Jameis Winston is a lightning rod of controversy. He's been a terrific but far from flawless player, but he's also renowned for multiple incidents showing some immaturity off the field. The most concerning incident is a rape accusation, where a botched police investigation will probably prevent us from ever finding out the truth. And then there's the question of what he wants to do with his baseball career, where he could turn pro, too.
With all of those question marks, many NFL teams have already taken him off their draft board, according to a former NFL front office executive with 30 years of experience in the league.
@LukeEasterling - I wouldn't take Winston as a FA. I do see his talent, but I don't want him on my team. Know of many teams that feel same— Greg Gabriel (@greggabe) December 21, 2014
That's a pretty harsh judgment, and particularly relevant for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Gabriel spent the final seven years of his career as the Director of College Scouting under Lovie Smith. There's a decent chance that attitude also reflects how Lovie Smith views Winston -- and with a likely top three pick and a need for a quarterback, the Bucs are almost certainly going to have to seriously consider Jameis Winston in the draft.
At the same time, Jameis Winston was cleared of all code of conduct charges in FSU's investigation of sexual assault charges, reports Matt Baker of the Tampa By Times. Those hearings were headed by Justice Major B. Harding and the finding is based on a standard of preponderance of the evidence. The case can still be appealed.
This doesn't mean Winston is innocent, as Matt Baker notes that Harding didn't think either party's story was "substantially stronger" than the other and "both have their own strengths and weaknesses." But it will certainly make some people feel a little more comfortable about the prospect of having Winston as their franchise quarterback.
The question is just whether those people would include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' decision makers, or those of any other NFL team.