Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who won the Heisman Trophy as a redshirt freshman last season, confirmed to The Associated Press via NBC Sports that he plans—and "plans" is the operative word—to stay in Tallahassee for two more football seasons rather than declare for the 2015 NFL draft.
Specifically, he corroborated the earlier statements of his head coach, Jimbo Fisher, who broke the story of Winston's outlook. "Whatever [Fisher] says most likely is true," said Winston of the comments, rather than outright confirming his future plans.
The news has been met, and rightfully so, with an attitude of denial. Sure, Jameis. Whatever you say. Prudent fans will take a believe-it-when-we-see-it approach, especially if Winston performs as well in 2014 as he did this most recent season.
It's one thing to make such comments before millions of dollars are shoved in your face; it's another being so close to the money that you can smell it, one signature away from cashing the check, then dropping the pen to the table.
Pros of Winston Staying
Despite his rosy outlook at the NFL level, Winston is far from a complete prospect.
He has all the physical tools of a franchise signal-caller, and he has most of the mechanical ones, too. But that doesn't mean he has all of them, and entering the league with even one or two deficiencies could lead to early struggles.
Early struggles lead to reduced confidence and stunted development.
Winston is not Tim Tebow, so it's not like he needs as much coaching as possible before heading to the league.
However, if he doesn't smooth out the jagged edges of his long, slow passing motion in 2014, he might be well-served to take at least one more year to work on them.
Nope. Said all along, like Bridgewater and Mariota more right now RT @Chris_Helf: if Winston could come out this year would he be your #1?— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 7, 2014
There's also the matter of baseball.
A second sport might seem more like a hobby than a passion to the outside eye—trivial compared to the prospect of getting rich and famous—but only Winston can decide how much the game truly means to him.
If it means a lot, as he's indicated, declaring early would mean saying goodbye, most likely forever, to something that he loves. Once he signs a professional contract, he will have violated the code of amateurism and be disallowed from continuing to play at Florida State.
And even though he's been talked about as a potential MLB prospect, it's doubtful that any NFL team, especially one that invests a high draft pick in him, will let their future face of the franchise play a sport and position that lends itself to shoulder tears, elbow injuries and broken-down arms.
"Obviously I'm a big baseball person," Winston said in the AP report. "So [Fisher's was] an accurate statement because I plan on playing baseball next season anyway."
Already a hero and legend in Tallahassee for bringing home the Coaches' Trophy, Winston could elevate himself to deity status if he spurns the NFL to chase another championship. If he wins one, that would be something he could hold on to forever.
Even if he's an NFL Hall of Famer, that doesn't guarantee a Super Bowl title. Just ask Dan Marino (and for the converse, ask Trent Dilfer).
Here, he has a great chance to continue winning championships for two more seasons. And if the Seminoles drop a game or two in 2014, maybe he'll be driven to stay an extra year for the hunt.
Lastly, of course, there's the matter of his education.
There are ways for college athletes to earn their degree even after declaring early, though it requires a non-mandatory decision to go back and take classes during the offseason. Because of his redshirt, Winston would potentially be in line to graduate in the spring of 2016, after his "junior" season the previous fall.
That is, after all, the stated purpose of his scholarship, right?
Cons of Winston Staying
Um...isn't it obvious?
The cons to Winston staying are basic and easy to understand. Unless something changes dramatically between now and the 2015 NFL draft, he will be turning down an eight-figure salary.
And that's just in contract money. Free to sign endorsements for the first time in his life, Winston would stand to make even more. You don't think Famous Amos cookies would break the bank to sign a player named "Famous Jameis?"
There's also the matter of striking while the iron is hot. Right now, Winston is viewed as a home-run NFL prospect, per Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel:
[An NFL] scout said he is not allowed to talk publicly about players who are not eligible for the draft, but he did offer me this comment under the condition of anonymity:
"Rarely, do you see a quarterback at Winston's age who has the combination of size, speed, arm strength and field awareness that he has," the scout said. "He's a bigger, stronger, faster version of (Louisville's) Teddy Bridgewater."
That's how many scouts think of Winston today. Who's to say what they'll think tomorrow?
The more game tape he produces at the college level, the more potential holes in his game Winston can expose. Even if they aren't glaring or consequential, and even if they barely exist, the new, hyper-inundated, 24/7 draft cycle ensures they will be picked apart and used against him.
For a recent example, see: Clowney, Jadeveon.
When should Winston declare for the NFL draft?
If he makes it through the 2014 season healthy and intact, Winston would be throwing caution to the wind by staying for an extra season, tempting fate in a bold, dangerous way. He'd be one knee injury in football or elbow injury in baseball away from dropping a few rounds in the draft.
That drop is precipitous in terms of pay scale—Super Bowl champion Russell Wilson, for example, made just $526,000 this year after going in Round 3—and if the injury was serious enough, who's to say he'd ever heal to the point where he could earn a bigger contract?
Guaranteed money is guaranteed money; it's a fixed, known, overwhelmingly safe entity.
Does Winston really have the stones to risk it?
Does he really have the lack of sense?
Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT