Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Winston vs Mariota? Winston By a Mile







All this fuss about which Heisman Trophy QB should be No.1 in Thursday's draft, Florida State's Jameis Winston or Oregon's Marcus Mariota, is wasted energy. It's obvious. The Tampa Bay Bucs have the first pick and they should use it to draft Winston.

Why? Because he's more ready to be a pro QB than Mariota. He's a version of Andrew Luck when Luck was coming out of Stanford. He's linebacker-size, can make all the required throws and is fairly elusive for a big man. Ignore all the arguments that makes Mariota look equal to Winston. He's not. Mariota is a super scrambler and has terrific speed but those qualities don't make him equal to Winston. Mariota is not nearly as accomplished a passer. According to some expert observers in the NFL underground, Winston is already better than half the QBs in the league and he hasn't even been to a NFL camp. These observers see Mariota as a potentially decent QB after several rocky years in the league.

Being drafted by Tampa might be lucrative but it won't be any fun. This Tampa team is a mess. The QB picked by Tampa is stepping into a disaster area. Without question he'll get off to a slow start. They have a horrible offensive line and no first-rate power RB to take the pressure off the rookie QB, who is going to be battered unmercifully. Winston comes from a Seminole system that's closer to what's run in Tampa and other pro teams. He can adapt faster to the Tampa system than Mariota. In his first few years at Tampa, Winston would unquestionably be a more productive QB than Mariota.

Here's what's wrong with Mariota. Yes, he can make the throws used to measure a QB's arm strength and can make them accurately. Yes, he's a good citizen. But too many are blinded by his speed and athleticism. They think those special qualities make him a better prospect. But they are overlooking and woefully downplaying something crucial and obvious. He has to unlearn so much from all those years in Oregon's QB-friendly spread system. That's MAJOR. That system, which works well against less skilled college defensive players, is designed for easy reads by the QB and gets receivers open quickly. For a fast, speedy QB like Mariota, it's a dream situation. Arguably he's the best spread QB ever. Like any good college spread QB he piled up great numbers against modestly talented college players. But it's way different in the pros, without the comfort of that system, which allows the QB to start a few yards behind the line of scrimmage. In the NFL the receivers won't be as open and the reads will be a lot tougher. Another rap against Mariota is that, against the best college defenses, he made slower reads and, faced with a strong rush, abandoned the pocket way too soon. In the NFL such tendencies would sidetrack offensive threats.

Oregon is not a QB factory. That system masks all sorts of weaknesses that show up when Duck QBs transfer to the pros. Look for Mariota, like all spread QBs making the transition to the NFL, to struggle early on. If he starts out in Tampa, with those crappy offensive players, he will REALLY struggle. Wherever he goes, Mariota will stumble his first few years. He's also very likely to get injured. No way will he be a good pocket passer right away, so he'll rely more on running, which is more dangerous in the NFL because the defensive players are so much bigger, stronger and faster.

While he's a far better choice than Mariota for Tampa, Winston does have his flaws. For one thing, he threw 18 interceptions last season, which is a serious red flag. Also, he's very immature, with the mentality of a college frat boy. What you read in the media was the tip of the iceberg. A lot more problems were handled quietly, without media scrutiny. In some ways he's a more talented version of Johnny Manziel. That juvenile mind-set might have a lethal effect his work ethic, which could hurt his rookie season.

But if Winston, who's loaded with talent, approaches his job with some maturity and works reasonably hard, he'll have a decent season and be far more productive for the Bucs than Mariota would ever be.