One of the biggest reasons to expect early success out of Jameis Winston, other than his experience in a pro-style offense, is the presence of Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster. You can't go wrong with two receivers capable of being true number ones, right? When James Brady of SB Nation ranked number two receivers yesterday, he listed Mike Evans among the elite tier -- that's really good.
But over at ESPN, Andrew Healy of Football Outsiders took an in-depth, statistical look at the history of first-year quarterbacks and quality receivers and came to the conclusion that no, it really doesn't matter all that much. Unless you have Randy Moss.
For instance, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald did very little for rookie Matt Leinart, while Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn't helped by T.J. Houshmandzadeh (hey, I remembered how to spell his name) and Chad Johnson, nor did Tony Gonzalez and Dwayne Bowe really help Tyler Thigpen. The only player to consistently help first-year quarterbacks is Randy Moss, who elevated Daunte Culpepper's game to superstar levels and got Matt Cassel to look serviceable.
So what does that mean for the Buccaneers? Well, Jameis Winston isn't going to succeed because of his receivers. If he succeeds, it'll be because of his own qualities.
With very good rather than transcendent talent at receiver, Winston's situation in Tampa Bay is more of the norm: quarterbacks typically lift receivers rather than vice versa. And while Winston could do far worse than Evans and Jackson, he'll need the quality from his offensive line to improve regardless of who he's throwing to.
Winston does not walk into an overly favorable situation like Culpepper or Leinart, but it's not an unfavorable one, either. Credit for his success or failure will be mostly where you'd expect: on him.
I'm not sure we necessarily needed to get a detailed analysis to come to this conclusion. After all, Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson are both outstanding, though Jackson may be declining, but they're not the kinds of players who make quarterbacks outstanding -- otherwise, Josh McCown wouldn't have Josh-McCown'd last year.