The 2015 NFL Draft has come and gone, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have gone and shocked the world. It’s breaking news! Lovie Smith drafted a defensive player! Tampa’s defensive drought is over! Too much? Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating. The draft choices for the Buccaneers weren’t shocking, but they clearly followed their plan. There were arguably better players on the board in some situations, but the Lovie-Licht Connection seem to have snagged exactly who they wanted. If you have trust in the staff leading a team, that’s what you want. Let’s take a look at who we could be seeing in pewter and red on September 13th against the Titans.
Round One: 1st Overall Pick
Jameis Winston, Quarterback, Florida State
Honestly, most things have already been said about Jameis Winston. There’s little about his past that isn’t prevalent in the minds of most Tampa Bay fans, but it’s the absolute faith that Lovie Smith and Jason Licht have shown in him that stands out the most. The media, as they do, blasted Winston for posting a photo of himself with crab legs on Instagram soon after being drafted. While most left it out, it’s important to note the food had been donated by a Captain from the television show Deadliest Catch. Winston was thanking the man while poking a little fun. The overreactions of those reports means little, but the opinion of the men running the Tampa Bay Buccaneers means much.
When asked about the incident, Jason Licht said, “The guy loves his crab legs. I love beer and wings. There’s a place here in town called the Press Box. If they sent me a dozen wings I’d probably post it on my Facebook account.” Coach Lovie Smith also dispelled a crack at the idea of bringing in a veteran to mentor Jameis Winston. “We wouldn’t bring anybody in who needs to be babysat,” Smith said. Winston’s skill on the field isn’t disputed, and clearly the men making the decisions have faith in his position with this team. With that in mind, sit back and strap in. Famous Jameis is here to stay, and it’s going to be a wild ride.
Round Two: 34th Overall Pick
Donovan Smith, Offensive Tackle, Penn State
To put it mildly, drafting a quarterback number one overall is a massive investment. Drafting manly men to hold the line and protect him is insurance, and Donovan Smith is a 6’ 6’’ tall 338 pound manly man of protection. Most arguments against the selection of Smith focus on the players who were still on the board, but the Buccaneers knew they were going to be addressing the offensive line in the draft. This behemoth had to have been the man they wanted, and he’ll likely be the man at left tackle based on Lovie Smith’s comments following the choice.
Round Two: 61st Overall Pick
Ali Marpet, Offensive Lineman, Hobart
Marpet will probably end up finding a home at right guard should he play to the level that’s being expected. It won’t take much to improve from the position’s play last season, but there are a lot of questions about Marpet having come from a smaller school and the level of competition he’s had to face. Marpet made enough of an impression against other top notch talents at the Senior Bowl, and he didn’t look out of place according to Jason Licht. Licht’s most firm comment about Marpet and Smith was that they, “didn’t want to reach for these guys. They were on [their] board exactly where [they] took them.” They moved up for Marpet, so it looks like they got precisely who they wanted.
Round Four: 124th Overall Pick
Kwon Alexander, Linebacker, LSU
Here it is! Lovie Smith drafted a…linebacker? The impending need to upgrade the pass rush made many people ponder the reasoning behind this pick, but the choice to move up made it clear this was a player the Buccaneers wanted. While there are other needs within the defense, the people they wanted at those needs weren’t there at this point in the draft. Alexander, a former track star and playmaker at LB for the LSU Tigers, will add good depth and have an opportunity to fit into a rotational role and make plays in the moments he can earn.
Round Five: 162nd Overall Pick
Kenny Bell, Wide Receiver, Nebraska
The Bucs already have Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson holding down the fort at wideout, but there is room for another man on that list. Bell adds depth to a position that isn’t deep enough to be comfortable with, and he’ll have the opportunity to earn a role. While his speed makes him more suited for the outside, Bell could work into being a staple as a slot receiver with a scary second gear. Bell has good experience on special teams, and if he works hard he’ll carve himself a role quickly on special teams.
Round Six: 184th Overall Pick
Kaelin Clay, Wide Receiver, Utah
Clay is reminiscent of the pick up Robert Herron in the 7th round of the 2014 draft, but here’s hoping he’ll perform better. It’s already been said by Jason Licht that the role of returning punts and kicks is Clay’s to lose, and he’s got plenty of experience that’ll help him along the way. Clay is a smaller receiver, but he’s shown some ability blocking on top of his speed. It’s entirely up to Clay where he ends up. If he lives up to expectations, he’ll be the return man in 2015. If he exceeds them, we may see him catching from Jameis just as often.
Round Seven: 231st Overall Pick
Joey Iosefa, Fullback, Hawaii
With their final pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Buccaneers select…a fullback! Wait- no, seriously. Who’d they take? Oh, seriously? Okay, my bad. Looks like the Bucs drafted a fullback. The issue is whether or not they could’ve snagged someone else and picked up Iosefa as an undrafted free agent, but Iosefa is still a solid choice. Jorvorskie Lane will hopefully be the starter come opening day, but being kept out much of last season by an injury leaves a question mark on that happening. Fullback is not a position you normally think of needing depth, but Joey has a chance to earn his spot. At the least, he’ll likely find a home on the practice squad as an insurance policy should Lane get hurt once again.
The Buccaneers have added seven significant players during the draft, but it all comes back to newly acquired quarterback Jameis Winston. Many of these choices revolved around that one pick, and it will be interesting to see how these young men, especially the trio of Winston, Smith, and Marpet, grow together and gel together. They’ll have an added bond because they’ve come in together, and we could very well see them anchoring the offense for years to come. The impending acquisition of undrafted free agents and performance in OTAs and mini-camps will continue to help us learn what this team will be like in 2015, but the draft is showing a very positive start. Last year, everyone (myself included) had very high hopes. I won’t be predicting an 11-5 season quite so soon, but I’m comfortable that the Buccaneers will not possess the #1 Overall Pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.