They poke. They prod. They investigate. They interview. If you cheated on a fourth-grade spelling bee, NFL executives supposedly will find out.
And yet somehow, Jameis Winston is the overwhelming favorite – 1-to-15 odds (!) on Bovada – to be the No. 1 pick Thursday in the NFL draft. That’s a scenario I find hilarious.
Winston is Johnny Manziel, one year later. He’s a guy who has gotten this far because of a strong arm, some small-town charm, a win-at-all-costs mindset at Florida State and see-no-evil mentality in Tallahassee.
The guy threw more interceptions last season (18) than Marcus Mariota, Bryce Petty and Brett Hundley combined, and yet scouting reports praise his ability to read coverages. O-kay.
Winston knows when to drop “sir” into conversations to give the air of being respectful. But even that act has its limits.
Did you watch ESPN’s “2015 Draft Academy ” show? During one scene that seemed more “Saturday Night Live” than real life, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and Wolverines quarterback coach Jedd Fisch work to prepare Winston for interviews with NFL teams.
As Winston strokes his goatee, Harbaugh tells him the basic goal of coaches and execs is to find out: “Is he an a-hole or not?”
Winston responds with a rambling answer about why he loves football: “You can be soft and play basketball. You can be soft and play baseball.”
When asked if he has been disciplined, Winston says once in high school: “Yessir, for one game for laughing at my coach (after) he cried. He felt I disrespected him.”
“I got disciplined for a game against Clemson for standing up on a table and saying something … wrong,” Winston says, grinning.
Yes, after you’ve been accused of raping a fellow student – the state attorney declined to bring charges against him – you might not want to climb onto a table at the student union and shout something vulgar about a sexual act.
Any encounters with the police, Harbaugh asks.
Winston mentions his detainment by police after a 2012 BB-gun fight that damaged an apartment complex. And that’s it.
Here’s where it got weird.
Fisch: “I know there’s a story, with the stone crabs or snow crabs … you left it out when Coach asked if you had any issues. I wouldn’t leave it out.”
Winston: “Oh, man, yeah.”
Harbaugh: “Stone crabs?”
Fisch: “Everybody will want to know what happened … if you don’t, then it looks like you’re covering up.”
Winston: “How am I supposed to handle it if, like, I just got ’em for free?
Harbaugh: “Explain that to me.”
Yeah, Jameis, explain to us what happened at the Publix. At the time you claimed you simply forgot to pay for the seafood, calling it “a moment of youthful ignorance.”
So you’re either lying now or, more likely, were lying then to stave off an NCAA violation and eligibility questions at Florida State.
Winston: “A week before my buddy’s birthday, we got a cake and we met a dude at Publix and he said: ‘Hey, any time you come in here, I got you.’ So we just walked out and he hooked us up. So when I came to get crab legs, I did the same thing … walked out.”
Harbaugh: “Is that what happened?”
Yes, Coach. The guy trying to show NFL teams he can be a franchise quarterback – think Tom Brady, Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson – thought that as long as a “dude” told him he could leave the store with $32 in crab legs, it was all good.
And this guy is poised to be the first pick in the draft, unless team owners listen to the likes of NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, who said Winston’s “red flags” would be enough to push him to take Mariota with the top pick.
“When you get a repeated pattern of bad decisions,” Mayock said, “you might be on your best behavior leading up to the draft … But once you get comfortable in the NFL and you get paid, typically that kid goes back to being who he always was.”
Who is Jameis Winston? One foolish organization is about to find out.