With just three weeks to go before the NFL Draft, we are now getting the first rumblings that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will not draft Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and will instead either trade the pick or draft Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Winston has been the presumed No. 1 pick for several weeks now. Late last week we surveyed the mock drafts of the 13 of the top draft experts and every one had the Bucs drafting Winston.
But according to multiple reports, that is not the case.
The first comes from Ron Jaworski of ESPN ,who was a guest on Comcast Sportsnet’s “Philly Sports Talk” (via PhillyMag.com).
“The latest I’m hearing now from my sources around the league, who are pretty wired in, is that [Mariota is] going to go number one now to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.”
Joe Bussell, who worked in the Bucs front office during the 2011 season, used the Twitter account @NFLosophy to anonymously give a behind-the-scenes look at the the team’s strategy’s before outing himself in 2013.
According to Bussell, the Bucs will draft Mariota but trading the pick may be their first choice.
The Bucs plan on drafting Marcus Mariota if they can’t find a suitable option to trade down.
— NFL Philosophy (@NFLosophy) April 13, 2015
These come after a report by Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports that said at least one important member of the Glazers, the family who owns the Bucs, has “raised some internal questions about the community relations impact” of drafting Winston.
While the Bucs have not been shy about signing players with checkered off-field histories, none of those players were asked to be the face of the franchise and the Bucs did not have to invest as much in those players as they would with Winston.
Of course, there are reasons to take any report like these with a grain of salt.
It benefits the Bucs to at least keep their options open, and having the team linked to both of the top quarterbacks may put pressure on other teams to make an offer the Bucs can’t refuse.
It also benefits the NFL and ESPN, who now have some intrigue for their draft coverage that did not exist a week ago.
At the same time, the reports can’t be completely ignored either. With rookie contract values predetermined, there is no incentive for the Bucs to negotiate with a player prior to the draft. So in all likelihood, this decision is going to go down to the wire, at least publicly.
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