Johnny Manziel's character has been dissected over and over and over in the lead-up to the NFL draft. He got in a fight in 2012 and was arrested, and since then his biggest issues have been signing autographs for money and posting too many dumb pictures on Instagram. And there was a furor over this.
Well, just wait until next offseason, when NFL teams start to discuss Jameis Winston, who is potentially the top pick in next year's draft.
Winston replaced Donald Sterling as the hot name on Twitter on Wednesday morning, after Tomahawk Nation reported the Florida State quarterback had been cited for stealing crab legs at a Publix supermarket. The Leon County Sherrif's Office explained during a press conference that he wasn't arrested.
"Jameis Winston has not been arrested." "He's been issued the civil citation, which is an arrest diversion."— Dustin Tackett (@dtackett_) April 30, 2014
Just over $32 of food had not been paid for. When Winston got home, he told LCSO, he realized he had forgotten and didn't contact Publix.— Dustin Tackett (@dtackett_) April 30, 2014
Winston was reportedly "extremely cooperative" with police and he'll have to do 20 hours of community service.
And the jokes on social media were fast and furious.
Tomahawk Nation reported Winston was fined $30 in addition to the community service and has been suspended from the baseball team, on which he is a very good pitcher.
If this was Winston's first time getting in trouble it might be easy to shake your head and laugh it off, but as anyone who has heard of Winston knows, it's not.
The New York Times had an excellent and thorough story on a rape allegation against Winston and the "investigation" by Tallahassee Police that the Times painted as inept at best and corrupt at worst. The story is a must-read if you want to get a head start on the biggest topic for the 2015 draft. Winston was not charged because there was insufficient evidence (that announcement came with an embarrassingly lighthearted press conference by State Attorney William Meggs). Winston went on to be named the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner and lead Florida State to a national championship win over Auburn, all as a freshman. However, just because he wasn't charged doesn't mean Winston won't be answering many questions from NFL teams about what happened.
While the Publix incident on its own is nothing to be worried about, Winston has been connected with some other dumb things before this. According to the Associated Press, he was one of many FSU players questioned over a BB gun battle that broke 13 windows in an apartment complex. That AP story said Winston was also accused of using ketchup cups to steal soda at a Burger King. In the former case, the Times' story said no charges were filed after Florida State's athletic department promised the $4,000 in damages would be paid for. In the latter, the restaurant declined to prosecute, the AP report said.
Winston has the physical talent to be selected with the first pick of next year's draft (assuming he enters the draft when he's first eligible, which is 2015). Even if other talented quarterbacks like Oregon's Marcus Mariota or UCLA's Brett Hundley pass him, his ability should place him high in the first round. Before that happens, NFL teams are going to have to really look into what happened in the alleged sexual assault case, and figure out if his name popping up in much less important things like being cited for stealing crab legs is a sign of more problems to come. The starting quarterback of a NFL team represents the entire franchise. At that position, intangibles are of extreme importance to NFL teams. No matter how talented Winston is, teams are going to have a hard time picking him if they're worried about him embarrassing the franchise.
It won't erase everything that has happened already, but unless Winston wants the NFL scrutiny to get even worse he would be wise to stay out of the news for anything but football until the draft. Manziel has been able to stay relatively under the radar (try to think of something really controversial he's done since the autograph fiasco). That probably helped Manziel's draft stock. Winston needs to do the same.
The millions Winston will make in the NFL should presumably keep him from being accused of taking soda at Burger King or swiping crap legs, but is all that money going to help him make better decisions? The red flags are already firmly planted, we'll have to see how many more he adds before next offseason.
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