Every Buccaneers fan has been eyeing the first pick of the NFL draft since the week 17 match-up came to an end. While fans beat the debate between Winston and Mariota to death, the Buccaneers were focused on making sure their top choice was everything they wanted and more.
On April 30th 2015, the Buccaneers made one of the biggest selections in franchise history. Let’s revisit the draft that just took place and see where each pick fits and how it affects the team moving forward both now and in the future.
1. Jameis Winston, Quarterback, Florida State
In the months leading up to Winston’s selection there was hint after hint showing fans the Bucs hand and despite that, many were still in disbelief. While Gil Arcia was busy enlightening Buccaneer fans on the twittersphere about the teams decision being made well before the draft, Jason Licht on Sirius XM NFL Radio echoed what Gil had been saying all along.
The immediate impact Jameis Winston brings to the team is a true threat in the pocket to deliver the football on time and accurately. Teams will have to respect the deep ball and be ready for Winston’s aggressive tendencies. On the field Winston will be a strong voice both in the huddle and on the sidelines giving the team what it has lacked for years in and intense, dedicated and relentless desire to win. Winston throws with the touch and anticipation that has been missing in these parts for a long while and should be able to get the most out of not only Jackson and Evans, but also Seferian-Jenkins and the rest of the receiving crew as well. Winston’s presence and ability to identify coverage’s will be a welcome helping hand to the offensive line as well and that shouldn’t be underplayed. Sure Winston is a rookie, but he’s an advanced rookie from a mental and knowledge stand point.
Off the field, the team will have a new face of the franchise for fans nation and world-wide to recognize in due time. Fans will see a lot of Jameis around time helping out with charities and being a positive influence in the community.
In the long run, Winston should be the mainstay at quarterback for 10+ years. Winston has all the leadership and work ethic qualities you want in a signal caller and if he’s able to stay upright, should become an unstoppable force with weapons like Mike Evans to grow with.
2. Donovan Smith, Left Tackle, Penn State
There was little to no surprise that the Buccaneers went tackle with their second round selection. There was however a bit of surprise with who the selection actually was in Donovan Smith. With Clemmings falling due to possible medical problems and his overall rawness at the position and Jake Fisher’s lack of strength and aggression, Smith wasn’t as big a surprise as it was initially made out to be.
Donovan Smith is going to be asked to protect Winston’s blind side and that’s no easy task with both being rookies. Smith is a powerful tackle with a notable mean streak in him making him just the type of mauler the team needs up front. Smith will pave the way for the run game and will have to develop while on the job as a pass protector. Temper expectations as growth must take place for Smith to become a consistent tackle but pairing two rookies to play important positions in quarterback and left tackle has it’s advantages as the two will grow together.
In the long run, Smith with proper development should be a long term solution on the left side with second to third tier production as a Left Tackle.
3. Ali Marpet, Offensive
Tackle Guard, Hobart
Many fans acknowledged that the offensive line needed to be retooled and while how it needed to happen was up for debate, nobody would deny the need to fix it. Many detractors in the anti-Winston and anti-Quarterback crews pointed to rebuilding the line and letting Glennon stand behind a rebuilt line and chose to ignore the possibility of both fixing the line AND taking Winston. Our questions and concerns were answered to an extend when the Buccaneers traded up for Division III tackle, who will play guard, Ali Marpet.
Marpet shined during Senior Bowl week against true Division I, NFL Level talent. Marpet held his own in practices with notable one on one reps against top 15 pick Danny Shelton and played admirably in the game. At the combine he backed up the Senior Bowl performance enough so to convince the Buccaneers he was worth a deeper look and in turn, was worth trading up for back into the second round.
Marpet will be a work in progress but there is a very high chance that he starts day one as the teams right guard. Marpet is a good athlete and a lot will be asked of him. As a noted tremendous worker with high intelligence, look for Marpet to step up to the challenge and grow right alongside Winston and Smith.
Marpet in the long run could be a very big pick up and arguably has a higher ceiling inside as a guard than Smith does outside at tackle. Marpet very well could be the best Buccaneer, save Winston, in this draft.
4. Kwon Alexander, Outside Linebacker, LSU
One area of the team that wasn’t talked much about pre-draft was the outside linebacking core of the Buccaneers. While middle linebacker was talked about with the likes of Denzel Perryman and Eric Kendricks, few names were mentioned at outside linebacker aside from Ramik Wilson. When round four came around, the Buccaneers decided they needed to trade up again in the draft, this time for linebacker Kwon Alexander.
Alexander was a two year starter at outside linebacker at LSU and should make an immediate impact on special teams as a gunner, similar to former Buccaneer Dekoda Watson. In the long run, Kwon Alexander stands a good shot to eventually take over as the SAM linebacker in the Buccaneers defense.
5. Kenny Bell, Wide Receiver, Nebraska
The Bucs have a pair of 6’5″ receivers outside that should draw the defenses full attention their way leaving the third option at receiver in one on one situations quite often. While many would haev expected a pure slot option in the draft, the Buccaneers went out and decided to grab Kenny Bell out of Nebraska. Bell has solid size, speed and hands and can play both inside and out. With the Buccaneers liking to move Evans and Jackson around to create mismatches, the addition of Bell makes a lot of sense given his versatility.
Looking just a short few years back, Bell was a highly thought of receiver that very well may have his best years still ahead of him. Bell is a very physical player and is an active blocker in the run game. Bell shows very good acceleration and adds a different style of deep threat to the team as a player that creates separation with speed rather than sheer size.
In the short term, Bell will most likely compete on special teams and battle it out with Louis Murphy for the 3rd receiver spot on the roster. A few years down the road and you’re mmost likely looking at Mike Evans running mate as the number two receiver and teams heir apparent to Vincent Jackson.
6. Kaelin Clay, Wide Receiver, Utah
Special teams is a major focus on Lovie Smith teams and the selection of Kaelin Clay was made to bolster that very area. Clay is a decorated sprinter who showed very good return skills in college. Clay is on the smaller side and as a receiver will be limited to a slot role. As a receiver, Clay struggles to separate underneath and relies on going deep to utilize his speed to break free. Clay’s spot on the roster is almost guaranteed to be thanks to his return skills.
Year one you can expect Clay to make an impact on special teams as a punt returner and in all likelihood as the kick returner as well. Clay still needs to develop as a receiver but there is a Devin Hester like presence that he can bring to the return game that the team could really use as they look to win the field position battle.
7. Joey Iosefa, Full Back, Oregon
Iosefa comes to Tampa and most likely will serve as a short yardage back and take on fullback duties should he win that role in some fashion over Lane and Stocker who played a bit in the backfield. Iosefa is a 1-speed back with limited agility and acceleration. Iosefa will need to show the ability to be a multi-tool player who can take on multiple roles in order to make this roster.