Analysts: NFL perceptions of Jameis Winston starting to change

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is the near unanimous pick as the top player at his position and almost universally regarded as the selection for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the No. 1 overall pick.

Each time the quarterback's name is brought up, though, there's the inevitable discussion over whether his off-the-field issues are a big enough red flag to scare teams away. That line of thinking might be changing inside draft war rooms, however, according to several NFL Media analysts.

On Wednesday's "Path to the Draft," analyst Brian Baldinger said several NFL players who played with Winston at Florida State called Winston a natural leader who showed those traits even when EJ Manuel was FSU's starting quarterback and Winston was redshirting as a freshman.

Said Baldinger: "I think the perception is changing (as teams) get involved and interrogating the whole process."

Winston's off-the-field issues primarily center around three episodes that either reflect his immaturity or a troubling pattern, depending on whom you ask. Winston was accused of sexual assault during his freshman year but was never charged in the incident and was cleared by the university in an FSU Code of Conduct Hearing. Winston was also cited for carrying crab legs out of a supermarket without paying for them and was suspended for a game after yelling an expletive in public.

Fellow NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah devoted an entire podcast to the subject of Winston in the NFL, and after talking to several people, he came away thinking that Winston's off-the-field issues were not as big a deal to some teams as he'd thought.

"Teams have spent a lot of money to dig into this," Jeremiah said. "They've done their homework, and it's cut and dry -- either he's on the board or off it. I've yet to have anybody tell me that he's off their board."

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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