It looks pretty clear at this point that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to take Jameis Winston first overall. They need a quarterback more than anything else, he’s fairly pro ready and can start immediately, and he played college ball at Florida State, so a lot of people in the state already love him and will rush right out to buy jerseys and season tickets. Teams must have a franchise quarterback to win these days, so, though Winston is certainly not the perfect prospect, the Bucs are going to draft him and hope it all works out.
But what if they don’t?
It’s a scenario everyone is ignoring. Most people are talking about where Marcus Mariota will go and which of the many top-level pass rushers will go off the board first. They’re not even really considering Tampa for any other picks, and they’re not considering Winston for any other teams. While there is a lot of reason for this, it’s worth looking at it as the draft draws near.
What if the Bucs take defensive lineman Leonard Williams out of USC? The Bucs also need help on the defensive line, after all, and this guy has a chance to be the next dominant defensive lineman in the league. What if they take Dante Fowler Jr., looking for an explosive edge rusher and hoping they can get after opposing quarterbacks like never before? What if they just pick up Marcus Mariota and say they’ll teach him the pro game that he’s never learned, depending on his excellent work ethic and study skills to help him learn what Oregon could never teach?
Again, it’s doubtful. But crazier things have happened.
Plus, if the Bucs were 100 percent onboard already, they could already have a deal in place. The Detroit Lions knew they had their man back in 2009, when they were going after Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford. He signed shortly before the draft for $72 million, and he was given $41.7 million in guaranteed money.
The contract would be different for Winston with the new rookie wage scale, but there is nothing saying they can’t sign him early. They may feel pretty confident, but they don’t seem to feel as confident as Detroit felt with Stafford. That at least leaves the door open for something else to go down.
Most likely, one of two things would happen. Either the Tennessee Titans would have their card filled out and turned in as quickly as possible, making Winston a Titan before anyone could really get their heads around what had happened, or there would be a flurry of calls as teams tried to trade up. After all, the Titans may be set to move forward with Zach Mettenberger, and they could look to upgrade elsewhere.
That No. 2 pick could look a lot more valuable with Winston sitting on the board.
If the Titans could bring in two firsts and a second for it, they may be thrilled to move back. It all depends on how they view Winston. If they wanted him originally but thought it was hopeless, they won’t trade it. If they were planning on going a different direction anyway, seeing Winston fall could be a godsend, instantly raising the value of the pick and allowing them to make out like bandits in the draft.
It’s very possible a team like the New York Jets would be interested, and they only have to move up from six. The Cleveland Browns may also be very interested, and they pick at 12.
Granted, it’s likely none of this happens and Winston goes first overall. If he doesn’t, though, it’s going to be absolute chaos. It’s likely his fall wouldn’t continue for long—we’re not talking about a Brady Quinn situation here—because enough teams have him at the tops of their boards that the battle would be getting up to second to take him.