As the 2021 NFL Draft has come and gone, general manager Jason Licht spoke to the media following Day 3.

Head coach Bruce Arians had said on Friday that the Bucs’ staff and front office really wanted to put an emphasis on improving special teams and their draft picks on Saturday reflected that. Tampa Bay grabbed a trio of potential impact players on special teams, important additions with the loss of Andrew Adams and Ryan Smith this offseason, and a new potential returner in Jaelon Darden. Licht said that the team wanted to emphasize speed and heart and thinks that each of their Day 3 picks has a chance to crack the Bucs’ roster when the regular season arrives.

Below is a full transcript of Licht’s press conference following the conclusion of the draft.

On the emphasis of speed in their selections
“We definitely wanted to get faster. We wanted guys that played with big heart. In this case of Grant [Stuard], play with big hair, don’t care. A lot of energy, love football, kind of a common theme. As Bruce I think told you last night, we want to stress special teams so that was one area we wanted to upgrade. We feel pretty good about what we’ve done.”

On Jaelon Darden and how he can help in the Bucs’ return game
“He’s got great hands, that’s one of the things as we were watching him. I was watching him with Bruce and he loves the hands, loves the ability to track the ball and catch the ball away from his body but he has just great quickness. He’s very fast but he’s actually quicker than fast. He can really put his foot in the ground and explode out of his breaks. He has great (run after the catch ability) and then we think that he has the chance to be a very good returner.”

North Texas WR Jaelon Darden
North Texas WR Jaelon Darden – Photo courtesy of North Texas

On Grant Stuard and all that he’s had to overcome
“We love him as a person and obviously as a player. He’s got a lot of emotion on the field. He’s had a little bit of a tough life, he’s been taking care of his siblings and all these things that you can talk to him about but he’s a very mature person and a very accountable person and a very accountable football player. Guys that can deal and get through tough times and adversity, that’s a big box to check for us. We think that definitely helps them and their chance to make our football team.”

On where Stuard needs to improve at the next level
“We love the way that he plays. We think he’s fast, we think he’s very physical and very tough. He reminds me, this is going way back… I was with the Dolphins when we signed Larry Izzo out of Rice as an undersized linebacker that played with a huge heart and he ended up making a great career for himself as a special teams linebacker. Not to say that we don’t think that Grant has a chance to play linebacker, that’s his position, he’s going to be a Moe for us on the field. But we think that he has the chance to really excel as a special teams ace.”

On how many of these draft picks he got to watch play and workout in person
“Myself, not all of them so it’s a little bit of an offseason. Shortened. I had to watch the tape of the workouts but I rely on my scouts and my staff. We think that they do a phenomenal job. We were pretty busy this year signing all of our guys back, I wasn’t able to get out as much but we wanted to make sure that we had somebody at all of these pro days covering it for us which is just as good in my opinion as me being there because I have so much trust in our staff.”

On what he saw from K.J. Britt when studying Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean
“I did but not somebody that we were focused on at that point because he wasn’t planning on coming out and they had a lot of players that you had to watch. And he didn’t play much this year, he only played in two games, but we love the way he plays as well. Same thing as what we talked about with Grant. He plays with a lot of passion, he’s a big thumper, he’s an alpha, he’s a leader, he’s the man there. Anybody you talk to at Auburn that’s the first thing they’ll say, ‘He is the man here.’ So very excited about him, like we are all of our picks today, but those two we’ve been talking about. Just their energy and their passion. You guys will find out very quickly once they get here, that that’s what they’re all about.”

BYU Bucs CB Chris Wilcox
BYU CB Chris Wilcox – Photo courtesy of BYU

On what Chris Wilcox will bring to the Bucs and if he sees him on special teams
“We definitely see some ability there as a gunner. We liked him as a corner because of his length and his speed and it fits the profile for the guys that we have here. Our guys are long, they have long arms and they can run. He’s going to fit right in with them, he can learn from them and hopefully develop into a good player.”

On the trade up to pick Jaelon Darden
“When we got to that point, the fourth round starting the day, we were a little worried about him making it to us back in the fourth. We didn’t want to do anything crazy to get all the way up to the top because we wanted to save some of our picks for the guys that we targeted and got in the latter part of the draft. But we felt at the time that it was right. We were a little worried about a couple of the teams in front of us that were looking for returners, that were looking for speed receivers. You never know for sure if someone is going to take him but Bruce and I and our staff felt that he was the type of guy that was worth spending an extra draft pick to go up and get. We’ve had that feeling about a few guys over the years and most of them have worked out and hopefully he’s no different.”

On if he sees any of these guys are more ready to step in than a typical rookie
“It’s all going to depend on when they get here and what we see with them and our environment here. I was just talking to Bruce as I was heading down here and we feel like all of these guys have a legit shot of making our football team in a special teams role or what have you. We feel very good about him. We think there’s a chance that Darden could be our returner. He’s going to have to compete for it. There’s a chance that Grant comes in and makes an impression on us right away as a special teams guy that we don’t want to let go. Those are just two examples but we feel good about all of them right now making our football team. Now if that happens, that’s yet to be seen, but right now we feel pretty good about it.”

On positions they may target with undrafted free agents
“Yeah. Ideally we would like to get the 85 or 90 players for camp. It’s a little bit different this year. There’s not as many players this year to go off of and there’s still 32 teams fighting for them. So the full roster may not be set, the 90 players may not be set here for a couple of weeks. So we’ll see. We’ll go back and look at some guys that are on the street, we’ll probably have some workouts coming up. We’re in no rush to do it. We’re in no rush tonight to get to 90.”

On if the lack of defensive draft picks was the result of a weak class or comfortability with the roster
“A little bit of both. We’re very comfortable with what we have. That’s why we re-signed [Rakeem Nunez-Roches] and [Steve McLendon]. We could kind of foresee that there weren’t as many this year, defensive linemen, so I’m glad we did that. It was a little bit of both but I would say that it leans toward the fact that we feel very, very good about our defensive line right now.”

Share On Socials

About the Author: Taylor Jenkins

Subscribe
Notify of
7 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Horse
6 days ago

Good answers from Licht. I feel really good with this draft.

bucballer
Reply to  Horse
6 days ago

Same here Horse. These picks checked some boxes for the Bucs. Did notice the speed with this draft class.

Alldaway 2.0
6 days ago

Bucs had a solid draft for the most part. Plus, Bucs can fill the rest of the gaps of the 90 with UFAs and let them compete.

drdneast
5 days ago

It looks like after the fifth round, Licht turned the lights off in the building and went home so I can see why he is in no hurry to fill up the rest of the roster. Unfortuntely the rest of the NFL teams are in an attempt to get better and get to the Big Show. Licht, it seems, shrugs it off and says no biggie. The Bucs are the hunted team right now and Licht’s response hasn’t been a very positive one and thank god Tom is here to set the tone. Hopefully he won’t turn into Aaron Rogers… Read more »

bucballer
Reply to  drdneast
5 days ago

Dude! What is ur major malfunction? We just won the SuperBowl! U act as if we r a 2-14 team. Relax. It’s going to be ok. I think the Bucs and their scouting staff know just a little more about these picks and the NFL than u do. Bucs r getting A,A- ratings for their draft. What’s ur problem? The Bucs will be fine. They r returning all 22 starters and they have good depth. Just enjoy the ride as reigning SuperBowl Champs and having Brady as our QB. Ur bringing drama to a situation where this is no drama!… Read more »