Jameis Winston: Is It a Mistake to Overlook His Mistakes?

Jameis Winston


With Jameis Winston announcing that he will be entering the NFL draft, I wanted to take a look back on his polarizing career at Florida State. I’m strictly looking at on-field performance when I use the word polarizing; many will delve into his off field transgressions thoroughly (you can read more on Winston as a prospect by Matthew Freedman here). Polarizing is the apt word here, because Winston had two seasons that were completely night and day from each other.

In 2013, at just age 19, he won the Heisman Trophy, completing 67 percent of his passes for over 4,000 yards and a ridiculous 40 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions. This past season, he dropped across the board in nearly every efficiency area, but the one part of the puzzle we’re going to focus on here in how his touchdown to interception rate (25/18) plummeted this past season. More importantly, how much of an issue is such a sharp change in TD/INT ratio when looking at next level production?

I went over to the fantastic Sports Reference for College Football and  took every passing season from 2000 onward with a minimum of 300 passing attempts and pulled out the biggest fall offs in TD/INT ratio. To start off, I had 999 individual seasons in the filter, so we aren’t skimping on sample size here. From there, there were just 28 individual seasons from that group that had a quarterback post a -2.00 or greater change in his TD/INT rate in a follow up season with at least 300 passes. Here’s the list of those signal callers with their next season touchdown to turnover rate.

PlayerYearSchoolAttTDIntTD/INTN+1 TDN+1 INTN+1 TD/INTChange
Kellen Moore2009Boise State43139313.03565.83-7.17
Omar Jacobs2004Bowling Green State46241410.32673.71-6.54
A.J. McCarron2012Alabama31430310.02673.71-6.29
Bryce Petty2013Baylor37932310.72974.14-5.86
Stephen McGee2006Texas A&M3131226.001281.50-4.50
Diondre Borel2009Utah State3661744.258130.62-3.63
Cullen Harper2007Clemson4332764.5013140.93-3.57
Matt Barkley2011Southern California4463975.5736152.40-3.17
Colt McCoy2006Texas3182974.1422181.22-2.92
Tyler Tettleton2012Ohio3671844.5016101.60-2.90
Jared Lorenzen2002Kentucky3272454.801682.00-2.80
James Vandenberg2011Iowa4042573.57780.88-2.70
Jameis Winston2013Florida State38440104.0025181.39-2.61
Colt Brennan2006Hawaii55958124.8338172.24-2.60
Ken Dorsey2000Miami (FL)3222555.002392.56-2.44
Levi Brown2008Troy3261535.002392.56-2.44
Byron Leftwich2001Marshall4703875.4330103.00-2.43
Tyler Wilson2011Arkansas4382464.0021131.62-2.38
Trevor Vittatoe2008Texas-El Paso4183393.6717131.31-2.36
Kevin Kolb2003Houston3602564.171161.83-2.33
Chase Holbrook2006New Mexico State5673493.7826181.44-2.33
Todd Reesing2007Kansas4463374.7132132.46-2.25
Matt Schaub2002Virginia4182874.0018101.80-2.20
George Godsey2000Georgia Tech3492363.8318111.64-2.20
Eli Manning2001Mississippi4083193.4421151.40-2.04
Cody Fajardo2013Nevada3361133.6718111.64-2.03
Colt McCoy2008Texas4333484.2527122.25-2.00
Matt Leinart2004Southern California4123365.502883.50-2.00

Winston comes in with the 13th worst change in turnover rate, and in terms of raw interceptions he’s tied for the most in a follow-up campaign (you’ll also notice 2015 draft hopefuls Bryce Petty and Cody Fajardo on this list). As far as the company he’s keeping here, there’s little to be excited about. If you’re asking what could’ve been had Winston returned to Florida State for 2015, improved on this aspect then entered the draft in 2016, you’ll notice two different stints from Colt McCoy on this list as he went up and down throughout college, and the best pros from this group are Eli Manning, Byron Leftwich and Matt Schaub, all players who carried their turnover tendencies to the NFL.

Since many of the names on the first set of filtering were nowhere near Winston’s level as a prospect, let’s get a list of all the quarterbacks selected in the first three rounds of the NFL draft since 1999 that had career TD/INT rates on par or worse than the 2.32 mark Winston had.

Carson PalmerSouthern California2003172491.473
Matthew StaffordGeorgia2009151331.553
Michael VickVirginia Tech2001121111.916
Tim CouchKentucky1999174352.110
Eli ManningMississippi2004181352.315
Matt RyanBoston College2008356371.514
Vince YoungTexas2006344281.571
Jake LockerWashington2011853351.510
Ryan TannehillTexas A&M2012842212.001
Blaine GabbertMissouri20111040182.220
Jay CutlerVanderbilt20061159361.642
Daunte CulpepperCentral Florida19991172322.254
Christian PonderFlorida State20111249301.630
Cade McNownUCLA19991268411.660
E.J. ManuelFlorida State20131647281.680
Josh FreemanKansas State20091744341.291
Kyle BollerCalifornia20031964481.330
Rex GrossmanFlorida20032277362.140
J.P. LosmanTulane20042260272.220
Jason CampbellAuburn20052545241.880
Patrick RamseyTulane20023272511.410
Drew BreesPurdue20013290452.0011
John BeckBYU20074079342.320
Drew StantonMichigan State20074342281.500
Jimmy ClausenNotre Dame20104860272.220
Shaun KingTulane19995072342.121
Quincy CarterGeorgia20015335251.400
Brock OsweilerArizona State20125733152.200
Marques TuiasosopoWashington20015931281.110
Jimmy GaroppoloEastern Illinois201462118512.310
Charlie FryeAkron20056764322.000
Mike GlennonNorth Carolina State20137363312.030
Chris RedmanLouisville20007584511.650
Brock HuardWashington19997751341.500
Charlie WhitehurstClemson20068149461.070
Brodie CroyleAlabama20068541221.860
Nick FolesArizona20128867332.031
Matt SchaubVirginia20049056262.152
Trent EdwardsStanford20079236331.090
Chris SimmsTexas20039758311.870

Now we have a better list to sort through and although the overall viewpoint isn’t entirely grand overall, there are at least serviceable (and volatile) quarterbacks in this group. The best players on the list are Drew Brees, who accounts for nearly 25 percent of the quality fantasy seasons in this cohort, and we can include Matt Ryan based on fantasy production, but the other quarterbacks that you’d qualify as “working out” all had or still have turnover issues in the NFL.

Would the team that selects Winston this spring be disappointed if his ceiling is more near that of Carson Palmer, Eli, Matt Stafford or Jay Cutler? I really don’t think so, despite public opinion on those players. But in fantasy football, that group has accounted for just 13 top 12 scoring seasons over a combined 37 season window.

There are many more slices to the pie in terms of evaluating quarterbacks and we’ll have plenty more on Winston himself going forward, but there’s a pretty clear indication that turnovers are an issue for him and that he’s likely to struggle in that area at the next level. Is that damning to his overall outlook? I don’t think so. But it’s enough shade to make me think twice about investing early second round capital in dynasty.