The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may not be having the best season around, but there’s one key Buccaneer who’s thriving this season: Jameis Winston. After two years of very promising but not quite consistently good play, Winston has taken the next step and turned into a top ten quarterback—and maybe even more.
Winston’s gotten more accurate, more careful with the football and more productive with his throws. He’s improved in every facet of the game that we can track statistically or see on the field. Except for his deep throws, but even there he seems to be improving.
The former first overall pick’s biggest flaws in the past two years were inconsistent accuracy, and too many turnovers. He’s fixed both issues this season: he’s more accurate than ever before, completing a neat 63% of his passes compared to 58.3% and 60.8% in his first two seasons. With just four interceptions this season, his interception rate has dropped from 2.8% and 3.2% to just 1.9% this year.
He’s also more productive on a per-throw basis. He’s throwing as many touchdowns as he was last year, but his 7.9 yards per attempt are a big improvement over the 7.2 yards per attempt last season. He’s even avoiding sacks more efficiently than he was before, and he was already pretty good at that aspect: he got sacked just eight times this season.
All of that production has turned him into a genuine top ten quarterback. Football Outsiders has him ranked sixth overall now in their DVOA and DYAR statistiscs, just ahead of Ben Roethlisberger. There’s only one thing Winston has gotten worse at: running with the football. Mostly because he’s finding his receivers more effectively instead of scrambling.
Of course, some of this improvement is due to a better supporting cast. DeSean Jackson has added some explosiveness that wasn’t there before, J.R. Sweezy has been very impressive on the offensive line, and O.J. Howard just had a breakout game.
Every successful quarterback needs a good supporting cast, though, and this shouldn’t take away from the obvious fact that Jameis Winston is playing some really good football. If this continues, it won’t be long before we can start having the dreaded Elite conversation.