PewterReport.com takes a look back at Tuesday's pre-draft press conference and makes a number of observations from what general manager Jason Licht and Lovie Smith had to say regarding the upcoming draft. Will Tampa Bay draft need first? Is Johnny Manziel in play? Would Tampa Bay consider actually trading up?
New general manager Jason Licht and head coach Lovie Smith sat in front of the Tampa Bay media on Tuesday afternoon and were peppered with questions concerning next weeks annual NFL Draft. While there were a number of mixed messages – which is the norm this time of year – Pewter Report went back and made several observations from the things both Licht and Smith said.Lovie Loves Texas And Manziel Could Be In Play“Very impressive interview. We had a great day with him. Lovie and him both have Texas roots. We enjoyed every minute that he was here. Sharp guy.” – Licht
Anyone expecting to figure out who the Buccaneers will draft from the press conference were sorely mistaken. In fact, the two leading Tampa Bay newspapers had exact opposite headlines on Wednesday, one stating the Bucs won’t draft Manziel while the other headline stated they are considering him. And both authors were in the same news conference. So the Buccaneers have done a masterful job of disguising in the direction they are heading. And while it may be a total smokescreen, the fact is the Buccaneers did have Manziel in for a visit, so there is most likely some interest. How much? We will know next Thursday.
But one thing that can’t be hidden is Smith’s track record of drafting players from his home state. During his time in Chicago Smith was part of drafts that took seven players who attended schools in Texas including Cedric Benson, Nathan Vasher and Henry Melton. And that doesn’t take into account players who were born in Texas but played elsewhere or free agents signed that had Texas connections. In fact new Bucs quarterback Josh McCown and left tackle Anthony Collins both hail from – you guessed it – Texas.
Some say a coach or general managers connections to their home state, former college or pro team is overrated, but with Smith that is not the case. It was also the case with former Bucs coaches John McKay, Ray Perkins, Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano.
Whether Manziel is in play may not even be up to the Buccaneers, he could be gone as early as the No. 1 overall to Houston. But if he is sitting there when the Buccaneers are on the clock at No. 7, it there most likely be a discussion and Manziel could be the face of the franchise in the near future. Smith also noted the team wants to be a faster, more athletic team, which is also a trait of Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater. Besides Manziel, the Bucs could also go with one of Johnny Football’s teammates, tackle Jake Matthews or receiver Mike Evans.
Bucs Are Thinking Best Player Available“What we’ve said all along is we want the best player and the needs – I’ve said this before, but our team needs in September are going to be totally different than what are team needs are right now. The player you take you may not think we have a need for him now, but a lot of times you’re thankful you have them when the season starts.” – Licht
The Buccaneers spent a ton of money in free agency to fill a number of holes on the roster. They didn’t cover all of them and offensive line and receiver are two that most would agree to be the biggest needs for Tampa Bay, making sense that one of those two positions would be addressed with their first-round pick. But based on Licht’s statement, that may not be the case.
In 2012 Tampa Bay blindsided everyone by trading down and then taking safety Mark Barron. Not a single major mock had the former Bama star pegged to go to Tampa Bay. 2014 could follow the same path. Pitt’s defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley or even Ohio State’s Bradley Roby could be in play with Tampa Bay’s first-round pick.
Licht’s thought process makes sense. While no one would say a backup to Gerald McCoy is a priority, if McCoy went down in training camp or the preseason, the Buccaneers would be in a world of hurt, same with Anthony Collins, Alterraun Verner or a number of other starters.
Licht himself on Tuesday said there are always surprises early in the draft, and the Buccaneers themselves may be one of those teams thinking outside of the proverbial box.Trading Down – Or Up – Is On The Table“It would make sense, but with what happened in free agency and what we know about our roster right now, just like those options as much as anything. It has been documented and we think if that’s the case then there are a lot of good players a little bit further down in the draft. At that seventh spot though we feel that we’re going to get a pretty good player there and how about moving up? What do you think about that?”- Smith
Every team’s front office loves adding extra draft picks. More picks give a team more opportunities to add a feather in their cap if the pick turns out to be successful. Former general manager Mark Dominik was a big believer in stockpiling picks, but was also victim to the percentage of busts over his first three seasons as G.M.
The Bucs have already added a sixth-round pick with the Mike Williams trade to Buffalo, that replaced the one missing from last year’s Gabe Carimi trade, but are still only sitting with six selections in one of the deepest drafts in the last 10 years.
While most would assume that the Top 10 players are generally a consensus among all the NFL front offices, that isn’t necessarily the case. The Buccaneers may have a player on their board in the Top 10 that is viewed as a later first rounder. That opens the door to the option of trading down and gambling that the player will still be there. But as Licht also mentioned on Tuesday you still need a dance partner and that isn’t always easy, especially with the limited amount of time on the clock.
And while most believe the Buccaneers will stay pat or move down, the organization may feel one of the players pegged to be selected in front of them is a can’t-miss prospect and could be willing to sacrifice future draft picks to go get them.Jason Licht And Lovie Smith Are Prepared And Eager For This Draft“It’s
our Christmas. Sitting next to Lovie and making the decisions with
Lovie, it’s awesome. When we first got hired, we put our visions
together and kind of mapped out the course and not just the type of
players we wanted and positions we needed to upgrade, but how we wanted
to do it and that was unifying the staffs, the coaching, the scouting
and working together. I wish we could draft this Thursday.”- Licht
"There’s so much preparation that goes on before. Those decisions are
made well in advance. So much work goes into it, like Jason and I, we’ve
watched players and gone back over them again and again and again, with
the staff, with the scouts. So, as far as what we’re going to do, it’s a
little bit easier than you might think.” – Smith
and Smith are nervous or stressed about their first draft together in
their new roles with the Buccaneers, they have done a great job of
hiding it. Both appeared confident in their preparation and ability to
select players that can have an immediate impact this season, and for
years to come.
Both Licht and Smith understand the draft is not
an exact science, and the bust rate can be fairly high Licht noted on
Tuesday. But from their confidence and choice of words during Tuesday’s
press conference both believe they will come away after the three day
event with a number of contributors.
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