Given that they could be the top two picks in this year’s NFL Draft, we have to ask the question: Just how big of a gap is there between Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota?

“Well, I’m not going to say there’s a huge gap, but there’s a prototype player,” former NFL great Deion Sanders said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Jameis Winston played in a pro-style offense. Mariota didn’t. Jameis Winston played college football in the state of Florida. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the state of Florida. So there’s some consistency. I just think it’s a better fit for Tampa Bay to go with a Jameis Winston.”

But can the Buccaneers trust him? Can they trust Winston to stay on the straight and narrow and be the face of the franchise?

“I just had the opportunity to sit with him the other night and just talk to him about some of the things that’s transpired,” Sanders said. “That’s what he did; that’s not who he is. Most people that are criticizing him, I would love to see their success at the rate that he had success at the age of 19 to 21 . . . without being tainted in college as well. Jameis Winston made mistakes, and he realizes he made mistakes. But we got a forgiving society, and (we need to) let the kid move on. I think he’s atoned for his mistakes. He’s made them. It’s time for us to just let yesterday be yesterday and look forward to tomorrow.”

Mariota, meanwhile, is squeaky-clean off the field but has a few shortcomings on it. Is he more than a system quarterback? Can he play in an NFL offense? Can he line up under center and call plays in the huddle?

These are important questions.

Sanders would draft Mariota – but with a slight caveat.

“If I’m going to take him with that high of a pick, I’m going to make sure he’s in the system that’s conducive to him having success,” Snaders said. “I’m not going to make him learn my system. I’m going to learn his system. I’m going to put him on the field with what he’s comfortable with. When Peyton Manning went to Denver, what did they do? They adapted to his system. It’s just consistency. If Tom Brady goes anywhere besides the place he is right now, I’m pretty sure they’re going to make concessions to go to his system. That’s what we need to do nowadays. Instead of having these players fit our system, we need to just go to their system and find out how they’re productive and make sure they’re successful – because we’re paying them a ton of money to do such.”

It’ll be interesting to see what the Titans do tonight with the second overall pick. Do they draft Mariota or trade the pick?

Sanders knows what he would do.

“If I’m Philly, I try to get the quarterback,” he said. “If I’m Tennessee, I need the picks. I really do. I need the picks to build something. Tennessee is certainly not going to the Super Bowl. We all know that this year they’re not doing that. But to load up on picks so they could go shortly thereafter – three to five years down the street – that’s more suitable. That’s more doable. That’s what I would think about doing.”


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