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Buccaneers GM Jason Licht on QB Jameis Winston’s Odds to Start in 2015: “He’s the First Overall Pick”

In what may be one of the bigger no-brainers of the offseason, it appears that brand-new Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston will be on the fast track to start for his new team in 2015.

Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht appeared on PFT Live last week and confirmed to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio that Winston is very much penciled-in as the team’s starting quarterback.

Licht said:

It’s pretty difficult to say with a straight face that we’re not going to give Jameis that opportunity to win it right away. He’s the first overall pick. We think he’s very advanced in terms of his ability to play and pick up schemes and concepts and learn the playbook relative to most rookies, or any rookie we’ve scouted in recent history. So he’s gonna have every opportunity.

Even with a more team-friendly rookie wage scale, the pressure is still high for teams starting Round 1 draft picks as rookies—especially quarterbacks, regardless of whether they would benefit from a year or more of seasoning. But the Buccaneers don’t really have that luxury, given that their only other alternative is Mike Glennon, who has clearly fallen out of fashion with the coaching and front office staffs.

Further, Licht and the Buccaneers wanted Winston—and badly. The MMQB.com’s Peter King detailed a text-message exchange between Licht and his brother-in-law during the 2014 draft in which the brother-in-law wanted to know if Licht preferred then-prospects Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater. He answered “Winston.” Licht and head coach Lovie Smith’s interest in Winston was cemented by the role he played in Florida State’s 59-20 loss to Oregon in the Rose Bowl. Despite Oregon’s Marcus Mariota being the better quarterback in the game, Winston remained the consensus favorite for both Licht and Smith.

Winston’s draft pedigree and the dearth of quality quarterbacks in Tampa may spur him starting in 2015 but that does not guarantee success. In two years at Florida State, Winston completed 66 percent of his passes, for 7,964 yards, 65 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. But his 18 interceptions in 2014—thrown against 25 touchdowns—belie the risk inherent with taking Winston, or any quarterback, in the 2015 draft and hoping he will be a productive starter in his first year.

But there is clearly no doubt that the Buccaneers wanted Winston to be their immediate starter. There will be no acclimation period, no first year on the bench with the clipboard, for 2015’s first-overall draft pick. Winston will be thrown to the fire immediately, starting in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans and Marcus Mariota.

Photo: USA Today Sports