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Brian Kelly: Jameis Winston's lack of 'escapability' a concern

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Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly agrees with almost every analyst who says Florida State's Jameis Winston is the most NFL-ready quarterback in this draft, but he does have concerns about one of Winston's on-field weaknesses.


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Last month, when appearing on the "Rich Eisen Show," Kelly called Winston an "easy No. 1 pick," saying Winston "fits so many styles and systems in the NFL." But during an appearance on the NFL Network's "Path to the Draft" on Thursday, Kelly said Winston's escapability should be a big concern.

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"He's a bit of a pocket passer, and he doesn't have some of the escapability, the ability to move out of the pocket," Kelly said. "Escapability is what I'm looking for. It doesn't necessarily need to be a quarterback that can run around; we're not talking about a guy that needs to run read-option."

Kelly also said he worries about Winston's "ability to move and keep plays alive."

"He's going to get hit a little bit," Kelly said. "Can he hold up to that wear and tear over the long haul?"

Winston's "escapability" could be tested in Tampa Bay should the Bucs make him the overall No. 1 pick. The Bucs' offensive line needs vast improvement; the Bucs allowed 52 sacks last season, tied for third-most in the NFL. FSU's offensive line surrendered 56 sacks in Winston's two seasons in Tallahassee, but Winston still rushed for 284 yards. In college football, sack yardage counts against the quarterback's rushing totals.

Kelly made it clear he was not down on Winston, whom he said will arrive in the NFL well-versed in schemes.

"He's had to have all the traditional reads relative to understanding the offense and defensive structures he's going to see," he said.

Winston faced Notre Dame in the 2014 season, throwing for 273 yards and two TDs in leading FSU to a 31-27 come-from-behind victory.

Kelly also professed not to be worried about Winston's off-field issues: "I think you can work through those things," he said.

Kelly and the Irish also played last season against USC defensive end Leonard Williams, the consensus top player in the draft who is widely projected to go No. 2 overall to the Tennessee Titans.

Kelly said the most impressive thing about Williams is that he's a pass rusher who can play all three downs. He also touted Williams' ability to push the pocket, his quick first step, his high-revving motor and his high football IQ.

"He was a guy that we had to game-plan for," Kelly said. "Probably one of the only defensive linemen that we played against that we felt like we had to have a game plan for."

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

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