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Lovie Smith: Not 'erroneous assumption' that Winston goes No. 1

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith said Wednesday during the NFC Coaches Breakfast at the NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix that it wasn't an "erroneous assumption" that Florida State's Jameis Winston will be the Bucs' pick when they select at No. 1 overall.

"Odds are, we're going to go a certain direction. But we don't have to make this decision and you wait until you have to," Smith said.

He noted that the process continues: "We have a leader. ... But you don't call a winner before the game is over."

Earlier Wednesday, Smith was asked specifically about characteristics he likes about Winston during a live segment of NFL Network's "NFL AM".

"He's been a great leader. Won a lot of games," Smith said. "Once you start really critiquing him in fine detail, there's just so much you like. ... He seems to get the rest of his teammates to play better."

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During the breakfast interviews, Smith reiterated that he would be comfortable with Winston being the face of the franchise, and said that if the Bucs take Winston No. 1, they don't expect him to repeat mistakes of the past.

"We feel comfortable (with) who Jameis Winston is and what he will do in the future," Smith said.

Smith said one part of Winston's game that can be improved is his conditioning.

"You say, 'What can improve?'" Smith said. "Us getting him on proper nutrition. Lifting. Getting him in the weight room. ... He hasn't had a chance to really develop his body."

At this point, it seemingly would be a stunner if the Bucs don't take Winston with the top pick. This is a franchise in desperate need of a quarterback -- both a youngster who can play right away and a guy who has some staying power -- and Winston seems to trump Mariota in the former category. Off-field issues are a concern, and that Smith continues to be asked about Winston being the "public face" of the franchise is proof. But unless the Bucs have concocted one of the bigger smokescreens in recent draft memory, Winston is going to be their pick on April 30.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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