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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Should Jets gamble if Jameis Winston is available at No. 6?

Florida State's Jameis Winston answers a question during

Florida State's Jameis Winston answers a question during a news conference at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football kickoff in Greensboro, N.C. Credit: AP / Chuck Burton

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston's decision to enter the 2015 draft has added some big-time intrigue that ultimately could affect the long-term future of the Jets.

After Winston's brutal performance in last week's Rose Bowl, he could slip to the Jets at No. 6, giving the team's new general manager and new head coach -- whoever they might be -- a major decision with potential franchise-rattling implications.

With Winston foregoing his remaining NCAA eligibility, and with the 21-year-old quarterback coming off one of his worst performances in the Rose Bowl, there is a realistic chance that he could be available for the Jets, who still need a franchise quarterback after a combined six years of Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith.

Now the question is: Do the Jets take Winston if he's there and thus accept the high risk-reward that he represents? Or do they take a safer prospect at a different position and come back to another quarterback in a later round, or even make a run at an unrestricted free agent such as Sam Bradford or Brian Hoyer?

It will be a major issue for any quarterback-needy team at the top of the draft trying to figure out what Winston represents. Some teams may see all that talent and be willing to gamble on a player with plenty of off-the-field issues -- and now some legitimate on-field weaknesses that were displayed in the Rose Bowl.

In a 59-20 loss to Oregon, the former Heisman Trophy winner threw only one touchdown pass and had a lost fumble that was every bit as wretched as Sanchez's infamous butt fumble on Thanksgiving night in 2012.

Throw in the red flags that are sure to come up as a result of Winston's off-the-field indiscretions, and this shapes up as one of the most complicated yet compelling decisions in the 2015 draft. It is a decision the Jets will have to come to terms with long before the first round commences on April 30.

The talent certainly is there with Winston, who has prototype size at 6-4, 230 pounds, terrific arm strength and adequate mobility within the pocket. You don't win a Heisman without immense skill, and Winston has it.

When he won the most meaningful individual award in college football in 2013, he had as few flaws as you could want from any quarterback. By season's end, he had a whopping 40 touchdown passes and only 10 interceptions.

But something curious happened to Winston in 2014, which turned out to be his final season at Florida State. He regressed. Significantly.

Winston threw only 25 touchdown passes in 13 regular-season games. His interceptions total increased to 18. He lost only one game as a starter in college, and that shouldn't be underestimated. But the list of great college quarterbacks -- even Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks -- who failed to translate at the NFL level is long, painfully long:

Andre Ware, Ty Detmer, Gino Torretta, Charlie Ward, DannyWuerffel, Chris Weinke, Eric Crouch, Jason White, Matt Leinart, Troy Smith and Tim Tebow. Not one of them was any good in the NFL, and Ward wasn't even drafted. And we'll see what happens with Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel, but things don't look promising.

Will Winston join that less-than-illustrious group when his NFL career begins in a little more than three months? Or will he turn into Cam Newton or Carson Palmer, two of the rare Heisman-winning quarterbacks who have performed well in the NFL?

The off-field issues complicate the Winston equation even further.

Winston had a tumultuous time at Florida State, where he was accused of raping a fellow student in December 2012. He was never charged, and a Florida State internal student code of conduct hearing last fall determined that there was not enough evidence to find him guilty. The accuser's lawyers filed a civil lawsuit against Florida State on Wednesday, alleging that the school did not protect her Title IX rights.

Winston served a one-game suspension in 2014 for yelling a vulgar phrase in an on-campus dining hall. He also was cited for stealing crab legs from a Tallahassee supermarket last April.

If the Jets are sitting there at No. 6 and Winston still is on the board, there will be a major temptation to see Winston as the answer to their problems at quarterback. But as we've seen too often in the past with teams in need of a quarterback, there is a risk of reaching too high.

Among the teams to have found that out in recent years: Jacksonville with Blaine Gabbert, Minnesota with Christian Ponder, Denver with Tebow, Buffalo with EJ Manuel and perhaps Washington with Griffin.

The lesson here: You can't wish away significant flaws with a quarterback just because you need one and take him with a first-round pick.

In many cases, it's better to take the more promising prospect -- say, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper -- even if he doesn't play the position you need most.

Winston will be another litmus test for that theory, one the Jets might face. Whatever they do, they'll need to keep these two words in mind when considering the Florida State quarterback:

Buyer beware.

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