This week, it’s in the hands of Bucs’ g.m. Licht

by Gary Shelton on April 25, 2016 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Monday, 6 a.m.

This is his time. This is his team.

Other times of the year, the Tampa Bay Bucs will belong to Dirk Koetter. Other times of the year, the wheel will belong to Jameis Winston. On certain weeks of the year, you can argue that the team's fortunes will belong to Mike Smith.

But this week? This week, the franchise is in the hands of Jason Licht, the general manager. This week, he will chart the course of a franchise. He will study the various candidates, and he will try to pick stars out of the lineup of average players. He will try to find fits at defensive end, at cornerback, at safety. He will try to turn a six-win team into a nine-win team, maybe more. He will try to change the impression of others in the NFL when it comes to this team from a team that has not mattered in some time.

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It is odd. The Bucs pick ninth, ahead of roughly three-fourths of the league, but still not a choice that guarantees one of the impact players. Consider this: Of the Bucs' 40 drafts, 23 of the first-round picks have originally (before trades) been higher than ninth.

That leaves the Bucs, and Licht, in the position of hoping that a player falls to them, or that they have a conviction over someone who is there.

Imagine Licht, the man who has to come up with the answers.

The first two draft picks probably won' affect him. They'll be quarterbacks, and Licht has already invested in his quarterback. For the Bucs, the real games will begin at the third pick.

Will Joey Bosa fall, and if so, will he fall far enough? If the Bucs had the third pick, Bosa would be a good place to visit.

Can Mike Glennon improve the Bucs position (three picks or so) enough to get to Bosa, who seems to be sliding because he lacks true greatness (not that goodness is anything to sneer at)?

Is Vernon Hargreaves tall enough to avoid being just a nickel back?

Can Leonard Floyd play in a stance? Because, let's face it, the Bucs are full up at linebacker.

Is it just Winston who wants to land Jalen Ramsey? Is a cornerback/safety worth moving up for when you consider the Bucs' pass rush?

Do the Bucs really not like DeForest Buckner?

Would the Bucs consider an offensive tackle? I don't buy it, because I'm convinced the team likes Donovan Smith more than a lot of outsiders seem to. But some people seem convinced the Bucs will pick an offensive lineman.

Should the Bucs move backward in the draft and take, say, Eli Apple or Shaq Lawson and pick up extra picks?

Is there a sleeper pick — a Sheldon Rankins or a Noah Spence – that Licht is willing to wager the future on?

Can the team avoid another bust such as Ray Snell, Ron Holmes, Bo Jackson, Keith McCants, Charles McRae, Eric Curry, Regan Upshaw, Kenyatta Walker, Michael Clayton, Gaines Adams, Josh Freeman or Mark Barron? Wow, that's a long list, and it doesn't even consider second-rounders like Sabby Piscatelli,  Brian Price or Dexter Jackson.

If the team moves backward, can it get decent reward? They've been better in recent trades when they moved down then up  (Derrick Brooks, Doug Martin, Lavonte David). But throughout their history, the Bucs have been horrible at trading their top picks. You simply have to look at the trades made by the Rams and Eagles to get a reminder. In 1979, the team traded the fourth-overall pick for Wally Chambers. That's it. They traded their first-round pick in 1983 to take Booker Reese with a  second-rounder in 1982. They traded the overall No. 1 pick for Jack Thompson. They traded away the No. 2 pick for quarterback Cris Chandler, who never won a start of the Bucs. Egad.

This year, they need to draft the playoffs. They need to draft a future. They need to draft validation as a team that matters.

That's what's at stake, you know. You can talk all you want about an improved offense or a young quarterback. The simple truth is that the Bucs won six games last year, and only six. They lost 10 with an absolutely dreadful finish. They couldn't stop the penalty flags, and they couldn't cover opposing receivers.

This draft has to be part of the solution. Despite the toughness of the schedule, despite the flaws to the roster, this has to be a draft that helps to complete a team.

Otherwise, it will be Licht who has to answer the qeustions.

Him, and the next general manager.

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