By Tom Krasniqi
The NFL Draft is just over a week away. And for the Bucs, this will be a first.
For Lovie Smith, it’s his first draft as head coach of the Buccaneers. It’s also the first draft for new GM Jason Licht, who’s never run a draft before.
"I’m fired up man,” Licht said to open the press conference on Tuesday.
They have to work in unison if they’re going to strike it rich. The question is—Can Lovie and Licht agree on who to take? That’s the million dollar question.
“Lovie is big on communication,” Licht said. “That so far we feel has netted good results.”
The Bucs have 6 picks in the draft— one selection in every round except the 4th rounder, which goes to the Jets in the Darrelle Revis trade. The Bucs have the 7th overall selection. They also have picks 38 (round 2) and 69 (round 3).
According to many draft experts, this is the deepest draft in many years— especially at wide receiver, cornerback and offensive tackle. There’s also plenty of depth at the quarterback position.
This is good news for the Bucs, who have needs at WR and QB especially. It also poses questions.
“It is deep,” Licht said of the draft class. “98 underclassmen help that this year. I think that’s 25 more than last year. I think we’re looking at our board, we have over 50 guys that we deem as draftable.”
Do you go for a WR with the 7th pick— such as Mike Evans of Texas A&M— given the incredible depth at the position? Or do you opt for a QB instead? It appears the stocks of Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater may be dropping.
If Manziel, Bortles or Bridgewater are available at 7— what do you if you’re Lovie and Licht? Josh McCown is the anointed starter, but he’s 34 and it doesn’t seem as if the new regime is enamored with Mike Glennon.
“I don’t know how much of a priority it is,” Lovie said about possibly drafting a quarterback. “You want to keep that option open of course. There’s some good quarterbacks in this draft. That’s been documented.”
Licht gave a glowing assessment on Manziel, saying he had a “very impressive interview. We had a great day with him.”
Licht went on to call Johnny Football a “sharp guy.”
What about trading down?
“You know that’s definitely something we would look into,” Licht said about trading down. “We’ve already reached out to teams. If our player isn’t there, we’d really be open to conversation about moving back and picking up picks.”
Licht says in order to trade down, you need to find a trade partner. Licht believes there will be some surprise twists on draft night.
“We really don’t know—I don’t think any team knows how this is going to fall until draft day,” Licht opined.
With that being said, Lovie and Licht say they are prepared for different scenarios, and that could include moving up (unlikely) or trading down. Both said they are still evaluating their draft board.
Licht talked about the 6-5 receiver out of Texas A&M: “Mike Evans— great ball skills, size. He can run too. Deceptive.”
Lovie says the 7th overall pick should make an impact right away. Licht says Lovie has a unique way of grading players.
“Lovie is just— I like him— or I love him,” Licht laughed.
Lovie says the final draft board is not set in stone. The evaluation process will continue all the way up to draft day.
This is a big draft for the Bucs. After all, it’s the first one for Lovie and Licht. After a successful foray into free agency, the team appears to be on the upswing. A good draft next week could make the Bucs playoff contenders—maybe more.