The Tampa Bay Buccaneers own the number one pick in the 2015 NFL draft and the Bucs also own a gaping hole at the quarterback position. All eyes will be on quarterback prospect Jameis Winston whose talented right arm will be on display at Florida State’s pro day on March 31st. With the evaluation process rapidly coming to an end, the buzz is that Winston has separated himself from Marcus Mariota as the consensus top quarterback available in the draft. The question now becomes how much does Winston’s pro day actually matter to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
As far as Winston’s on-field performance goes, I’m sure he will do well in a pro day setting with a cannon for an arm and no defense to contend with. However, I don’t think his actual workout will mean very much to the Bucs. Recent draft history has shown that more emphasis is put on how a quarterback carries himself while in the company of NFL decision makers as opposed to what happens on the field at a pro day.
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith completed 60-of-64 passes at his 2013 pro day. In a pro day performance for the ages, Smith displayed a live arm, great touch, and made very quick decisions throughout his entire workout. This pre draft workout was so good, there was speculation that Smith may end up being selected as high as number four overall to Philadelphia. However, according to a Rich Cimini report on ESPN.com, Smith plummeted in the draft due to how he conducted himself during his meetings with NFL officials.
According to Cimini’s article, “word spread that Smith was preoccupied with his cell phone during pre-draft visits, texting friends and checking Twitter during meetings with team officials.” As a result, Smith eventually fell out of the first round and was selected 39th overall by the New York Jets. In fact, the Jets had not one, but two opportunities to select Smith in the first round and passed on the former Mountaineer quarterback both times.
In the case of Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, he struggled during an uneven and inconsistent showing at his 2014 pro day. Going without his customary glove on his throwing hand, perhaps nerves got the best of the 2013 Sugar Bowl MVP. According to NFL Network’s draft guru Mike Mayock, “I expected a little bit more, [Bridgwater] was very average at best.” Nonetheless, Bridgewater went on to be selected with the last pick of the first round as the Minnesota Vikings traded second and fourth round draft choices to get in position to draft the former Cardinal star.
Granted, team needs often play a huge role in which slot a player is selected in the draft, but Bridgewater was known for his professionalism and attention to detail whereas Smith clearly lacked in those areas. As a result, the Jets allowed Smith to fall out of the first round while the Vikings did not want to risk losing out on Bridgewater and mortgaged two draft picks to ensure his services at the end of the first round.
With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it looks like the Jets would have been better off passing on Smith all together. As for Minnesota, they are getting great early returns on their investment in Bridgewater. While I don’t think Winston is in danger of slipping out of the first round, any misstep in front of NFL executives could cost him millions of dollars. I do think the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have a very keen eye on Florida State’s pro day, but their interest in Jameis Winston will have little to do with what happens between the white lines.
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