Many eyes across the NFL are watching developments in a Florida college town.
They are watching the star of one of the most storied football programs ever. They are gathering, collating, digging. They want to be prepared. They want to be ready for the day, if that day comes, when Jameis Winston is available for the draft.
This isn't about the guilt or innocence of the Florida State quarterback. That's for another day. Accused of sexual assault, he's presumed innocent until proven guilty.
This also isn't to minimize, by discussing football, what could be a serious crime. Yet this is what we do here, talk football, and this story could have massive repercussions across college football and even more so across the NFL landscape over the next two years.
From a strictly pro football standpoint, the Winston case comes down to three things: What the NFL thinks, what the NFL wants and what the NFL is going to do.
What the NFL thinks, I'm told by several team scouts, is that Winston would be a game-changing player on the next level. My sources echoed what Mike Bianchi at the Orlando Sentinel wrote: If the draft were held today (and this case didn't exist), Winston would be the first or second player picked.
Some say he'd be the first player no question.
One scout said Winston reminds him of "a taller, stronger, faster Steve Young." That would be 49ers Hall of Famer Steve Young.
Another said Aaron Rodgers. That would be Pro Bowler Aaron Rodgers. Perhaps lofty. Perhaps ridiculous. Perhaps both at this point. Who knows.
There are scouts who thought Ryan Leaf would be a perennial great and Rodgers average. Scouts get a lot of things right and a lot wrong.
What's becoming clear is that scouts firmly believe Winston could be the type of game-changing player that Andrew Luck has become in Indianapolis.
Remember, Winston is still too young to be eligible for this year's draft. Imagine what teams would think with another season under his belt. I can't stress enough how high teams are on him. For the moment.
What the NFL wants is easy.
For selfish reasons, the league wants this whole thing to go away. Actually, the NFL wants a time machine so none of it happened in the first place. Of course, the justice system will make the decision, and I'm sure the accuser could give a damn what the NFL wants.
But strictly in terms of football, there is a feeling, not a rampant one, that all of this has already severely damaged Winston's draft stock. Again, life is more important than football, but in strictly a football sense, I hear this again and again.
What the NFL will now do is wait and watch. The league will pour over all available documents, interview whomever it can, and put Winston under a microscope. Some of that is already happening now, and it will get more intense in the future should Winston be available for the draft.
This is what the NFL does. It wants to know everything about every player.
We don't know what will happen with Winston. We just know the NFL is watching. Everything. Closely.
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