Carr from last year’s draft, except Winston does not offer the same amount of size.  Being able to extend plays is an extremely useful trait, but he is not going to come into the league with the traits of an Andrew Luck, Cam Newton or Robert Griffin III.  He may be far closer to Joe Flacco or Matt Schaub in terms of his athletic ability.

This is all before the character concerns come into play.  Winston needs to grow up and there is no debate in that regard.  The NFL is not built to tolerate or really absorb the types of issues that Winston gets himself into from the starting quarterback position; assuming Winston is good enough to start.  As Winston does not appear to be ready to take the helm of an NFL team, he is asking a team to deal with these potential issues as a backup.  Manziel was scrutinized for going to bars legally during his off time at training camp.  Winston’s issues have put Florida State in a number of extremely awkward situations and the school has taken a beating publicly, leading to some to suggest that the school may be pushing Winston out and to declare for the NFL Draft, so they can avoid any future issues.

Winston needs to stay in school.  He, like every other quarterback, needs more experience and he needs to grow up and stay out of trouble for a year.  If the play to leave now is to get money now before falling out of the league, so be it, but if the goal is to be a great quarterback and have sustained success and money as a result, playing in college as opposed to sitting in the NFL is the best path to the NFL.  And if he can continue to hone his craft as a quarterback and avoids trouble, his draft stock will be substantially higher.  Winton has substantial talent, but he is as radioactive a quarterback prospect as has been seen in recent memory and while there will be a team who drafts him, it is unlikely to be nearly as high as some are suggesting and he could be picked on the third day of the draft with more of a flyer pick and a very short leash.