Jameis Winston has been ordained for superstardom since his junior year of high school, leading his team to an Alabama state championship and capturing MVP honors at the prestigious ESPN Elite 11 camp. At every level of his career, Winston has displayed prolific ability inside the pocket, operating as a singular force that rendered defenders useless as he won a national championship and Heisman Trophy at Florida State.
Entering his third year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Winston will be afforded every opportunity to become an elite quarterback in the professional ranks. With Ryan Fitzpatrick aboard as a fallback option, it’s time for Winston to display his prodigious potential as all the hype surrounding him and previous accolades fade into the distant past.
Tampa Bay posted a cumulative 15-17 record during Winston’s first two seasons, leaving him to watch hopelessly as his NFC South counterparts advanced to the Super Bowl in consecutive years. Through 32 starts, Winston has thrown 50 touchdowns against 33 interceptions, defensible numbers for even the most lauded of first overall picks. It could be argued that blaming Winston for the Buccaneers’ struggles would be patently unfair, but as the avatar of the franchise, the 23-year-old is responsible for elevating his team to another tier. Now that the Buccaneers have surrounded him with ample weapons, the spotlight brightens on Winston, and glowing potential no longer suffices as a handy excuse for franchise mediocrity.
Mike Evans has featured as one of the NFL’s best wide receivers since entering the league a year before Winston, but the Buccaneers’ cupboard was otherwise bare. This is no longer the case. Tampa Bay signed DeSean Jackson during free agency, then acquired tight end O.J. Howard and wide receiver Chris Godwin with their first and third-round picks, respectively. Winston always possessed a brilliant football mind, acing NFL Network’s Steve Mariucci’s whiteboard test prior to the 2015 NFL Draft. Now that he boasts a complete arsenal to actualize his immense strengths, Winston should ascend to elite territory and get the Buccaneers to the playoffs; anything else is unacceptable.
If high school and college merely serve as preamble to the real world, then Winston’s pedigree dictates that he ought to excel at the professional level. The quarterback could blame the lack of postseason appearances on an adjustment to the NFL, or a dearth of talent surrounding him. Neither excuse will work for him as he enters his third season, and now Winston is tasked with unseating Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, and Drew Brees for divisional supremacy. If anyone was born for such a daunting task, it’s Winston.
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