Whether Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston declares for the NFL draft in about seven months remains to be seen. But the Heisman Trophy winner has shown he's at least thinking about the future.
According to Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports, Winston purchased a "large disability and 'loss of value' policy that provides him with $8 million to $10 million in insurance coverage." The amount of the policy is based on a projection that Winston will be a top-10 draft pick in 2015.
Getlin goes on to report that Winston's policy provides protection if he falls out of the first round due to injury or illness. Based on history, a policy as large as the one Winston reportedly purchased likely means he's headed to the NFL sooner rather than later:
Industry experts say underclassmen who purchase insurance policies as large as Winston's almost always enter the NFL draft following the season for which they purchased coverage. That reality is largely due to the hefty premiums players have to pay out of pocket (often with the help of their families) to protect themselves. Policies the size of Winston's can carry a $55,000 to $60,000 premium payment per year, which industry sources say most players have to obtain by financing.
So, if nothing else, history suggests Winston is gone after this season.
Bud Elliott of TomahawkNation.com, who is as plugged in as anybody when it comes to Florida State, lists several other reasons why Winston is likely to depart for the NFL after the 2014 season. The simplest reason is the money. Elliott calculates that if Winston were to stay one more year in college, he could lose $15 million during his first five years in the league.
Will Jameis Winston Declare for the NFL Draft after this season?
For what it's worth, Winston's father told Jeff Sentell of al.com in June that he wants his son to play two more years of football for the Seminoles. Winston's father certainly wouldn't be the first parent to want his son to get his degree. Winston also wouldn't be the first player to go against those wishes if he decides to declare.
Winston has been on mock draft radars for a while. Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com and Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated have Winston going No. 7 to Tampa Bay. Of course, it's July and mock drafts at this point are little more than fun conversation starters. Still, it provides an idea of where experts believe Winston grades out.
Winston's biggest question mark isn't his tangibles or his locker room leadership. It's his off-the-field headlines. From an alleged rape incident in December 2012—it deserves to be noted again that Winston was not charged—to being cited for shoplifting crab legs from a Publix, Winston hasn't been able to keep a low profile.
As Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman reported in April, multiple NFL scouts have started to drop Winston on their big board:
This from an NFL scout: "When I heard about this, I was stunned. He was the top overall pick next year. Was. Not anymore. This latest thing shows a continuation of bad judgment. I don't trust him, and I can tell you very few teams in the NFL will trust him."
This from a front-office executive: "He's on his way to falling out of the first round."
If Winston were to hypothetically fall out of the first round because off-the-field issues, his insurance policy wouldn't cover the financial hit he'd take.
But if Winston can improve on what was a stellar redshirt freshman year (4,057 passing yards, 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions) while keeping his nose clean, character concerns could diminish rather quickly. Winston would almost certainly be a first-round selection, if not a top-10 or top overall selection, and the insurance policy wouldn't be needed.
Purchasing the policy, though, shows that Winston is protecting the one thing he can't entirely control: his health. And when players aren't getting paid to play football, protection from every possible roadblock is necessary.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All stats courtesy of ESPN.com.