The 2015 NFL Draft will begin tomorrow in Chicago and several questions, including who the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will draft with the no. 1 overall pick, will be answered.
Draft experts and football executives alike believe that the Buccaneers will choose Florida State’s Jameis Winston as the first overall pick, and he currently sits as the big -1005 favorite to be drafted first. Winston led the Seminoles to a BCS National Championship during the 2013 college football season and also won himself a Heisman Trophy during that year. While several believe Winston’s off-field issues are a big, bright red flag, others believe he could become the face of the franchise in Tampa Bay.
In Winston’s freshman year at Florida State in 2013, he threw for 40 touchdown passes and only 10 interceptions, making him one of the best quarterbacks in the country at the college level. In his second year, Winston saw his production decline, throwing 25 touchdown passes and 18 interceptions and a terrible game against the University of Oregon Ducks in the BCS Playoffs. Many NFL execs believe he has a lot of maturing to do, both as a quarterback and as a person. Whoever chooses Winston will get a player who has the potential but might not have the mental toughness to ever really live up to it.
Winston may be the big favorite to be selected first overall, but that wasn’t always the case. He and Marcus Mariota were neck-and-neck for a long time and the Oregon QB remains second to Winston on the No. 1 draft board at +450. So, there’s nice value if you have a feeling Tampa Bay will buck the trend and opt for Mariota and he certainly has major upside.
Mariota played three years as quarterback for the Ducks, leading Oregon to the BCS National Championship Game in late 2014, but lost to Ohio State. He received the Heisman Trophy award for his efforts in his final season with Oregon after throwing 42 touchdown passes and only 4 interceptions.
However, many draft experts are uncertain about Mariota’s ability to play in an NFL style offense. Oregon runs a spread offense that uses four and five wide receiver sets to stretch the opposing team’s secondary thin. With the talent level being that much higher in the NFL, Mariota could struggle to read NFL defenses and his perceived lack of accuracy could become an issue when the margin of error at the pro level is so small. Several believe that there will be a few NFL teams trying to position themselves to draft Mariota assuming that Winston will be the first off the board. The team that lands the Hawaii native will get a safe pick at quarterback that may need a few years to develop before he’s NFL ready.
Between the two, Winston is likely to be drafted first. Overall, he’s more likely to make an impact with a team right away, even if the rest of the roster lacks talent. Mariota could find success as a rookie if he finds a home with a team that has several other impact players, but Tampa Bay just doesn’t have the depth from top to bottom to make him the first pick.
Then again, anything can happen in the NFL Draft and it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen a surprise with the No. 1 pick.