Bucs hope to add impact with 7th pick in draft

by Gary Shelton on April 20, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs


Licht plays the NFL's guessing game.

Friday, 2 a.m.

A year ago Jason Licht sat in front of the room and smiled. At the time, he looked like the leader of a developing team, a team filled with promise, a team that would contend.

Then the season came.

And not so much.

The Bucs dipped from their 9-7 season to 5-11, and the anticipated run at the playoffs never happened. Now, Licht is trying to repair his roster on the fly, something that will make next week's NFL draft a necessity.

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“Last year, there’s no sugar-coating the disappointment. I feel like we were a much better team than our record suggested and we’ve talked over and over about the close games that we were in and the ones that we couldn’t find a way to finish," Licht said. "I feel like we’ve added some really quality players that have been in those situations. Not that that’s always the answer but I just love this locker room. I love the heartbeat of this locker room. I love the vibe and I think we’re a lot closer than some people think. I think we have a chance to do something really good.”

Throughout the off-season, the Bucs have added a center, two defensive ends and two defensive tackles. But is running back far enough along? How about cornerback?

Licht had his annual pre-draft press conference Thursday, an annual session where he gives out as few true thoughts as possible. All that is left is to read between the lines.

For instance:

On running back Saquon Barkley of Penn State: “We had him in, so there’s some news for you," Licht said. "We don’t broadcast everybody that we bring in but he’s a great player. Everybody I know that’s not even working in football knows that he’s a great player. He’s a great kid, checks all of those boxes but he’s not the only great player in this draft.”

On Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick: “The thing about Minkah (Fitzpatrick) is that he’s played a lot of slot this year," Licht said. "He’s played outside corner and in that slot position, you can see some of the things that he would do at safety. He’s a really smart guy and versatility is a great asset of his. We had a great visit with him. He’s very professional. You can see why (Alabama) Coach (Nick) Saban speaks so highly of him. There’s a lot of versatility with him. We have a plan if he were the pick, what we’d do with it, what we’d do with him. We like the fact that he can do a lot of those things.”

On FSU safety Derwin James: “He’s a very good safety," said Licht. "Same thing with all of these players. I don’t want to make it sound like we’re telling you guys who we’re zeroing in on but all of these players, we have to have a plan with. He’s also a versatile guy but he’s more of a strong safety. But he can also drop down in your sub packages and play linebacker. He’s another good player.”

On whether free agency meant the Bucs wouldn't draft a defensive lineman (such as Bradley Chubb or Vita Vea): “It doesn’t, but I’m very excited about the guys that we have," Licht said. "It’s nice to see that we have at least eight guys, right now, that we feel could go into a game with that we could either have started or could start. Watching the Eagles last year, when we were evaluating Beau (Allen) and Vinny (Curry), just to see that the rotation that they had was definitely a key to their success. We’re fortunate to have those two.”

(On the unwritten rules that suggest teams should stay away from certain positions, such as running back or guard, early in the draft): “I’d say that that’s why they’re unwritten and they’re not put down," Licht said. "I think it’s case by case. I think there’s always exceptions and outliers to rules. There’s guidelines that you try to go by, certain positions (you) put a higher priority on. But just because you have a higher priority on whatever position it is, that doesn’t necessarily you can just go and pluck a player and he’s going to be better than taking a player at a position that’s a less priority in your team-building philosophy.”

On the status of guard J.R. Sweezy and tackle Demar Dotson: “J.R.  is still rehabbing. It’d be unfair to put a timeline on that. I’m sure he’s going to miss quite a bit of OTAs. (Demar) Dotson, it’s already been out there that he had a procedure done which a lot of players do this time of year and we’re going to hold him out of OTAs. We expect him to be ready for training camp. We’re not worried about either of them being able to get back in there once they’re healthy and they won’t have to re-learn the playbook or anything like that. They’re both professionals. They both take care of themselves. So you know, you’re always looking for offensive linemen to somehow upgrade, whether it’s your back end depth or your starters, if there’s one that’s out there."

On picking up the option for quarterback Jameis Winston and completing a new contract: “That time will come," Licht said. "Whenever that time is, that will come. Right now it was a no brainer for us. It’s a formality, if you will. It’s the same situation that all these other players in that draft that were taken in the first round [are in]. Most of them, I’m sure their option will be picked up. Some won’t. But it tells you what we think about Jameis and that we obviously, he’s exceeded expectations, in my opinion. But we have plans for him in the long term and when that time comes, we’ll address that. Right now, there’s no signs of anybody wanting Jameis to walk out of this building so this is the first step in that.”

On the depth of running backs in the draft: "I’d say there’s good depth at that position," Licht said." There’s always a relative drop off when you have guys ranked and that’s why you have them ranked. But, there’s good depth and there’s running backs scattered across the draft that we feel could help us. With that said, the talk of running back comes up a lot, but we do like Peyton Barber and we do like what Peyton brings to the table. He’s a big guy that can grind it out in your four-minute offense and also when he was given the opportunity, he played really well. Really he’s still young and on the rise.”

On drafting seventh, where the team picked receiver Mike Evans: “I don’t like picking at seven just because it means it’s a repercussion of your season, the disappointment of the season before," Licht said. "But, with Mike Evans it worked out. So hopefully it’s a lucky number seven. There are enough players there, if no quarterback went above us, that we would be very excited about if we stayed put.”







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