CFF Player Profile: Jameis Winston, QB
As the offseason kicked off in early January, reports began to surface that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was a lock to go to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the first overall pick in the draft. Coming off a subpar redshirt sophomore season, it was curious as to why Winston was a lock despite not playing like a Top 5 overall pick last season.
With only one year of data under our belts of PFF, I took to investigating Winston’s, and Marcus Mariota’s, 2013 seasons. The results were not shocking, but they certainly explained the alleged position being taken by Tampa Bay.
We all remember Winston’s Heisman Trophy run, even more impressive considering he was a redshirt freshman, but when analyzing that year on a throw-for-throw basis, Winston’s true upside is revealed.
As harsh as we’ve been on him for his questionable decision making in 2014, Winston deserves heaps of praise for his 2013 effort. The tape is impressive from start to finish, and the warts of 2014 are few and far between.
The thing that stood out about Winston’s early 2013 tape is his comfort level. He had no problem standing in the pocket, facing the pass rush, and delivering the ball with pinpoint accuracy. A highlight tape of Winston’s first seven games likely dwarfs the rest of his career combined, and that’s both disappointing and encouraging at the same time.
Big-Time Throws (BTTs) are defined as those throws that received a higher grade due to difficulty, placement, and other factors. The beauty of the PFF system is our ability to separate each player’s part in a play, and the BTT is a way to give the QB credit for an outstanding throw.
On the other hand, Turnover-Worthy Plays (TWPs) are plays in which the QB “should” have thrown an interception or committed a “bad” fumble. These plays get very low grades as we downgrade potential turnovers harshly. Not all turnovers are TWPs and a TWP can be assigned on play that doesn’t result in a turnover, a dropped interception, for instance. So a wide receiver running the wrong route and the QB throwing an INT would NOT be a TWP while a misread of coverage and a throw directly to a linebacker that is dropped is a TWP.
As for skillset, Winston has more than enough to play in the NFL. He throws with anticipation to the middle of the field, has shown a penchant for breaking out of sacks to make big plays, and he’s proficient at getting the ball out of his hands quickly against the blitz. The problem in two of those areas is the step back he took as a sophomore as he tried to do too much when throwing to the middle of the field – often finding linebackers and safeties instead of receivers – and a number of those poor decisions came with defenders in his face.
The Big Question
So which Jameis Winston will the NFL get? That’s the big question, and the one Tampa Bay and other prospective teams have been digging deep to answer. Perhaps there’s a little Eli Manning to Winston’s games in that there may be some year-to-year roller coaster performances, but the peak is good enough to carry a team — as Manning has done twice during the playoffs and as Winston did during Florida State’s national championship run in 2013.
The 2013 Winston showed very little of the poor decision making that marred his 2014 campaign. He rarely threw into coverage and he sprinkled in NFL-type throws in a weekly basis. So why the drop-off? Perhaps losing first-round wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to the NFL was a factor, as Winston often relied on Benjamin’s big frame to make plays down the field. The offensive line also took a step back in 2014, but more alarming was how Winston handled pressure in the two seasons, not so much how often he faced it.
Regardless, the Florida State offense was not devoid of talent in 2014, and Winston’s regression is serious concern. But when you add it all up, you have a quarterback who showed he’s more than capable, and that’s a risk worth taking from an on-field standpoint. The poor decision making was real in 2014, but 2013 showed Winston is capable of playing within the system. That’s the quarterback the Bucs are hoping to pull out if they make the move to get Winston Thursday night.
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