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McShay: Winston is better prospect than Mariota

TAMPA, Fla. -- Although his first mock draft had the Tampa Bay Buccaneers taking Marcus Mariota with the first overall pick, ESPN draft expert Todd McShay said Tuesday that the Oregon quarterback is not the best prospect.

“[Florida State quarterback] Jameis Winston, to me, is the better prospect,’’ McShay said in a conference call with the national media. “Marcus Mariota is still a very good prospect but needs developing. They both have a chance to be great. But they both come with red flags. Winston’s red flags are off the field.’’

Winston has had several off-field incidents, and McShay said that may scare off some teams.

“The cons about Jameis Winston are what are you getting with maturity and with the individual off the field?’’ McShay said. “Can he stay out of trouble? And can he handle himself in a manner where you feel comfortable giving him $25 million or $30 million and tagging him from Day 1 as the face of your franchise? It’s hard, man. I don’t know the answer right now.

“The hard part with what I do is I have to rely with this stuff an awful lot on friends in the league. Getting the results from the psychological tests and the background checks and all the little things they go through, there’s going to be a lot of information I end up getting, and I’ve got to kind of balance all that. I can’t sit here right now and say I would definitely take him because I need to get that information. But I can tell you, if off the field didn’t matter, and his personality there was no questions about it, I would say take Jameis Winston No. 1 and don’t look back if I were the Tampa Bay Bucs.’’

McShay said he likes everything he’s seen from Winston on the field.

“With Winston, there’s very few cons when you talk about things between the lines,’’ McShay said. “Even in game preparation, inside the facility, all those type of things, he’s a very smart individual. He picks up football concepts very quickly. He knows how to go through progression reads. He’s comfortable in the pocket, can manipulate the pocket, he feels pressure coming. He’s not the quickest quarterback. But he’s mobile enough and strong enough to extend plays with his feet. He anticipates throws as well as any quarterback in the last couple of drafts.

“There are lots of guys that can go down to a field or go to the beach and throw 100 times and hit someone in the chest 100 times. But one of the hard parts about playing that position is when pressure is coming and or when the receiver is not where he’s going to be when he gets to that spot -- can you make accurate throws? I consistently on tape see Jameis Winston with pressure in his face or when having to anticipate a throw and lead a receiver to a spot, make it accurately.’’