Bucs conclude an answer-seeking draft

by Gary Shelton on April 29, 2018 · 0 comments

in general

Sunday, 1 a.m.

The Tampa Bay Bucs concluded one of their most successful draft weekends Saturday. Now, all that remains to see if the guys can play.

The Bucs finished their draft by taking a safety (Jordan Whitehead), a wide receiver (Justin Watson) and a linebacker (Jack Cichy). In all, they had eight picks: A defensive tackle, a running back, two corners, a guard, the safety, the wide receiver and the linebacker.

So how did the Bucs do?

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“Every year that kind of question comes up and I’ve yet to find a GM who says, ‘Oh it went like crap.'" Bucs' general manager Jason Licht said. "So, we feel great. I will say this. There is more of a better vibe - not that it was ever bad - but it just seems that there are more high-fives and more energy, positive energy, upstairs with all of the coaches and scouts this year than I can remember. So, everybody’s happy right now. I went back to the defensive coaches and I said, ‘I don’t want to hear any complaining now, all of you should be happy now.’ [I was] joking around, but everybody is very very happy.”

Start with Jordan Whitehead, a safety who played both ways for Pitt. He's the cousin of former Buc Darrelle Revis.

“I was just going to say, usually those guys from Aliquippa (Pennsylvania), it’s like those Miami guys, football means everything to them." Licht said. "He certainly is one of those guys. He’s a gym rat, he’s a film junkie. He was a really good high school football player too, very good. I think he was rated better than Saquon (Barkley) coming out in his class that year. Just all of the things that I got done saying, he’s one of those guys. He is tough and he plays like he loves it.”

The Bucs plan to keep Whitehead at safety, but he's versatile

“I definitely think I’m a versatile safety," Whitehead said. "I can play free safety, I can play strong safety. I can really play nickel[back]. I think I’ve got a lot of speed. I’m strong. I think I’ve just got to fit in. My closing speed definitely helps.”

The Bucs are loaded at receiver with Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries and Chris Godwin, but they liked Watson enough to take him.

“He’s big," Licht said. "He’s athletic. We obviously scouted him during the year. He’s one of those guys that, we talk about him a lot during the process just because of everything-the way he’s wired is just exactly how you want them. He just loves the game. He’s a blue-collar kid."

He's also a good story.

“My brother, Tommy, he’s the oldest brother in my family, 28-years old," Watson  said. "When I was growing up, he was just my older brother. I didn’t think any differently of him growing up. He was just my older brother.

"The one thing that I noticed – I always tell this story – I was going through high school football camp and we were going through two and three-a-days and my legs were sore and my feet were blistered and I was complaining about how tired I was and my feet hurt and I’m complaining down the hallway. Then I turn into a room and I see my brother and he’s just smiling, ear-to-ear, as if to say if he had one day in my shoes, he would run until he threw up and his feet were bleeding and as soon as he could, he’d get back up and start running again. From that moment on, he’s been my inspiration and the guy that, whenever it gets tough and whenever I have a bad day, I just realize my brother Tommy finds a way to smile every single day. If I can’t enjoy coming out and playing football and getting in the weight room, what am I doing?”

Watson claims good comparisons.

“I think one that I compare pretty closely to is Jordy Nelson, especially early on in his career," Watson said. "I think athletically we are a pretty similar profile, we are both just crisp route-runners, no wasted movements. I don’t think when you look at his game or my game there’s any fancy moves at the top of my routes, at the beginning of the routes. I just run good, clean, consistent routes. I find a way to get open using my athletic ability.”

Then there is Cichy.

"I won’t put a number on it but I certainly think he would have been drafted a lot higher," Licht said. "We feel good about it, where he’s at. (He’s) working out, moving around. He’s full speed. Once again, you can’t go wrong with him. He’s an alpha personality. His dad’s a football coach. He got the most votes on the team as a captain and he doesn’t take any ‘BS’ from anybody. He’s one of those all business type guys that just loves the game and he’s a good football player.”

Said Cichy: “I’m really a relentless competitor and a relentless defender. I really try to have good instincts and when I diagnose a play, I like to try and make it 100 miles per hour. I think that that’s just one of the best things about my style of play, just being able to be relentless.”

The Bucs were able to address most of their needs in the off-season. They needed defensive ends and signed Jason Pierre-Paul and Vinny Curry in free agency. They needed tackles and signed Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein and drafted Vita Vea. They needed a running back and drafted Ronald Jones II. They needed corners and drafted M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis. They wanted offensive linemen and signed center Ryan Jensen in free agency and drafted Alex Cappa.

All in all, it seems to make the Bucs a better team.

How much better? Once the shoulder pads come on, we'll see.







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