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Jameis Winston goes No. 1 to Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Presumptive No. 1 pick Jameis Winston became actual No. 1 pick Jameis Winston on Thursday night.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took Winston, a quarterback from Florida State, with the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft.


» Mike Mayock's top 100 2015 draft prospects


During an interview with NFL Network from a draft party in his hometown in Bessemer, Ala., Winston said the situation was "so surreal. It feels like the championship game from 2013." Winston and FSU won the national title in 2013.

"I got to be thankful, thankful for the Glazers for giving me this opportunity, Mr. Licht (GM Jason Licht), Coach (Lovie) Smith," Winston said. "A shoutout to the Tampa Bay nation. Thank you for accepting me as your quarterback right now, and I look forward to getting in there with the guys, earning a spot, competing my tail off and bringing some wins."

Winston is the 21st quarterback to be selected first overall in the Super Bowl era (starting with the 1967 draft). Six have been the winning starting quarterback in a Super Bowl -- Terry Bradshaw, Jim Plunkett, John Elway, Troy Aikman, Peyton Manning and Eli Manning.

Winston was 26-1 as a starter at FSU. He won the Heisman Trophy as a redshirt freshman in 2014, and guided the Seminoles to a College Football Playoff semifinal appearance in 2014. But while he has a few on-field issues he needs to take care of -- decision-making and footwork in the pocket among them -- it was his litany of off-field woes that is the biggest concern.

"I think the important thing was getting ownership to sign off," NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock said during NFL Network's draft coverage Thursday night. "In this day and age, you got to do that with such a high-profile player."

Despite Winston's off-field issues, the Bucs have steadfastly maintained through the pre-draft process they were comfortable with him as the face of the franchise.

"We feel comfortable who Jameis Winston is, what he's done and what we think he will do in the future as much as anything," Smith told the Tampa Bay Times in a story published Thursday. "We would not bring in a player that we didn't feel like we could handle or be a productive part of society and our football team. Our research shows that he can do that."

NFL Media analysts Daniel Jeremiah and Charles Davis were on board with the pick.

"Jameis Winston, ready to come in Game One," Jeremiah said. "You see the NFL reads, you see the NFL throws."

Presumably, the Bucs decided Winston was more NFL-ready than Oregon's Marcus Mariota, who ended up going second.

"I think this is a short-term vs. long-term argument," Davis said. "In the short term, Jameis Winston -- a little bit more ready to play right now. Long term, I think Marcus Mariota will be able to pick it up."

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Winston did throw 18 interceptions in 2014, and Jeremiah and Mayock both alluded to the interceptions. "Ball security is a concern," Mayock said.

This was the fifth time the Bucs had the first overall pick. They struck it big the first time, taking eventual Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Lee Roy Selmon in 1976. USC running back Ricky Bell was the No. 1 overall pick in '77, Auburn running back Bo Jackson the top pick in '86 and Miami quarterback Vinny Testaverde went first in '87. Jackson never played for the Bucs, Testaverde's biggest successes came elsewhere and Bell's career was cut short by illness, though he had a big season in 1979, when Tampa Bay fell in the NFC championship game.

Winston becomes the first FSU player to be selected No. 1 overall; the previous earliest selection for an FSU player was defensive end Andre Wadsworth going third, to the Arizona Cardinals, in 1998. Winston is the first ACC player to go No. 1 overall since 2006, when North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams was selected by the Houston Texans.

Winston also is the third FSU quarterback taken in the first round in the past five drafts; Christian Ponder went 12th overall, to the Minnesota Vikings, in 2011, and E.J. Manuel went 16th, to the Buffalo Bills, in 2013. Ponder now is with Oakland, where he is expected to be a backup for Derek Carr, while Manuel likely will get one more chance this fall to show he can be a starter.

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

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