The biggest reason successful college quarterbacks fail in the NFL may be pressure. In college, quarterbacks often play behind dominant offensive lines and rarely face the kinds of athletes they have to beat every week in the NFL. It’s also a little easier to scheme your way out of pressure with quick passes in college. All of that leads to some shocking results when seemingly talented QBs hit the NFL stage — that, for instance, is why Blaine Gabbert bombed with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
That didn’t happen with Jameis Winston, though. The rookie quarterback was one of the most-pressured quarterbacks in the NFL last year, facing the sixth-most pressures in the NFL with 176, according to Football Outsiders’ charting. But he did very well on those plays, comparatively, with the sixth-smallest gap between his no-pressure and pressured performance, and the tenth-best pressured performance overall, again per Outsiders.
That was on display week after week last year, in more ways than one. Winston consistently had to adjust to pass-rushers, in part because Donovan Smith and Gosder Cherilus got beat a little too quickly, a little too often. But he consistently managed to buy a little extra time, scramble for some yardage, or get rid of the ball, and he was rarely flustered.
One issue: Winston got knocked down more than any other NFL quarterback, according to Outsiders. The previous three years, that award went to Andrew Luck — and he missed a huge chunk of the season this year. Pressure is one thing, but hits are another thing entirely, and those take a toll on quarterback’s bodies. Even on quarterbacks who look like they should be able to take some hits, like Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger.
Still, as long as he stays healthy, the pressure doesn’t get to Winston. Which bodes very well for his future.