Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. (AP Photos)
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston wasted no time in deciding whether to return to school next season. The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner announced in early January that he will declare for the NFL Draft after starting two full seasons at Florida State and amassing a 29-1 record to go along with a national championship and his trophy.
While the ex-Seminole became infamous for his off-the-field antics, it was on the field where the 6-foot, 4-inch, 230-plus pound quarterback demonstrated some of the traits that should make him a high-round draft pick this offseason. Despite his accolades and accomplishments, does the Florida State signal-caller have what it takes to succeed in the NFL? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: In his two years under center as a Seminole, Winston made every throw, made a collection of clutch plays and always stood strong as a leader, three traits that will take him very far in his professional career. Florida State faced adversity several times in Winston’s second season, and each time he brought them back from the brink of disaster, until their finale against Oregon in the Rose Bowl a couple of weeks ago. If the draft rules were different, Winston could have entered last year’s draft as a redshirt freshman and would still have been a high pick—he was just that good over the course of his collegiate career. The attributes of a leader should never go unnoticed, and even with the circus surrounding Winston at times during his career, those distractions never phased him on Saturdays. He was a flat-out clutch quarterback in 96 percent of the games that he started.
Green: I agree, Riley. No other quarterback in college football showed more clutch ability than Winston. The kid is confident and knows he can win, and that’s the biggest aspect of being a quarterback. I know the kid has done a lot of stupid things off the field, but what 19- or 20-year-old hasn’t? Winston will mature more and more as he grows older, and so will his already pro-ready passing skills. I’ve said this before, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Jameis drafted by the Washington NFL franchise. I think he’s just what that team could use to bring back a winning attitude.
Riley: Winston’s off-field antics were the only blemish on his career. Granted, they were a big part of his career and how people viewed him, but ultimately, critics stirred much of that venom to downplay his accomplishments. It all stemmed from the fact that he made Florida State a national power again, and he was predominantly responsible for their return to greatness. He took more verbal and critical abuse than most college quarterbacks and he always stood strong, smiled in his press conferences and continued to dominate on the field. I think his off-the-field behavior and the criticism he took from that behavior made him a better player in my opinion. He has already been subjected to the type of real-world pressure that signal-callers and high draft picks face from the media and fans, and he still succeeded. He’s going to mature with age and sweep out a bunch of his bad habits—but his penchant for coming through in big games, with all kinds of pressure on his shoulders, might be his best attribute. It’s a trait that will elevate him in the next stage of his career inside the NFL.