Coach Lovie Smith said he is comfortable after looking into the series of off-field incidents Winston has had. Smith said he can see Winston as the face of the franchise.
That’s largely because there are no questions about Winston on the field. He has played in a pro-style offense and can make all the throws.
"I think with Jameis Winston, even though there are all the off-the-field issues and all of the concerns that you have there -- there are so few concerns when you put on the tape and so few concerns when you talk to him from a football I.Q. standpoint," ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said Monday. "I just don’t think you pass."
The only way I can see the Bucs passing on Winston is if Mariota lights it up in the two months between now and the draft. Mariota threw well at the combine, and his numbers were better than Winston’s in the speed and agility drills. Those are minor victories for Mariota, who played in a spread system in college.
Smith has said Mariota is a consideration at No. 1. But he needs to do a lot to overtake Winston. He needs to continue to interview well. More importantly, Mariota needs to perform well on the field.
He needs to use his pro day to show he can handle a huddle and that he has mastered three-, five- and seven-step drops. If he can do all that, the Bucs might have a difficult choice to make between Winston and Mariota. But that would be a good thing.