TAMPA, Fla. — This Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft will be recalled for what didn’t happen. Coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht chose six players they think will help in their quest to become competitive in the NFC South. But with apologies to Mike Evans, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Charles Sims and the rest, people will remember this Bucs draft more for what wasn’t than what was.
That’s the way it will be.
For one, Johnny Manziel won’t be here. The Bucs never seriously considered taking him seventh overall Thursday night. But even Saturday morning, fans called into local radio shows bemoaning the fact that No. 2 won’t be the region’s new rock star. Some will always wonder what could have been.
Then there’s the fact that Smith and Licht didn’t take a single defensive player. That’s right, do a double take. They went with a wide receiver, tight end, running back, offensive guard and offensive tackle. Not a single defensive guy in the bunch.
"What can I say?" Smith said. "First off, you can’t assume people are a certain way. I do believe in offensive football, and you can’t just win by defense. I know I have been telling you guys that. I know the actions are speaking a little bit louder than the words."
Smith’s words received some laughs in a small room at One Buc Place. He fooled everyone the past three days. He came to the Bucs with the reputation as a smart defensive mind, something the Glazers saw up-close when he made his NFL coaching debut with them as a linebackers coach from 1996 to 2000.
Still, Smith is a savvy man. Even with a roster overhaul in free agency that took Wite-Out to the former roster, he knows this team has a long way to go. The problem remains on offense. The Bucs ranked 30th in scoring offense (18 points per game) and last in passing offense (176.2 yards per game) last year.
Of course, no one outside the Bucs’ war room knows which top defensive players they missed on. But there’s nothing wrong with building offensive depth, especially within a franchise that must learn to score in bunches before it can win again.
That’s why you saw Evans, Seferian-Jenkins and Sims drafted in the first three rounds. That’s why you saw guard Kadeem Edwards, offensive tackle Kevin Pamphile and wide receiver Robert Herron taken in round Nos. 5 and 6.
Nothing in the wild world of the NFL draft happens by accident.
"There were some areas we wanted to improve," Licht said. "Like we talked about yesterday, we got the big guys, and today we got the point guard. We felt like we needed to get faster, bigger, more athletic."
The man who will be at the center of it all had positive reviews. Licht relayed this funny story: Sometime after the draft began, quarterback Josh McCown sent a text message to his coach and general manager that said, as Licht recalled it, "If you’re wishing to get more than a Christmas card this year, mission accomplished." Yes, McCown enjoys the new presents coming his way.
"We didn’t plan on the draft being an all-offense draft, but we had a ranking that we wanted to stay by," Smith said. "I just feel real good about all the players, all six players we were able to select starting of course with Mike Evans and really finishing up with Robert."
Still, there was something about Smith standing on that stage behind a microphone Saturday night. He could have recapped a draft headlined by a Manziel Media Circus that would have defined his franchise for at least the next half decade. He could have recapped a draft that included top-end defensive talent to improve a unit that ranked 21st in scoring last season by allowing 24.3 points per game. He could have recapped a draft that went in a variety of other directions than it did.
It’s never wise to assume, especially when reputations are fluid anyway. For three days, Smith and Licht did it their way, all the predictions now gone.
PLAYER WHO SHOULD BE A STAR
Wide receiver Mike Evans. No surprise here. Anyone taken in the Top 10 must be a star or there will be hard questions to follow. Evans has the potential as a lanky 6-foot-4, 231-pound target for McCown. It’s enticing to think about Evans and Vincent Jackson stretching defenses in the Bucs’ attempt to keep pace with the NFC South’s firecracker offenses. The Bucs are better with Evans aboard.
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Tim Wright played well as the Bucs’ tight end last season, but Seferian-Jenkins is an interesting addition in the second round. He’s 6-5, 262 pounds, and to win in the modern NFL, a tight end must be big, versatile and productive. Sometimes, the best picks come in the most unexpected places. Seferian-Jenkins could be that guy.
Running back Charles Sims. The Bucs are fine with Doug Martin, Mike James and Bobby Rainey in the backfield. This pick would have made sense in the fifth round or later to build depth. But this happening in the third round makes you sit back and say, "Hmmm." Licht’s explanation is understandable: Quality running backs are like a sturdy tires — you can never have too many. But Sims better be special. With other areas of need present that early — mainly, offensive line depth — the Bucs should have gone in another direction.
STORY OF THE DRAFT
Try Smith’s endorsement of Mike Glennon on Thursday night. That was like a piano dropped from the sky. Seriously, where did it come from? Suddenly, Smith loves Glennon? Glennon is the Bucs’ quarterback of the future? Sorry, it’s hard to buy everything Smith is saying. Glennon, a third-round pick from last year, had a chance to become the man last season after Josh Freeman fizzled out with Tampa Bay. His stat line is OK, considering his lack of receiving help and a poor offensive line: 2,608 yards passing, 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions. But it’s hard to believe Glennon is the man of tomorrow after McCown’s time with the Bucs is done … at least without more competition.