Is FSU’s Jameis Winston the next Geno Smith? The Florida State Seminoles quarterback and NY Jets QB have certainly endured some PR pain in 2014, and there’s no question it’s hurt Winston’s NFL draft stock. How much remains to be seen, but considering the parallels the two embattled QBs have had this year, the question of whether Winston’s NFL prospects could mirror Smiths’ current experience is fair game.
Back-room NFL Draft discussions will invariably focus on talent. In that regard, “Famous Jameis” is hands-down superior to Smith at this point in his college football career.
Geno Smith didn’t play a full season as a freshman, so let’s look at his first full season during his sophomore year. During that 2010 season with the West Virginia Mountaineers, Smith completed 64.8% of his passes for 2,763 yards and 24 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He also rushed for 106 yards. He improved dramatically the next two years, throwing for 4,385 yards and 31 TDs in 2011 and 4,205 yards and 42 TDs in 2012.
By comparison, Jameis Winston completed 66.9% of his passes last year as a freshman, racking up 4,057 yards and 40 TDs vs 10 interceptions to go with 219 yards rushing. Through five games this season, he’s passed for 1,605 yards and 11 TDs with 70% accuracy, but he’s thrown 5 INTs and is averaging more than two fewer yards per completion and per pass attempt. Still, on paper, Winston is a better quarterback at this point than Smith was in his college career.
Yet social and personal issues are increasingly considered by NFL executives. Michael Sam’s performance at the Draft Combine was merely average. Some would say below average, considering his SEC co-defensive player of the year credentials alongside Jadeveon Clowney.
But while worse gambles have been made in the past, Sam’s stock spiraled hard. The St. Louis Rams selected Sam with the 249th pick, and his jersey became one of the NFL’s best sellers. From SEC co-defensive player of the year to 249th pick? That’s a massive drop, and it was presumably due to Sam coming out as homosexual.
Likewise, Johnny Manziel slipped to the Cleveland Browns with the 22nd pick after long being considered a contender for one of the top three spots. In fact, he wasn’t even the top quarterback selected. Was it his height? How about his slight build? Or maybe, was it his general lack of decorum and immature party life?
Like Sam as a senior and Manziel for two years, Jameis Winston has delivered big-time stats during his two years at FSU. But, like Geno Smith, 2014 has not been kind to Winston socially, nor has he shown the best judgment.
Winston has been accused of sexual assault (he successfully defended himself against the accusations), has been accused of stealing crab legs from a Tallahassee grocery store, was suspended for the FSU Clemson game for cursing at fans, and this week is under investigation for allegedly autographing memorabilia.
On the NFL side, Geno Smith has this season gotten into scuffles at a bar, been fined $12,000 for cursing at a fan twice, and missed a Saturday-night team meeting because he was at the movies.
These incidents have some startling similarities and some marked differences, but they all have one thing in common: bad judgment.
In Smith’s case, the off-field issues have combined with some on-field struggles to inspire boos and calls for backup QB Michael Vick to take over. Those calls have quieted down after the Jets nearly upset the Patriots on the road on Thursday Night Football, but they’re still there.
In Winston’s case, those off-field problems have led Herschel Walker to say he wouldn’t vote for Winston to win the Heisman Trophy. Other pundits have called for Winston to watch the Notre Dame game live Saturday from the sideline until the autograph investigation concludes.
There are enough parallels between Winston and Smith to cause concern. On paper Winston is far better than Smith was at this point, though the spate of off-field issues has contributed to the FSU quarterback’s slight dropoff this season. Worse for Winston is that his behavior has likely tainted some GMs’ thoughts about where Winston will go in the draft.
At this point Winston is a risk. Is FSU’s Jameis Winston the next Geno Smith? Recent events seem to indicate he could be, if not in productivity than certainly in his potential to be an off-field liability. If Johnny Manziel couldn’t overcome the off-field noise, what’s to say Winston can?