The first day of OTAs isn’t just about the players starting their offseason conditioning. In a way, it’s the time for all of us to start our 2017 season conditioning.

For the players it may be physical training, but for the staff, the coaches, the media, the fans and everyone who made their way to One Buc Place or watched the live streams this morning, the start of OTAs is really the official turning page for the 2017 season, and the time to get back into the groove of things.

But, just because a new page has been turned to write, doesn’t mean there hasn’t been brainstorming and preparation done before hand to be ready. As you would expect, Bucs general manager Jason Licht’s pre-draft press conference was centered around who or what the team may be thinking come draft night which is approaching single digit days on the countdown. 

Bucs GM Jason Licht – Photo by: Scott Reynolds/PR

Licht has become pretty good at making sure he’s not giving away any of his team’s hard work before the test – and does so usually with a chuckle or smile on some of the more direct questions – but he did speak to the depth that this draft has, and how his team and their scouting department believe they can get a good player in a few spots, not just at No. 19.

“Oh, you can get a good player at 50; you can get a good player throughout the draft,” Licht said. “A lot of times, when you’re picking high, if you go back and study it, there’s a lot of high ceiling, but also low floor players – a little boom or bust. That’s the case throughout the draft. But, a lot of times when you’re picking later in the first round you’re getting sometimes a ‘safe’ player that might not have the flash, but ends up being a solid player. So, it’s a little trickier picking at 19 with all the scenarios that happen in front of you. We can’t pinpoint who’s going be there yet because crazy things happen. We’re excited about where we’re picking. No matter where you’re picking, you wish you knew who was going to be there, or that you were picking a little bit higher at that point – at the end of the season you don’t with you were picking higher – just so you can predict who you’re picking from. Wherever we’re picking we think we’re going to get a solid player.”

In the NFL draft, not only is picking higher preferred because you’re most likely getting a better player, but also because there is less chaos that can happen between the start of the draft and your selection. Though the Buccaneers are confident they’re going to get a good player wherever it is they end up picking in the first round (it doesn’t sound like they’ll be trading up), they’ve prepared themselves with plenty of research to properly weight who might be left – in all scenarios.

“Yeah, you have to be prepared for a lot of different scenarios, so you really have to work at it a lot more this time of year,” Licht said. “For example, “Ok, this guy’s available we haven’t talked about him much here in the last few weeks.” All these players we’ve talked many, many hours and days on, but this time of year you don’t want to get caught in a scenario where, “Oh, shoot. We didn’t know that he was going to be there.” So, you want to play out all the scenarios with your staff.”

Some of those scenarios involve other teams trading all around the Buccaneers both up and back. When asked if he had a prediction or a gut feeling on how he thought trading in the draft may go this year, Licht said he has hints, but in reality, you never know until the night of.

“There have been drafts that I’ve thought it would be a draft where a pick wherever you’re at is going to be coveted because teams are going to want to move up and it’s just the opposite,” Licht said. “So, it’s a deep draft, that’s been said throughout the process here, by not just me but my colleagues throughout the league, but if you get your eyes set on one player, one position, one position of need, teams tend to go after it (which isn’t a bad thing) if you know what you want and want to go get it, go get it. So, I could see it going both ways.”

With Florida State running back Dalvin Cook being a well-covered prospect for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – and a player who has been mocked to Tampa Bay more than once by national media members – the question naturally came up as to what the relationship is like when a player like Jameis Winston, who also went to Florida State, could be used as a resource for insight on draft prospect from his alma mater such as Cook.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston and Florida State RB Dalvin Cook – Photo by: Getty Images

“You know, I do talk to Jameis about players at Florida State,” Licht said. “He was recently there, so he has a feel for them. I talk to Gerald McCoy about what he knows about Oklahoma players and Robert Ayers and Lavonte David and the list goes on and on. So, any kind of tidbit we can get from player who can have a better beat on the program than most, I’ll take it. Jameis can tell me as much as he wants that we should draft a certain player, but Dirk and I and the staff are still going to make the best decision to the Bucs.”

After drafting a handful of offensive linemen, a quarterback, a wide receiver, a tight end and a running back already in his time as the Buccaneers GM, the question was asked whether or not the draft’s focus for this year may be more defense-minded. Licht responded with answer you’d hope to hear from someone who is trying to build the best team he can.

“You could say that, but we’re not going to go too far off of our board,” Licht said. “Based on the team we have right now, we could line up and play right now and we’d feel pretty good about it. But, we’re in a position now to where we can still take the best player available. A lot of times you take the player that, you look at it and say, “Why are they taking him? They’re loaded at that position?” or, “They have bigger needs at another position.” But, that player usually at some point you look back and say, “I don’t know where we’d be without that player.” Not trying to tip our hat or anything. We have multiple places on this roster where we can add talent.”

The scouting process isn’t just about watching a few games and taking notes. It’s a grueling and often under appreciated job. Before the day was done, knowing draft day will soon be upon us, Licht made sure to thank those on his staff who have worked tirelessly for many months, knowing the goal is in sight. 

Bucs GM Jason Licht – Photo by: Eric Dellaratta/PR

“Our scouts do an incredible amount of work on all the players, regardless,” Licht said. “We could have two future Hall of Famers at a position, but we’re still going to do our work on that position. Our scouts, I forgot to give a shout out to them, it’s in the back of my head at all times for how hard they work. I mean, they spend anywhere from 120 to 150 days on the road. They’re fully committed to this. Their families are fully committed to this, and hats off to them.

“They are the real ‘experts’. That words gets thrown around out there, and I have a lot of respect for those guys who do the work on TV and in the media, but the real experts are those scouts and the scouting department. We don’t get 10 mocks to get it right; we get one. We don’t have the luxury of doing multiple mocks and then at some point you can say, ‘You’re right, we only get one.’ And those guys have done an incredible job starting with John Spytek, Mike Biehl, Andy Speyer, Rob McCartney; all of our scouts.”

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About the Author: Trevor Sikkema

Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at:
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MudManVA (@knight)
4 years ago

In Licht we trust!! Good luck and Go BUCS

macabee (@macabee)
4 years ago

I listened to all Buc press conferences today and I was impressed. They are one voice, one family and love each other. I especially like the unbiased but candid presser of Jason Licht. Spoke to the issues and expressed optimism going forward – for some individual players and the team as a whole. Couldn’t ask for any more than that. Go Bucs!

Naplesfan (@naplesfan)
4 years ago

There’s a huge difference between how quality GMs and their staff think about players and the draft, and how fans think about players and the draft. Jason Licht shows that well in this set of remarks.

Buc 1976
Buc 1976 (@robmckenz17gmail-com)
4 years ago

Let’s get the Party started!!