First, we thought Tampa Bay could take either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota with the first overall pick. It seemed like a coin flip. Then we thought Winston was the no-brainer choice, and things got quiet. Now all of a sudden, there are whispers that Mariota could be in the lead.
What are we supposed to make of all this back and forth?
Not a whole lot, apparently.
“You guys have followed this stuff forever,” NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “We’re not talking newbies here. Tell me if I’m wrong because I respect you guys a great deal. Every year when we do this draft stuff, for one, it always seem like it’s longer every year – the run-up to the draft. But there’s an ebb and a flow to all of this, and it starts out with, ‘These guys are the best guys in the draft,’ and we follow that storyline for awhile. Then, because they’re the best in the draft and we got to change up what we’re talking about because everybody’s bored, we got to nitpick on the best players in the draft. We take off and find ways to put holes in those guys. And then about a month or two weeks before the draft, we kind of come full circle again, (and the guys who we originally thought were the best in the draft are still the best in the draft).
“When we talk about the quarterbacks,” Davis continued, “now we’re going through that thing of, ‘Well, Tampa seems to have been locked in on Winston forever,’ but you know something? They have not said that they’re taking him. So Mariota might very well be that guy again. Well, they’re doing due diligence like all teams. With Jameis’ off-field issues, they’re going to make him run the race to the finish line. They’re not going to sign him the week before the draft and then next thing you know the story breaks and you guys are talking about what he did at the club the night before the draft and Tampa’s got egg on their face. They’re going to make him be clean all the way through. But ultimately, I think they’re going to . . . say, ‘Yup, he’s our guy. We’re going to go with him.’ The only way Winston doesn’t get taken No. 1, in my opinion, is if he has a hiccup or a bobble off the field prior to the draft.”
Just because Winston will likely be the first player off the board, however, doesn’t mean the Buccaneers will necessarily be the ones drafting him.
“We keep talking about teams putting together a package to come up and get Mariota, (but) no one ever talks about a package to come and get Winston,” Davis said. “Is that really totally off the wall and out of line? That Tampa wouldn’t listen if you wanted to put together a monster package to come get him? We’ve never even really discussed it. It’s like it’s not even a possibility. And I’m sitting there saying, ‘Why wouldn’t it be a possibility? If we’re talking about him being the best quarterback in the draft, why wouldn’t someone (move up) if they really wanted him?’ Well, it seems unlikely. We’ll just have to see how it plays out.
“But I just have this feeling like somebody’s going to want him,” Davis continued. “Heck, the Jets are at 6. They may say, ‘Hey, can we just put a little mini-package together and come up and get one of those guys?’ I don’t know. I’ll have to see how it all plays out, just like we all will. But it is fun fodder, isn’t it? Because there’s just no absolute place where you say, ‘That team’s coming up to get him.’ So we’ll see.”
We’ll also see where Todd Gurley gets drafted. Davis believes the Georgia all-purpose back will go in the top 10, possibly to the Atlanta Falcons at No. 8. His reasoning? Atlanta, which is not good at getting after the quarterback, will likely miss out on an elite pass rusher. Therefore, the Falcons might take a page from the Cowboys and try to win games by playing keep away. If so, taking a stud running back might be the way to go.
“Believe me, Atlanta fans have asked me (about my mock draft) and questioned my sanity in a big way since they saw that one because they really want an edge pass rusher,” Davis said. “But Todd Gurley, to me, is the best running back in this draft. If he did not have a knee injury, we’re talking about a lock top-10 guy – even though it’s a running back – and you just turn him loose. The kid’s an absolute beast. I think he’s one of the best football players in the draft. I don’t care (what position) he is.”