Bucs appear set to cast future with Winston

“Let’s be real,” St. Louis general manager Les Snead said. “The pool of quarterbacks for anybody, that’s usually the slimmest of pools of any of the players. That’s just a hard position to play.”

With Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, franchises looking for a marquee quarterback, have two distinct options. Both will be heavily scrutinized before the draft, which will be held April 30-March 2 in Chicago.

Winston has a list of issues that teams must evaluate to make a character evaluation. While Mariota generally has been a model citizen and won’t face the same off-the-field scrutiny.

The reasons behind the behavior will be important for the teams to address.

“Psychological assessment is critical in any role,” said Chad Chatlos, a partner with Korn Ferry in the firm’s global sports practice. “When you are talking about the investment that a team is going to make, whether if it be a high draft pick or the investment of the payment and compensation over the years. We’ve seen it throughout the years, when you miss on a No. 1 or a No. 2 pick, it can really set your franchise back.”

Winston’s approach to the team interviews and media sessions may help to determine his draft status.

“If you’re Jameis Winston, much like Johnny Manziel last year, where you have some smoke around you,” Chatlos said. “You have some questions about some of your decision-making. You need to use every opportunity that you can to persuade people that you’ve learned from your mistakes, that you’re a team guy and that you’re willing to make the good decisions off the field to let them know their investment is going to be worthwhile.”

Tampa Bay owns the first pick in the NFL draft and appearing to be leaning toward selecting Winston. They don’t plan to hold Winston’s misdoings in college against him.

“He went through the school justice system,” Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith said. “He was cleared. He went through our court system and he was cleared. Exonerated. What else can you do? …Yeah, we’re okay with where (Winston) is.”

Winston is undecided about whether to throw at the combine on Saturday. Mariota is set to throw.

Tennessee has the second pick in the draft and could be leaning toward Mariota.

“That’s the thing in the NFL now, having one of those guys,” Tennessee coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “Trying to get one of those quarterbacks that can make a difference like that. Everybody

is working to do that. We’re in a position this year where we have an opportunity to get that position settled for us.”

The Titans, who drafted former Georgia and LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger last season in the sixth round. He was winless over six starts last season.

“I think (Winston and Mariota) are two very good players,” Tennessee general manager Ruston Webster. “We are in very good position. We do like Zach Mettenberger as a player.. He is a young quarterback. He is la good player. These two guys have a unique skill set. We are looking at those two plus others.”

The backup checks will be important.

“We will spend a lot of time with those guys over the next few months,” Webster said. “We will meet with them here and do our due diligence all the way through. They are very good players. There would be no reason not to. And it starts with meeting with here.”

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock has compared Winston’s situation to Johnny Manziel. Last season, teams ignored Manziel’s off the field issues and went on to have an uneven season with Cleveland and has entered a treatment center.

“I think the bigger concern is whether or not this guy can be the face of your franchise,” Mayock said. “Let’s face it. He was the face of the Florida State

franchise and that didn’t stop him from making a bunch of bad decisions off the field.”

Both quarterbacks also have football issues to address.

“I think (Winston) throws too many interceptions,” Mayock said. “However, I can see everything I want on the field, on tape, beyond that. He’s a pocket aware guy. He throws with anticipation and timing, which is unusual in today’s college football world.

“He’s tough. He gets smacked in the face. He delivers the football.”

Some consider Mariota a produce of Oregon’s system.

“All the individual components are available,” Mayock said. “However, can he put them together in a pro style offense where he has to throw with anticipation, has to go through progressions? They’ve got a ton of homework ahead of them, and I think both quarterbacks have question marks.”

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