Sports Illustrated’s Peter King revealed the top five players on Tampa Bay’s 2015 draft board in this week’s Monday Morning QB column. King reported that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was atop the board, which wasn’t a surprise considering the Bucs selected the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner with the first overall pick in the draft on April 30.
USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams was listed second on the list in the MMQB column, followed by Florida defensive end Dante Fowler, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and Georgia running back Todd Gurley.
“I don’t know how [that got out],” Licht said.
The Bucs general manager didn’t recall discussing it or giving it to King during their interview last Friday at One Buccaneer Place.
“No, I don’t remember if I did to be honest with you,” Licht said.
What Licht does know is that it wasn’t the final Bucs’ draft board as he told PewterReport.com that Tampa Bay was going to draft a quarterback in 2015, not a defensive player. And the Bucs were not going to trade down from the number one pick.
Hypothetically if something happened prior to the draft to alter the team’s perception of Winston and lead the Bucs in another direction, which player would Tampa Bay pick? Licht answered that question and indicated that Mariota would have been the choice due to the overwhelming need to select a franchise quarterback with the first overall pick.
“There is a very good chance that would have been the case,” Licht said. “That board [in MMQB] – that wasn’t necessarily the order in that we were going to draft. That was not necessarily a current ranking. We did like Marcus. We did think Marcus would have a chance. We were comfortable with Marcus.”
Although Mariota wound up being the second-rated player on Tampa Bay’s draft board at the end of the process, Winston was rated higher and it wasn’t a close call between the two quarterbacks for the organization.
“We ended up liking Marcus,” Licht said. “I think he has a good chance of being a good quarterback. His leadership style is definitely different. It’s unique. I can’t pinpoint any quarterback that is like him. I think there is a fire within him, a competitor within him. It’s just different. We just really liked Jameis.
“This is a monumental decision and Lovie [Smith] had to like [Winston], which he did. The owners had to be on board with the number one overall pick, which they were. The staff has to like him – Dirk Koetter and Mike Bajakian had to like him, which they did. We all did. We had to take a shot. We all liked Jameis.”
Marcus Mariota photo by: Getty Images