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Kershaws broad shoulders.TAMPA, Fla. - Lovie Smith is well aware of
Tampa Bays shaky track record in the NFL draft, as well as the role
recent failures have played in the Buccaneers missing the playoffs the
past six seasons.
The franchises third coach in four years has spent the last two months
overhauling the roster through free agency. Now, Smith and first-year
general manager Jason Licht are counting on filling more holes with an
infusion of young talent.
Barring a last-minute trade to move up or down in the selection process,
the Bucs have six picks in this weeks draft, beginning with No. 7
Needs include wide receiver, offensive line, and possibly targeting the
clubs quarterback of the future. As expected, Smith and Licht have given
little indication of how they may be leaning.
"I think if we had to play tomorrow, we could line up a pretty
competitive team at every position, but youre always trying to upgrade,"
Smith said. "There are some positions we would like to upgrade, but Ill
be saying that every year, and thats the way you should always be
The Bucs have signed career backup Josh McCown to be their starting
quarterback. They also acquired six other projected new starters in free
agency: defensive end Michael Johnson, cornerback Alterraun Verner,
centre Evan Dietrich-Smith, tackle Anthony Collins, defensive tackle
Clinton McDonald and tight end Brandon Myers.
To ensure long-term success, though, Smith and Licht are adamant they
have to build through the draft.
The Bucs, who havent made the playoffs since 2007, have only one player
remaining on the roster who was drafted in 2009 or 2010 — the first two
springs of the reclamation project the team launched under former GM
Mark Dominik and ex-coach Raheem Morris.
It helps that its two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, the
third overall pick in 2010. But an inability to nurture other young
prospects into productive pros ultimately led to the demise of Dominik
and the two coaches he worked with: Morris and Greg Schiano, who was
dismissed in January after just two seasons.
"Is it hard to make up, and is it a hindrance? Thats probably one of the
reasons why Jason and I are both here right now,&qquot; Smith said
of failed drafts in general. Jerricho Cotchery Panthers Jersey.
"If you have to have one guy remaining you would like for it to be
Gerald, of course," Smith added. "Our plan is for us to do better on the
draft and make that our foundation. I feel like well do that."
Five things to remember as Smith and Licht continue to put their stamp
on the Bucs:
QB? MAYBE: While the consensus is Tampa Bay has a pressing need is for a
speedy receiver to play opposite Vincent Jackson, the Bucs lack a
clear-cut quarterback of the future. McCown is 34. And, theres no
indication Smith and Licht consider second-year pro Mike Glennon the
long-term solution. So if Johnny Manziel is available at No. 7, would
the Bucs balk at selecting a player who would almost certainly bring a
circus-like atmosphere to town?
"In terms of fan interest and selling tickets, we are lucky to work for
the Glazers, who have hired us both to make us a better football team.
... We are just going to make the best football decision, whats best for
our football team," Licht said. "I think Lovie and his staff can handle
the rest of it."
IF NOT A QB, THEN WHO?: Clemsons Sammy Watkins and Texas A&Ms Mike
Evans are among the top-rated receivers . Most people feel Watkins will
be long gone by the time the Bucs turn comes.
WELL-PREPARED: Smith spent the past year out of football after being
fired by the Chicago Bears following the 2012 season. Being off gave him
more time than usual to watch college games, thus get a head start on
evaluating talent for the draft.
DONT BE SURPRISED: The Bucs have one pick in every round except the
fourth. They may be tempted to trade out of the seventh spot, dropping
lower in the first round while adding additional selections in later
rounds. That seems more likely than moving up into the top five.
NEED VS. BEST PLAYER: Licht offers this spin on the traditional
draft-day strategy: "Our team needs in September are going to be totally
different than they are right now. The player you take you may not
think we have a need for him now, but a lot of times youre thankful you
have them when the season starts."
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