Character concerns and all, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston can expect to be an early first-round pick if he decides to declare eligibility for the 2015 NFL Draft, according to former Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage.
"With Winston, you have to take the off-field considerations and deal with them," Savage said, according to the Washington Post. "You can't ignore them. But in terms of just watching him on film and watching his skill set, you can see it translating to the NFL very easily. The program at Florida State has really responded to him. You can see that. I don't know if you'd take him with the first pick. But [No.] 3 or 5 or 7 or 11, I think he will [be taken in that range]. These NFL teams are so desperate for someone at that position."
Winston is 21-0 as a starter in nearly two seasons for the Seminoles, and could be on his way to a second consecutive national championship. Although he has been less effective than he was last season, he also has led big second-half comebacks against North Carolina State and Louisville to keep the Seminoles undefeated. But his career at FSU has been mired in controversy. He was accused of a sexual assault that resulted in no criminal charges, but he does face a school code of conduct hearing stemming from the accusation. The hearing is set for the week of Nov. 17, and there have also been less serious maturity issues.
While noting that Winston's character will be an important part of his evaluation as a draft prospect, Savage, now the executive director of the Reese's Senior Bowl, also indicated that NFL clubs will have a harder time judging Winston on factors other than football when the draft is upon them next spring.
"They haven't always had great pass protection for him, but he stands in there and delivers the ball on the money," Savage said. "You don't see that too often. The resume is there on the field. It's easy in October for some unnamed GM to say, 'We wouldn't touch the guy.' But in late April, it's different."
Winston, a third-year sophomore, has two more years of NCAA eligibility, and said over the summer that he's inclined to stay at FSU until he has earned his degree.