Jameis Winston's Outlook as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer Isn't Pretty
For all of the mystery and intrigue that existed in the first round of this year's draft, the same skepticism was not present at the top.
Jameis Winston was always going to Tampa Bay. That same certainty does not exist in how Winston will fare when he puts on the pewter helmet for the first time.
Now that Winston is officially going to the Buccaneers, we can finally fully dive into looking at how he'll perform while he's there. And you can bet there is a wide range of thoughts on this.
Though Winston has been tabbed as "one of the best prospects I've evaluated" by ESPN's Todd McShay, numberFire's outlook isn't quite as optimistic.
In order to evaluate this selection, we'll be using a couple of different numberFire-specific tools. First, we'll use Net Expected Points (NEP). This measures a player's or team's performance relative to expectations -- meaning league expectation-level production. For example, when it's 2nd and 10 on the 43-yard line, there is an expected number of points a team will score on that drive. If the quarterback completes a 35-yard pass, the number of expected points on the drive will increase, and the quarterback will have a positive NEP. If he throws an interception, however, the expected points on that drive will go down, and he will be assessed a negative NEP for that play.
The second tool is numberFire's READ. READ looks at a player's combine numbers, physical measurables, and new team situation in order to provide statistical comparisons for their rookie seasons. This can give us at least a baseline of expectations for Winston this upcoming season in Tampa Bay based on past performances in similar situations.
Let's start things off by looking at Winston's collegiate career before transitioning into his READ projections and what he'll bring to the table in Tampa Bay.
Cause for Concern
Though Winston reportedly has all of the physical tools to be a great NFL quarterback, those tools did not shine through his final season at Florida State. When we looked at the statistical profiles of the top five quarterbacks in this draft class, Winston ranked fifth with Marcus Mariota first followed by Garrett Grayson, Bryce Petty, and Brett Hundley. Does this mean Winston is the fifth best quarterback in the class? Not a chance. But it means there is at least a reason to have doubts.
There were two reasons that Winston slotted fifth in the study. First, his Passer Efficiency Rating and Adjusted Yards Per Attempt were not good, ranking fifth among this group in both categories. Additionally, he had played the second fewest games in college of the five players, besting only Petty. When we studied which statistics were most indicative of a first-round quarterback bust last year, those were the statistics that were most important.
When looking at previous first-round quarterback selections, Winston is most statistically similar to Tim Couch. In his final season at Kentucky, Couch had a 153.3 Passer Efficiency Rating and 7.8 Adjusted Yards Per Attempt. Winston was at 145.5 and 7.7 respectively, though he did log one more collegiate game than Couch prior to turning pro.
The large caveat to all of this is that Winston had one of the most statistically dazzling quarterback seasons of all time when he was a redshirt freshman. His Passer Efficiency Rating that year was actually slightly better than Mariota's this year, though Mariota bested him in Adjusted Yards Per Attempt. This makes his regression in year two more frustrating, but it's also an important factor to keep in mind when evaluating Winston statistically.
It's not just our research that has exhibited some concern for Winston. Rotoviz's Rich Hribar wrote back in January that high collegiate interception rates often follow quarterbacks into the pros. FiveThirtyEight's Sharon B. Katz and Zach Bradshaw wrote that Mariota was projected to be the better pro. Again, this isn't all to say that Winston is a surefire bust. It's more illustrating that he has his flaws, and Tampa Bay may now have to deal with that.
With all of this in mind, let's move on to Winston's READ comps. Although this does not take Winston's collegiate numbers into account, the result is similar.
What READ Says
As I mentioned in the intro, part of what READ takes into account is the previous-season's production by the team the player is joining. In this instance, Tampa Bay's inefficiency will knock Winston's projections down a bit.
In 2014, the Buccaneers ranked 31st in the league in Adjusted Passing NEP per play, which is adjusted for a team's strength of schedule. Only Jacksonville had a passing offense that was less efficient than Tampa Bay's. Ideally, an offense quarterbacked by the first overall pick would be better than one led by Josh McCown and Mike Glennon, so keep that in mind when looking at Winston's READ comps.
Without further ado, here are the top five most similar players to Winston heading into his rookie season. The statistics listed are the numbers the player posted in his rookie season.
Only one player threw more touchdowns than interceptions, and none completed more than 58.3 percent of their passes. These players entered similar situations to the one Winston is inheriting, and none was a rousing success in their rookie season.
This does not exclude Winston from having a positive career, but it means he probably should not be on your fantasy football draft radar in re-draft for this season. When the success rate (a relative term as even Andy Dalton was only the 18th-ranked fantasy quarterback his rookie season) is 20 percent, that's probably an asset you should avoid.
The one positive here for Winston is that the cupboard isn't bare in Tampa Bay. He will have at least one superbly talented player around him with which to work.
In his rookie season, Mike Evans ranked 10th in the league in Reception NEP per target among all wide receivers that were targeted at least 100 times. This is the points added on each reception divided by the number of times he was targeted. That may have been slightly inflated by Evans' touchdown rate, but it's not as though he doesn't have the tools to sustain a heavy red-zone presence.
Evans could get better with improved quarterback play, but what does the rest of the team present? When McCown and Glennon targeted Evans, they had a Passing NEP of 49.78. On all other dropbacks, their Passing NEP was -80.82. It should be noted that this will be lower in almost every case because Passing NEP takes into account points lost on sacks, but that's a bit of a crazy split.
Vincent Jackson ranked 32nd of 40 in Reception NEP per target among players that were targeted at least 100 times. Their Passing NEP when targeting Jackson dropped to 2.74. That number for rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins was -5.43 over 21 targets. Again, these numbers are brought down by poor quarterback play, but it's not as though Winston will have a plethora of top-notch options.
To reiterate one final time, this isn't all to say that Winston will be a flop as an NFL quarterback. Rather, it's to point out that you should have heavy skepticism about whether or not Winston was the correct pick at first overall.
At the end of the day, the Buccaneers had no choice. As their NEP numbers show, they desperately needed a new signal-caller at the helm as soon as possible. However, time will tell if they ended up with the correct signal-caller to take them out of the basement and back into contention.