(SportsNetwork.com) - Don't buy the hype when it comes to Marcus Mariota surpassing James Winston in the Bucs' eyes. This isn't "House of Cards" with ruthless politician Frank Underwood using naive journalist Zoe Barnes to advance his vision.
If you think about the people who have been knocking Winston lately and selling the narrative that Tampa Bay has had a change of heart, names like Greg Cosell, Mike Mayock and Ron Jaworski, something binds them. All of those draft analysts are Philadelphia-based and remember Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht spent three years in the City of Brotherly Love in the Eagles' scouting department.
Licht is engaging in subterfuge and hardly doing it with the subtlety of a Kevin Spacey character. Here's what you need to know: Lovie Smith wants Jameis Winston and if the former Heisman winner ends up anywhere other than Central Florida, you know Smith is all but done in Tampa.
"I don't envy Jason (Licht) and Lovie," Mayock said. "There's a consensus top two at the quarterback position, but there's contrasting issues with both of them."
Winston is assessed as NFL-ready and similar to Teddy Bridgewater in 2014, but he possesses better size and physical skills than the Minnesota Vikings' current starter. He does not have Bridgewater's maturity, though, and that is a real issue for certain organizations, especially after the disaster that was Johnny Manziel's rookie season in Cleveland.
"Obviously with Jameis Winston, my concern on the field is that is I think he throws too many interceptions," Mayock said. "However, I can see everything I want on the field, on tape, beyond that. He's a pocket aware guy. He throws with anticipation and timing, which is unusual in today's college football world.
"I think the bigger concern is whether or not this guy can be the face of your franchise. Let's face it, he was the face of the Florida State franchise and that didn't stop him from making a bunch of bad decisions off the field."
So how does all of that compare with Mariota?
"You don't have any worries off the field (with Mariota), and all the individual components are there," Mayock said when discussing Mariota. "He's athletic. He's got a big arm. He's 6-foot-4, 215 pounds. He's got great feet. He's going to run 4.5. All the individual components are available. However, can he put them together in a pro style offense where he has to throw with anticipation, has to go through progressions?"
Smith has already hinted at his take.
"To me, I think (Winston has) told us an awful lot with how he's handled (all the controversy)," the veteran coach said. "It's not like he's getting ready to go into the NFL and scrutiny is coming his way. He's gone through it a couple years now and he's answered the bell. That's what you have to do. You have to have tunnel vision and do your job. Looking from the outside, that's what he's been able to do."
2014 Record: 2-14
Top Needs: QB, OL, DL. LB
First Three Picks: No. 1, No. 34, No. 65
Number of Selections: 8 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 6, 7)
RECENT FIRST ROUND HISTORY: 2014 - Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M); 2013 - none; 2012 - Mark Barron (S, Alabama); 2012 - Doug Martin (RB, Boise State); 2011 - Adrian Clayborn (DE, Iowa); 2010 - Gerald McCoy (DT, Oklahoma); 2009 - Josh Freeman (QB, Kansas State); 2008 - Aqib Talib (DB, Kansas); 2007 - Gaines Adams (DE, Clemson); 2006 - Davin Joseph (G, Oklahoma); 2005 - Cadillac Williams (RB, Auburn)