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.
|Player||Year||School||Att||TD||Int||TD/INT||N+1 TD||N+1 INT||N+1 TD/INT||Change|
|Kellen Moore||2009||Boise State||431||39||3||13.0||35||6||5.83||-7.17|
|Omar Jacobs||2004||Bowling Green State||462||41||4||10.3||26||7||3.71||-6.54|
|Stephen McGee||2006||Texas A&M||313||12||2||6.00||12||8||1.50||-4.50|
|Diondre Borel||2009||Utah State||366||17||4||4.25||8||13||0.62||-3.63|
|Matt Barkley||2011||Southern California||446||39||7||5.57||36||15||2.40||-3.17|
|Jameis Winston||2013||Florida State||384||40||10||4.00||25||18||1.39||-2.61|
|Ken Dorsey||2000||Miami (FL)||322||25||5||5.00||23||9||2.56||-2.44|
|Trevor Vittatoe||2008||Texas-El Paso||418||33||9||3.67||17||13||1.31||-2.36|
|Chase Holbrook||2006||New Mexico State||567||34||9||3.78||26||18||1.44||-2.33|
|George Godsey||2000||Georgia Tech||349||23||6||3.83||18||11||1.64||-2.20|
|Matt Leinart||2004||Southern California||412||33||6||5.50||28||8||3.50||-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 Palmer||Southern California||2003||1||72||49||1.47||3|
|Michael Vick||Virginia Tech||2001||1||21||11||1.91||6|
|Matt Ryan||Boston College||2008||3||56||37||1.51||4|
|Ryan Tannehill||Texas A&M||2012||8||42||21||2.00||1|
|Daunte Culpepper||Central Florida||1999||11||72||32||2.25||4|
|Christian Ponder||Florida State||2011||12||49||30||1.63||0|
|E.J. Manuel||Florida State||2013||16||47||28||1.68||0|
|Josh Freeman||Kansas State||2009||17||44||34||1.29||1|
|Drew Stanton||Michigan State||2007||43||42||28||1.50||0|
|Jimmy Clausen||Notre Dame||2010||48||60||27||2.22||0|
|Brock Osweiler||Arizona State||2012||57||33||15||2.20||0|
|Jimmy Garoppolo||Eastern Illinois||2014||62||118||51||2.31||0|
|Mike Glennon||North Carolina State||2013||73||63||31||2.03||0|
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.