On Thursday, April 30th, 2015, the most exciting draft for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in years will take place. What’s the reason for all the excitement? To be perfectly honest, if you don’t know why you should be excited you haven’t been paying attention. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold the #1 Overall Pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. That draft is just five weeks away, and the question everyone wants the answer to is whether or not the Buccaneers will select Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota to be the cornerstone quarterback of a reluctantly struggling franchise.
It’s a big que- wait. I’m getting something in my ear. It appears a small contingent of Buccaneer fans are vehemently yelling at me. All I can hear is curse words and “offensive line” mixed in randomly. I could’ve sworn someone yelled “best overall.” Somewhere amidst the debate over Mariota and Winston is the fact that we still can’t be certain the Buccaneers will even select a quarterback with the pick. There was early offseason speculation of a blockbuster trade with the Eagles to acquire Nick Foles, but that can’t really happen considering he’s been bundled off to the St. Louis Rams.
There’s still the possibility of Tampa Bay trading down or picking an impressive defensive player or offensive lineman in the draft rather than going with Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston. Very technically, it could still happen. Earlier in the offseason, I was leaning towards that likelihood. Now, it seems very very clear that the Buccaneers are interested in both of this year’s Heisman-winning quarterback prospects. As a general rule, every single bit of offseason news and speculation has to be taken with quite a few grains of salt. Despite this, there are plenty of reasons to believe the information roughly informs us that you’ll hear “quarterback” soon after you hear “the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select…”
Perhaps the most telling fact is the in depth visits to the Buccaneers’ facility by both Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. It wouldn’t be the first time a team has met with a potential draft pick, but hosting an extensive visit from the top two quarterback prospects when you’ve got the #1 Overall Pick sends a fairly clear message. Compound that with the immense amount of speculation and the recent word that the Glazers have actually given the go ahead to draft a quarterback at #1, and it seems pretty definitive.
The Buccaneers have the consolation blessing of the #1 Overall Pick this year for the fifth time in franchise history. Previous #1 Picks have been Lee Roy Selmon, Ricky Bell, Bo Jackson, and Vinny Testaverde. What’s alarming is that our first two and last two #1 Overall Picks were in back to back years. As wonderfully useful as it can be, I don’t think anyone wants to be back in this position one year from now. Those picks have had mixed success. Selmon was a staple of the Buccaneers to the point that he is now a Hall of Famer. On the other hand, Bo Jackson never played a single day as a Buccaneer.
While I’m not worried about a repeat of the Bo Jackson incident, any #1 Overall Pick is a risk. Every single draft pick is a risk. Any player can underperform. Any player can suffer a sudden injury. There are no guarantees in this business, so the selection process comes down to who has the highest likelihood of success. Last year, most of the several thousand mock drafts expected Tampa Bay to select Mike Evans. While the speculation doesn’t always come to fruition, this prediction held true. Evans was selected #7 Overall, and he tore the house down as a rookie receiver last season for the Bucs.
This offseason, the speculation proceeds to lean further and further towards the selection of former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. Between has astronomically low interception ratio and perfect off-field track record, I was firmly on the side of Marcus Mariota when the offseason began. That being said, most of my Jameis Winston doubts are being chipped away at with every report I hear. Winston went out of his way to take the initiative to speak to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in order to enter the league on the right terms.
Lovie Smith stated that the Bucs selecting Winston is “not an erroneous assumption” certainly sets the stage. Winston also seems to fit the perceived style of Dirk Koetter’s offense perfectly. He’s a proven leader, proven winner, and has shown an “x-factor” of performing in critical moments that’s hard to define and even harder to find. Meanwhile, the unremarkable pristine Marcus Mariota seems to have waddled his way into lackluster lane. Aside from knocks at the system he ran in Oregon, only a single negative comment has emerged about Mariota. Word from Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune is that the Bucs “are not big fans of his personality.”
For the sake of a ridiculous analogy, here’s how I look at Mariota and Winston. Marcus Mariota is an apple coupled with an ice cold glass of water. Mariota would be a safe choice. He’ll keep the media away just like apples seem to with doctors. He’s quiet, reserved, and introverted by nature. He won’t upset your stomach, but it’s hard to get excited about him. It’s all there, but you end up just wondering if you can have something else. You can’t pin down why you don’t want him because there’s not really anything wrong with him.
Jameis Winston? Jameis Winston is a packet of Pop Rocks that you wash down with some Fruit Punch Gatorade. You’re a little on edge, because he seems to make a lot of noise. At least, there seems to be noise around him. Despite that, you can’t fight the feeling that he sounds like a really cool idea. He’s charming, loud, and in your face. You’re a little worried, because some people say he might be bad for your teeth. You’re not sure how it’ll turn out, but you can’t help wanting to see it play out. Why the Gatorade? Gatorade, like Jameis Winston, might as well be synonymous for winning.
The Buccaneers need to take some advice from that creamsicle orange checkmark on the shoulders of their uniforms. Just do it. “With the #1 Pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Jameis Winston, Quarterback, Florida State.” Bucs fans everywhere from One Buc Place to Australia will shout their opinions loud as the view shows a wide grin on the face of one Jameis Winston surrounded by celebrating friends and family at his home in Alabama. Jameis looks like he wants to be in Tampa, and Tampa looks like it wants Jameis Winston. Stop fighting it and get ready to support the soon-to-be face of the franchise. It’s a Bucs life for Famous Jameis.