The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made it official and picked Florida State's Jameis Winston -- something they were expected to do for months. But just what sort of impact can Winston have in Year 1?
National Attention: When was the last time you heard someone say "Hey turn it to the Bucs game."? Unless you live in maybe a twenty mile radius of Tampa I’m guessing you haven’t. Now that the Bucs have drafted Winston number one, they picked the biggest name that brings along the most media attention. Let’s face it some of the attention may not be positive, but it will keep the Bucs in the spotlight all season long, and the Bucs could use the attention. No one has paid this much attention to the Bucs since they won the Super Bowl. Winston will make headlines; that is a guarantee, he did it all through college and there is no sign of him not making headlines in the NFL. The first day of minicamp will be filled with media, and you can expect live cut-ins to his first preseason game snap August 15th when the Bucs travel to take on the Vikings.
Stadium Attendance/Merchandise: Last year when the Bucs went 2-14 on the season they averaged 59,000 fans. That ranked fourth worst just ahead of the Vikings, Raiders and Rams. A player that has already established a fan base like Winston will continue to put in fans to the seats. Should Winston gel with his new team and starts winning games, then you’re looking at projected sell outs for an entire season. Don’t forget the merchandise; people will buy for the number 5. The only FSU jerseys that you see people sporting are number 5. T-shirts? All Winston; so just imagine the sales that Jameis Winston Bucs jerseys already have will continue to grow as the season get near. Shirts, hats, bobble heads, oven mitts, and whatever else the marketing team at One Buc Place has thought of will sell.
Locker Room fit: Winston is a natural born leader, going 26-1 at FSU while leading two different teams. As a red-shirt freshman, Winston was asked to lead an already stacked veteran FSU squad that boasted NFL talents on offense and defense such as kelvin Benjamin, Devonta Freeman, LaMarcus Joyner, and James Wilder Jr. The team ultimately looked to Winston for leadership, which is something the nation saw numerous times; from his pre-game speech at Clemson to the final drive at the Rose Bowl. Last season the roles were reversed for Winston. After most of the offensive talent left for the NFL, Winston took the task of leading a fresh crop of wide receivers and a new backfield. Winston was able to lead the young Noles through another perfect regular season, falling just short of another national championship appearance. Winston was able to bring out the best in a relatively young team, which saw the emergence of three future stars in Travis Rudolph, Dalvin Cook, and Ermon Lane. Working with grown men who play football for a living will be different, but if Winston's play inspires confidence, his natural leadership abilities should take care of the rest.
Finally... On the field: Tampa Bay was in position to pick Winston for a reason: they went 2-14 in 2014 and were a bad football team. But it’s reasonable to expect a Jameis Winston led Bucs offense to look better than a Glennon/McCown offense simply because Winston is the better QB, but a lot of this depends on his offensive line. The same offensive line that gave up 52 sacks last season must do their job to keep Winston upright for him to have success in Tampa, and that is far from a given. If the Bucs offensive line has their act together then Winston will be able to read the field better allowing him to find his two tall receivers veteran Vincent Jackson and second year standout Mike Evans. With his intelligence and work ethic it will be no problem for Winston to master the playbook and make that offense his. But like any rookie QB, he'll make his fair share of rookie mistakes. Given that he is a lightning rod, Winston will have to fight through the criticism when he screws up. He did it well at Florida State, but NFL athletes are criticized for on-field play much more freely than collegians.
The question is now can Winston lead the Bucs to their first winning season since 2010 when they went 10-6? It's possible. Winston has the tools, but it's tough to know how quickly he'll put things together, and whether the pieces around him will come together.