Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston will forego another season at the university and enter the 2015 NFL Draft, his father Antonor Winston confirmed Wednesday to ESPN. Winston reportedly came to the decision on Tuesday night, less than a week after he suffered the first loss of his collegiate career against the University of Oregon in the Rose Bowl.
Winston, 21, wasn't expected to make his decision until after the College Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 12, but Florida State was eliminated from contention last week after a 59-20 loss to Oregon. The FSU Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback has yet to formally announce his intentions for next season. He has until Jan. 15 to declare for the draft.
His father's comments appeared to conflict with a report by Yahoo Sports’ Rand Getlin Tuesday that sources close to the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner said he was “seriously considering” a return to Florida State for his junior season. The sources said Winston had yet to make a formal decision, but that he had already begun preparations to continue his collegiate career. Winston indicated on several previous occasions that he planned to play for the Seminoles next season, USA Today noted.
Winston and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota -- the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner -- are universally considered the 2015 NFL Draft’s top two quarterback prospects. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper lists Winston as the sixth-best overall player in the draft, while fellow analyst Todd McShay projects that he will be the second player taken in the draft. “On the field, between the lines, Jameis Winston is the best QB, and I believe the best player, in the 2015 NFL Draft,” McShay said.
He enjoyed a storied on-field career with the Seminoles. Over the past two seasons, Winston ranks in the top-five among college football quarterbacks in touchdown passes and passing yards. He led the school to victory in the 2014 BCS National Championship game and went 26-1 as a starter.
But a series of off-field incidents led to questions about Winston’s draft stock and briefly jeopardized his college football career. Winston was accused of sexually assaulting a college classmate in 2012, but separate subsequent investigations by Tallahassee prosecutors and Florida State school officials didn't lead to formal charges or discipline. Winston was cited in May for shoplifting crab legs from a local supermarket and suspended for a game during the 2014 season after he used improper language during an incident in a school cafeteria.
The NFL Draft advisory committee projected Winston would be a first-round pick in 2015, his father said. Andrew Brandt, a former NFL player agent and vice president of the Green Bay Packers from 1999-2008, addressed in October the challenges Winston will face as he enters the NFL.
“[NFL] scouts do not study underclassmen until/unless they declare,” Brandt said in an email. “Once he does, they will study everything and [Winston] will be quizzed and interrogated at all the scouting events, as [Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel] was this year. I am sure he will be well coached in what to say and how to handle past incidents.”