Jameis Winston Wins 2015 Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year Award

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2016

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) throw a pass in warm-ups before an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015, in Tampa, Fla.  (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)
Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston was named the 2015 Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year on Saturday after accounting for more than 4,200 yards of offense and 28 touchdowns.

Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times and NFL Canada confirmed Winston's triumph following a fan vote. He edged out fellow finalists Amari Cooper (Oakland Raiders), Todd Gurley (St. Louis Rams), Tyler Lockett (Seattle Seahawks) and Marcus Peters (Kansas City Chiefs) for the honor.

Jenna Laine of Sports Talk 1040 in Tampa Bay provided a statement from the winner:

JennaLaineESPN @JennaLaineESPN

Bucs QB Jameis Winston has been named Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year. Here's a statement from Winston: https://t.co/wsHTmtX59c

Winston arrived in Tampa with incredibly high expectations after beating out Marcus Mariota to become the first overall pick of the 2015 draft. He did nothing during his rookie season to lessen the long-term outlook and is well on his way to establishing himself as the Bucs' franchise QB.

The 22-year-old Florida State product threw for 4,042 yards and 22 touchdowns with 15 interceptions en route to an 84.2 passer rating. He also added 213 yards and six touchdowns on the ground while appearing in all 16 of the team's games.

Even though Winston led Tampa Bay to a fifth-place finish in yards per game (375.9), the Bucs only managed to win six games. That left them in the basement of the NFC South and four games out of a playoff spot.

It's from that perspective Winston entered the offseason looking for more. Rick Brown of ESPN passed along the quarterback's thoughts on starting to build a contender:

I know everyone on this team wants to win. It's just the way that you do it. It's about preparation and having that mindset of I want to win at all costs. That has to be developed and that has to be molded.

It starts with actions. We have to have a good offseason. ... If we are really serious about winning here [and] if we're serious about changing the culture, we will dedicate ourselves in the offseason so we can be successful.

That is the type of comment you want to hear from a budding leader. Despite his individual success, he sets the tone that winning games is the only thing that matters moving forward.

Still, his immediate impact as a first-year player warrants attention, especially when you factor in the amount of pressure that comes with being the top pick. Along with this award, he also earned a spot on Mel Kiper Jr.'s All-Rookie Team, according to ESPN:

ESPN @espn

.@MelKiperESPN's All-Rookie Team QB: Jameis Winston RB: Todd Gurley CB: Ronald Darby More: https://t.co/lyPx1QkyK5 https://t.co/JHo4rYzzCe

Winston must continue to improve, both in terms of becoming more consistent with his accuracy and in limiting his mistakes, but he's off to a promising start. If the Bucs make some defensive upgrades in the form of playmakers to surround linebacker Lavonte David, they will finally get back into the playoff mix.

All told, the quarterback void is usually the most difficult one to fill. Tampa Bay learned that firsthand in the years before drafting Winston. Now he's seemingly on his way to providing stability at the most important position, everything else should begin falling into place.


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