Phenomenal at making progressions through his receivers
Great pocket presence
Throws into tight windows
Generally a good decision-maker
Advanced field vision
Keeps his eyes downfield while scrambling
Mobile with running ability
Makes plays with his feet
Throws well on the run
Bails out blockers with ability to avoid sacks
Hard to tackle; tough to bring down for sacks
Very intelligent; understands the chess match
Mastered a pro-style offense
Has worked under center as well as shotgun
Impressive football I.Q.
Proven leader with passion for the game
Winner at collegiate level 26-1 as starter
Great at fourth-quarter comebacks
Experienced 2-year starter
Excellent on third downs
Does everything coaches ask of him
Quality arm that can make all the throws for the NFL
Ideal height and bulk
Toughness; plays injured
Immature off the field
Numerous off-the-field transgressions
Increase in interceptions as a sophomore
Had some slow starts to games in 2014
Summary: Winston took college football by storm in 2013 as the Heisman Trophy winner while leading Florida State to a National Championship. The redshirt freshman demonstrated a quality arm with well-developed passing ability. Winston completed 67 percent of his passes that season for 4,057 yards with 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. On the ground, he ran for 219 yards with four touchdowns.
Winston completed 65 percent of his passes in 2014 for 3,907 yards with 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He also had three rushing touchdowns. Winston threw more interceptions over 2013, but aside from the Florida game, he had a fine season. Winston illustrated throughout 2014 that he can bring his team back from deficits and pull games out in the fourth quarter. His 26-1 record as a starter is no accident.
As a pocket passer, Winston is extraordinary. He is phenomenal in the pocket and can carve up a defense. Winston has very good field vision and does a superb job of scanning the field while working through his progressions. It is an innate ability that Winston displayed from the very beginning of his tenure as a starter, and it is extremely rare to see in a college quarterback. The tape shows him hang tough in the face of the pass rush, step into throws when he was going to get hit, and move well in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield. Sources say that Winston has a good football I.Q. and will impress teams in pre-draft meetings.
Winston also has shown great anticipation and timing. For example, even with pressure in his face he would still throw passes before receivers would make their breaks so the ball would hit them between the numbers as soon as they turned around. Those are phenomenal throws for any level of football. Winston also threw some brilliant passes into tight windows to beat good coverage. When plays would break down, Winston would make plays with his feet, and if defenses left him uncovered, he would hurt them on the ground.
At the Combine, Winston had some slower than expected 40 times of 4.97 and 4.99 seconds, but those aren't relevant to why Winston is the top-rated quarterback and favorite to be the first-overall pick. Winston made some beautiful throws with touch and accuracy in the field drills. It was an impressive display with his footwork and timing. Winston ripped off a series of NFL throws and looked like an NFL starter taking part in the Combine. Franchises won't care about his 40 time and will be more focused on how well he threw the ball.
Winston can do it all as a quarterback and enters the NFL ready to start quickly. I wouldn't be surprised if he is a good starter immediately similar to Andrew Luck with the Colts. The off-the-field issues are the only things that could derail Winston from reaching his potential.
The only real negative for Winston is off-the-field problems. One scouting director said those off-the-field problems "are real and more than advertised." Winston's suspension while Florida State faced off against Clemson almost, and should have, cost his team a win. In speaking with sources, some NFL teams have real doubts about Winston and think he could have Jamarcus Russell-level off-the-field problems. Other sources feel that Winston's off-the-field issues are immaturity that he'll grow out of and have been overblown. They say that Winston is a leader in the locker room, a good teammate and did everything asked of him by the football and baseball coaches at Florida State. A few general managers have told WalterFootball.com that Winston is the real deal.
In the team meetings at the Combine, Winston was phenomenal. He wowed teams with his football I.Q., confidence, leadership and presence. Winston also was straight forward about his off-the-field issues. He did what he needed to at the Combine to put a nail in the coffin to being the first pick.
As a prospect from a pure football perspective and ignoring the off-the-field issues, Winston is elite and in Andrew Luck's ballpark as a quarterback prospect. Winston is a potential franchise quarterback who can lead his team to championships. Numerous sources from multiple teams agree that Winston is just a little bit behind Luck, but is a better prospect than Cam Newton, Sam Bradford or Matthew Stafford were when they came out and went No. 1 overall.
Player Comparison: Ben Roethlisberger. Both Winston and Roethlisberger are big-armed pocket passers who can make all the throws. They have field vision, anticipation and accuracy. Like Roethlisberger, Winston is really hard to bring down because of his size and strength. Both signal-callers also share the ability to make plays with their feet when they have to. Roethlisberger was a first-round pick, which Winston will be as well. Both players also have had off-the-field controversies, plus Roethlisberger had maturity issues early in his career. The difference is that Roethlisberger has been viewed as a bad guy and teammate at times in his career. Conversely, Winston is said to be a team leader and a well-liked teammate who is good in the locker room.
NFL Matches: Tampa Bay, Tennessee, New York Jets, Washington, Chicago, St. Louis, Houston
There are a lot of teams that would be ecstatic to land a potential franchise quarterback like Winston. At the top of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Buccaneers, the Titans and the Jets all are in dire need of a franchise quarterback. Winston won't get out of the top five unless he has another major off-the-field issue before the 2015 NFL Draft.
Tampa Bay is a party city that may not suit the maturation of Winston. However, Florida State trustee and Buccaneers Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks could mentor and vouch for Winston. Brooks and Bucs head coach Lovie Smith are extremely close from Smith coaching Brooks at the beginning of his career. The Glazers also hold Brooks in high regard, so his recommendation will carry weight. However, Tampa Bay may decide to go with the safer character pick in Marcus Mariota after off-the-field issues played a role in Josh Freeman being a bust. The Bucs have a good young receiver (Mike Evans) and tight end (Austin Seferian-Jenkins), but would need to build an offensive line for Winston.
Sources with the Bucs have told WalterFootball.com that the team prefers Winston to Mariota. The teams owners, the Glazers, were also comfortable taking Winston entering the interview stage of the process. It would be a huge surprise if Winston wasn't the first pick to Tampa Bay on draft day.
Tennessee would be a great landing spot for Winston as a town that could help him mature. He would have a proven offensive coach in Ken Whisenhunt with some young talent at wide receiver, running back and on the offensive line. The Titans would be a great organization for Winston to work with.
New York could provide a lot of distractions for Winston off the field, so the Jets may not be a great fit. However, the organization is desperate for a franchise quarterback, and that concern shouldn't prevent the Jets from taking Winston.
The Rams and Texans would both love to have Winston. Both teams have strong rosters that are a quarterback short of being serious contenders for a Super Bowl run. Houston or St. Louis will probably inquire about what it would take to trade up for Winston, but the price will probably be too much to get either team to make the move.
The Bears could be in play for Winston if they get rid of Jay Cutler and are willing to put together a package of picks to move up. The Redskins could be in the market to trade up if they get rid of Robert Griffin III, but after giving up all the picks for Griffin, it seems unlikely Washington would be willing to part with more picks to move up in the 2015 NFL Draft.