Winston likely top draft pick despite character concerns

Tue Apr 28, 2015 4:04pm EDT
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By Larry Fine

(Reuters) - Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is expected to be the top pick in Thursday's National Football League Draft in Chicago, provided 'character' issues do not throw him for a loss.

The big, strong-armed Winston has all the tools for NFL success but a list of troubling off-field incidents raises some red flags, with Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota of Oregon also commanding interest as the next best rated quarterback.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers own the first after finishing last overall in 2014, with the Tennessee Titans, who could also use a quarterback, selecting second.

"I would say, how can they afford not to take him," former Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo, a Thuzio Executive Club spokesman, told Reuters about the Bucs' view on Winston.

The stakes are sky high as no other position on the gridiron can impact the fortunes of a franchise more than quarterback and hitting the jackpot at that spot can turn a team into a perennial playoff threat.

Strikes against Winston include a sexual assault allegation against him, a shoplifting citation, and a game suspension for getting up on a table on campus and screaming a sexually charged phrase made popular on the Internet -- and whether his conduct was simply immature or betrayed a darker side.

Tampa Bay has done due diligence, according to Bucs general manager Jason Licht, who told the Tampa Tribune that the team spoke to some 75 people about Winston and that he "couldn't feel more confident about the process we have gone through."

Despite a season that proved embarrassing to the NFL over a rash of domestic abuse cases and its handling of them, Winston is a heavy favorite to go first overall.   Continued...

Dec 6, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston (5) walks off the field after defeating the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports