As the evaluation process continues, we're going to be looking at a lot of draft analysts weighing in on Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. Today, Greg Cosell and Russ Lande.
"I really liked what I saw," Cosell said of Jameis Winston. "I think he's the kid with the instincts of a pocket passer. He's strong in the pocket. He reads coverage. At times he's a little reckless and careless with his decision making, so you have to decide if that will carry over and what you can teach there. He's a confident thrower, so he'll throw it into windows."
"I thought what he really showed, it's so important as you transition to the NFL, is he (Winston) showed natural anticipation. In two games I watched, I must have seen five or six really good anticipation throws before receivers came out of breaks. That's critical."
That's basically the consensus view of Winston right now. While Cosell only watched two games of tape, that's enough to see Winston display a few crucial NFL traits.
Is Winston even draftable?
How's that for a sub-heading? Pretty harsh, but that's basically what veteran draft analyst Russ Lande of GM Jr. says in his podcast with Josh LIskiewitz and Scott Bischoff, starting at around 18:00.
"Winston to me is a terrifying prospect," Lande said. "Because while I understand some of the physical skills that get people excited. He's got a plus arm, he can make every throw ridiculously easily. When he's doing things right, not over-striding which is a big problem he has, when he is striding correctly he can make every throw accurately, on time, and he can be very good at anticipating receivers, leading them toward big plays."
"However all that being said, I don't think he has great pocket awareness, I think he takes a lot of hits and sacks in the pocket that he doesn't need to, I don't think he protects the ball particularly well in terms of fumbling. And the biggest problem I have is I don't know if he can see the field particularly well. And the reason I say that is, it is remarkable the number of passes that he throws that defenders have an opportunity to get two hands on and make an interception."
"I've never charted a front-line quarterback that was being considered as a first-round pick that threw as many balls into bad spots. He really reminds me, and I'm not talking about character or any of that, just on the football field. He reminds me a lot of Jay Cutler. A guy with enormoous physical talent who always finds a way to put the ball in the opponent's chest. One of the things that I think is concerning in addition to that, is that this kid plays with a clean pocket almost every game, because he has a great offensive line in front of him, he has a lot of time to throw the ball, and he still finds a way to throw balls for defenders to get their hands on."
"When I chart this kid out, he charts out as a late-round pick," Lande said. "I'm not saying that he wouldn't warrant maybe going a little earlier. But when you add in the questions, the off-field concerns, I just don't see where you draft this guy because I think he's gonna really struggle to be a consistent starter in the NFL."
That's...incredibly harsh. That's a lot harsher than anyone else I've heard on Winston, and I don't really agree with all of that. Yes, Winston has issues over-striding. Yes, he's reckless in his decision-making. But he displays enough positive traits, enough understanding of the quarterback position for me to say that he'd be worth a high draft pick based on his on-field play.
There's a lot to like about what Winston does, and that he's not a perfect prospect and that there's a lot of risk involved with him is something we should realize is true of every draft prospect.
Liskiewitz basically backed Lande's assessment of Winston, too.
"I don't see [an elite physical talent] with Winston. I see a really good not great arm, I don't see great accuracy, he's not a top-end athlete that's gonna make a ton of plays with his feet. None of those traits just pop out and say 'wow, he has this that separate him from everyone else.'"
One other thing Lande, Bischoff and Liskiewitz talk about is Winston's desire to continue playing baseball. That is a real concern: you can't concentrate on being an NFL quarterback and playing baseball at the same time. Obviously his intentions can change and we don't know whether he wants to play professional baseball, but if he does -- that's a real issue for the NFL at the quarterback position. That's a position that requires year-round dedication.
And a bit on Mariota
This wouldn't be a quarterback story if we didn't talk about Marcus Mariota a little, too. Which is what Russ Lande did as well.
"I think when you look at Mariota you see a big kid, with a cannon for an arm," Lande said. "I think his mechanics are not very good. I don't think he really has a grasp for what he's gonna have to do in the NFL because he's not had had to do it in that offense. He's had to make very few plays in college that will translate to the NFL, in terms of dropping back, putting the foot in the ground and getting rid of the ball on quick slants, on digs, on deep outs.
"And all of this being said, he charted out as the most accurate quarterback I've ever charted using a weighted accuracy system. He charts out tremendously well, he rarely throws the ball into a bad spot. But I'm just petrified of him, because just watching that game when they won against Florida State, he does not look like a comfortable pocket passer. He looks most comfortable when he's on the move outside the pocket, and not a lot of those guys if any have ever succeeded in the NFL."
"I'm very scared of Mariota, I'd love to get a chance to sit down with this kid and get a feel for him. I have a feeling he's going to be the first pick in the draft. I would not take him that high. I really think this kid has a lot of traits of a guy who's gonna fail in the NFL."
Speculation, forever and ever
Ultimately, the draft is an inexact science and we can't say anything with certainty. Winston could turn into Peyton Manning down the road, or he may be Jay Cutler and throw interception after interception because of shoddy decision making. Marcus Mariota could be a dominant player if he adjusts to the NFL, or he could turn into yet another bust -- because that's simply what half of the top drafted players do. No one knows ahead of time with certainty whether a player will bust, or succeed.