Is Jameis Winston the Next Ben Roethlisberger?
"Price is what you pay. Value is what you get." --Warren Buffett
Everybody loves a bargain. Whether you're looking for a new car or a franchise quarterback, everyone is looking to get the most bang for their buck.
This past March, Ben Roethlisberger inked a new five-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers worth up to $108 million. This deal tacked on an additional 4-years and $87.4 million to his original contract, with a reported $31 million in guaranteed salary.
This upcoming April, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- projected to select Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston as the number one overall pick -- are hoping they can obtain a similarly talented quarterback at just one-fifth the price. With many comparisons to Big Ben both on and off the field, the Bucs are hoping Winston will be the quarterback they've been looking for to jump-start their franchise -- and at the bargain price of just under $22.4 million over the next four seasons.
Now, am I saying that Ben Roethlisberger and Jameis Winston are the exact same caliber of player today? Absolutely not. The former is a proven, 11-year NFL veteran, two-time Super Bowl champion, and has a burger named after him. The latter is a young, inexperienced 21-year-old kid who has yet to step onto an NFL field.
As the old saying goes, "You get what you pay for."
But what I am saying, and what we'll soon see, is that the numbers in nearly every imaginable category are just too eerily similar to ignore and may just give us a glimpse into Winston's future potential in the NFL.
In terms of physical attributes, both Jameis Winston and Ben Roethlisberger seem to be built from the same mold.
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Winston is nearly identical in height, size, and build to Roethlisberger, each possessing what many scouts consider ideal builds for their position. Beyond this, their speed and agility scores -- both of which measure in at average -- are nearly identical as well.
This naturally gives way to both players having similar playing styles, with each quarterback preferring to play in the pocket and move the ball in the passing game rather than with their feet.
Identical Collegiate Stats
When comparing the collegiate careers of both these signal-callers, it becomes evident that Winston isn't just built like Roethlisberger -- he plays and produces like Roethlisberger as well.
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The epitomes of a pocket passer, both Winston and Roethlisberger dispensed the majority of their damage through the air. Both quarterbacks amassed nearly identical per-season averages in pass attempts, completions, and completion percentages, with mediocre production by way of rushing yards and rushing touchdowns during their collegiate careers. In terms of passing yards, yards per attempt, and passing touchdowns, Winston actually exceeds Roethlisberger's per-season averages by a decent margin.
One concern, however, is the high rate of interceptions for Winston during his career at Florida State compared to Big Ben. While some blame can be placed on the inexperience of the receiving corps around him following the departure of Kelvin Benjamin to the NFL in 2014, Winston must also take some responsibility for all these turnovers and must take better care of the ball in the NFL.
Beyond all these statistics, both quarterbacks racked up 27 total wins throughout their college careers and led their respective teams to 13-1 records in their final seasons.
|Player||Career Wins||Career Losses|
Despite these nearly identical resumes between Roethlisberger and Winston, there is one key difference between these two collegiate careers. Winston had to face arguably the much tougher schedule compared to Big Ben.
Playing in the ACC, Winston and the Seminoles had strength-of-schedules ranked 59th and 19th in the nation in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Winston led his team through these seasons to back-to-back BCS National Championship games, winning it all in 2013 over Auburn. In contrast, as members of the MAC Conference, Roethlisberger and the RedHawks faced on average the 77th toughest strength-of-schedule in his three years at Miami (OH).
If history is any indication of Winston's future success, the outlook is promising so far for the young quarterback.
Identical Passing Distribution and Accuracy
Prior to their respective drafts, both Roethlisberger and Winston had remarkably similar scouting reports, with both being praised for their exceptional abilities to operate as pocket passers. Big Ben was described as a "big armed pocket passer" with "excellent accuracy" and "nice touch" on his throws. Similarly, Winston has been described as possessing an "excellent [ability to make] progressions through his receivers" with "great accuracy" and "phenomenal anticipation," and a "quality arm that can make all the throws for the NFL."
A look at the statistics reveals that the similarities between Winston and Roethlisberger in terms of passing ability and accuracy go beyond just words. When we place Winston's numbers for the Seminoles in 2014 side-by-side with Big Ben's numbers for the Steelers last season, these comparisons hold up to even the most stringent of scrutiny.
First, we see that the passing tendencies for both these quarterbacks are nearly identical. Their tendencies to drive the ball downfield are apparent with 34.3% and 33.7% of Big Ben's and Jameis' passes, respectively, traveling 10 yards or greater beyond the line of scrimmage.
Beyond this, we can see that their accuracy in each of these throws are also nearly identical.
As the scouting reports suggest, both Big Ben and Jameis can deliver the ball accurately in all areas of the field. Indeed, we see that Winston not only mirrors Roethlisberger's accuracy at all throwing distances but actually bests him in passes thrown within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. In terms of delivering the long ball, both Roethlisberger and Jameis demonstrate exceptional skill in this feat, completing nearly 50% of their throws traveling 20 yards or more last season.
From all of this, we see that Winston's resemblance to Roethlisberger's tendencies, playing style, and capability is uncanny. When looking at these two quarterbacks in terms of pass distribution and accuracy metrics -- albeit at different levels of the game -- it's nearly impossible to distinguish one from the other.
With all of Winston's similarities to the Pro Bowl quarterback, all the preceding arguments provide enticing rationale for Tampa Bay to select Winston with the first overall pick of this year's draft.
Will Winston jump right in and provide the same value and production as today's Big Ben? Almost certainly not. Roethlisberger himself didn't blossom into the quarterback we know today until his fourth season in the league. And early on in his career, Ben had the benefit of a strong running game and a superb defense to lean on as he adjusted to the NFL.
But if the Bucs do indeed use the first overall pick on Jameis, with the presence of young, extremely talented receiving options to grow alongside him in Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Winston undoubtedly has the potential to develop into that caliber of player someday.