Winston’s father, Antonor, told AL.com in an article published Wednesday that his Heisman-winning son will play through 2015 and earn his degree before declaring for the NFL draft as a redshirt junior.
"We want Jameis to succeed with one more year in baseball and two more years in football," Antonor said. "We've never strayed from our plan that he is going to be in college until he gets that degree."
Antonor is the latest to express that opinion, joining his son and Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher. Credit the Winstons for having this plan and wanting his son to obtain his degree before turning pro. It is the smart thing to say publicly, too, but it is June and a lot will change in six months.
If Winston can build upon the 2013 campaign in which he led Florida State to an undefeated season and a national championship, he will almost certainly project to be a first-round pick, if not the No. 1 overall selection. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. rates Winston as the No. 1 player on his too-early 2015 Big Board, and many analysts believe he would have been the top pick in this year’s draft.
It will be hard to turn down that kind of money, and a player’s draft potential has not always improved by sticking around for an extra season.
Matt Leinart and Matt Barkley are two from the past decade who did not declare early for the NFL draft and lost significant money when they did. Sam Bradford, also a Heisman Trophy winner, went No. 1 overall but played in only three games in his final college season due to injury.
But really, it’s just too early to definitely say what Winston will do following this season. There are a lot of variables, and it's impossible to predict what will happen by the end of the season for Winston or his father to make any public declarations.
Fisher certainly will not want Winston’s future to be a distraction, with Florida State likely to be preseason No. 1 and attempting to repeat as national champions. Again, Winston and those around him deserve credit for putting an emphasis on earning his degree and continuing his baseball career as long as possible. When asked, the safe move for all involved is to repeat that Winston will return and is focused on the season, even if most expect their tune to change a few months from now.