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Buccaneers concerned with Jameis Winston's interceptions

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

The way things look now, Jameis Winston will be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback for the next few years. But things can change quickly, and the pick's not in yet. Peter King thinks the Bucs will take Jameis Winston with the first pick, but in his latest mock draft he produced an interesting quote from general manager Jason Licht that makes this somewhat less certain.

The Bucs have nine weeks to poke holes in Winston, and I expect a few minor ones to emerge. As I wrote Monday, if there are big problems with Winston, Tampa Bay won't take him. Marcus Mariota is absolutely not out of the picture here. But Winston fits the offense more, with one slight asterisk. He threw 18 picks last year for FSU, and Licht told me Saturday: "Usually you find when a guy throws interceptions in college that doesn't go away in the pros." Something to watch, anyway.

Licht's concern over Winston's interceptions is understandable and justified, although looking at interceptions as a raw number without taking into account how they came to be can be an issue. Some of those interceptions weren't Winston's fault, as is the case with some interceptions every year. But a lot of them were -- he especially had a tendency to overlook linebackers in underneath coverage, and overly aggressive throws into tight windows were a problem too. And both of those issues will be exacerbated in the NFL, where windows are smaller and defenders better at disguising their coverage and reacting to the ball.

Of course, a high number of interceptions isn't an automatic disqualifier. Matt Ryan threw 19 interceptions as a senior, for instance. Dan Marino threw a whopping 23 in each of his final two seasons. And Peyton Manning threw 12 and 11 in his final two seasons -- and then promptly threw 28 in his rookie season.

Most indications are that the Buccaneers are going to take Jameis Winston, but quotes like this and general concern over his off-field issues indicate that the race isn't quite over yet. The Bucs are going to spend 30  hours one-on-one with Winston and Marcus Mariota both, and I imagine that those 60 hours will ultimately determine the pick.