The NFL Combine begins next week and so does the serious evaluation of the Bucs’ prospects for this year’s NFL Draft. Tampa Bay is expected to take one of the top two quarterbacks – Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston – and both will be in attendance in Indianapolis. Mariota and Winston will face scrutiny from the Buccaneers and a number of other NFL teams, but for different reasons.
Mariota is said to be fully recovered from a shoulder sprain that he suffered in the national championship game against Ohio State, but he has not announced if he will fully participate in the workouts. As far as character, there are no question marks as the reigning Heisman Trophy winner is as clean as a whistle. But some NFL teams will want to know – and see – how Mariota performs in a more traditional type of offense, as opposed to the timing-based, up tempo spread offense employed by the Ducks.
Winston’s question marks are well documented, and this will be the first time NFL teams will be able to sit with the former FSU Heisman Trophy winner and directly ask him about the off-field incidents that have made teams wonder if the potential is worth the possible headaches.
One person who has come to Winston’s defense and feels he will pass the character test is CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora. On Friday La Canfora wrote,“But a kid, still, who just turned 21 last month, who will be a human pincushion the next few months as “adults” try to gain exposure or notoriety at his expense, and a kid who will be at the epicenter of the under-side of the big business that the pre-draft process has become. And, most importantly, he’s a young man who, when all is said and done, will rise above.
“But it will get worse before it gets better for Winston.
“Soon enough, everyone will want a piece of him, the hordes of cameras and press at the combine, the teams interviewing him and asking uncomfortable questions of him in hotel suites in Indianapolis. It’s part of the process, alas, but it can become quite unprofessional and fairly brutal all the way around. So let me clue you in on how it’s going to go, because I believe there will be a silver lining, at the end, for Winston, though he will absorb much before then.”
The draft is still over two months away but the first step in the long process for the two quarterbacks begins in earnest next week. If La Canfora is correct, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell could step to the podium in Chicago on April 30, and at just after 8 p.m. announce “The Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Jameis Winston, quarterback from Florida State.’ If Winston falters in the interview process, all options are on the table and as Jason Cole reported on Friday, Tampa Bay may go with the “safer” pick and select Mariota to be the face of the organization.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org