When Jameis Winston's private quarterback coach, George Whitfield, revealed at the Florida State pro day this week that his top pupil was shadowed on his flight to the NFL Scouting Combine by one or more clubs who wanted to observe him without alerting him to their attention, it was easy to wonder if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the detectives on the case.
After all, the Bucs have made no secret of the fact that Winston is a strong option for them with the draft's No. 1 overall pick.
And while there is still no word on exactly which club had a gumshoe following the presumptive top pick, it was learned Thursday that the Buccaneers at least have a history of it. Former Bucs general manager Mark Dominik described how troubled wide receiver Justin Blackmon fell off the team's draft board in 2012.
"We found out there was a bar called the Cricket Inn, or the Cricket, which was a popular bar there at Oklahoma State," Dominik said on ESPN Radio's "The Herd" Thursday. "And so [the scout] would sit there for a week. He sat there for one week, went in every day at 3 o'clock every day and stayed till 11 o'clock at night. That was his job. And we checked: How many times did Justin Blackmon come in? And he came in too many times. And we took him off our board."
No doubt, the Jacksonville Jaguars, who chose Blackmon with the No. 5 overall pick in 2012, have been set back as a franchise by the multiple suspensions that have derailed Blackmon's career.
Whitfield made the Winston tail sound extreme.
Dominik made the Blackmon tail sound prudent.
It's easy to criticize the lengths to which NFL clubs delve into the backgrounds of draft prospects; it's not the critics' money being spent on the prospects, and the critics' jobs aren't at stake.