Bucs grab OT Donovan Smith, trade back into 2nd round to get OG Ali Marpet
TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers addressed an offensive line need with their original second-round pick and then traded back into the round to grab more.
The Bucs took offensive tackle Donovan Smith with the No. 34 overall selection Friday night. At 6-foot-6, 338 pounds, he started 31 games at Penn State, and he’s credited for solid leg strength and footwork. Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht said Smith will be given a chance to be the Bucs’ starting left tackle.
The Bucs then traded back into the second round to receive the No. 61 overall pick from the Indianapolis Colts and took Ali Marpet, who’s projected to be a guard.
"We went into the draft knowing that we had to shore up the offensive line," Licht said. "We needed to bring in some guys. And we didn’t want to reach for these guys. They were on our board exactly where we took them."
Smith has intriguing potential. He was named to the Outland Trophy preseason watch list before last season, and he says he’s comfortable playing anywhere on the line. However, he said the Bucs envision him becoming their answer at the all-important left tackle position.
"Anywhere I need to be on the line to make the line stronger, that’s where I’ll be," Smith said. "But in my mind, I’m a tackle."
Meanwhile, Marpet, who’s 6-4, 307 pounds, is a product of Hobart College, a Division III program. He didn’t allow a sack during the 2014 season. He’s known to have solid foot quickness and a strong explosion out of his stance.
The Bucs swapped fourth-round picks with the Colts to make the selection, moving down from No. 109 to No. 128. Tampa Bay moved up from No. 65 to make the selection.
The Bucs discovered Marpet at the Senior Bowl, where he impressed Licht and coach Lovie Smith with his ability to compete with defensive players from larger programs.
"The Senior Bowl was huge for me, obviously, because that showed teams that I would be able to step up to the competition," Marpet said.
Donovan Smith, meanwhile, could be an answer for an uncertain left tackle situation after the Bucs released Anthony Collins in March following one disappointing season. Collins was signed as a free agent to a five-year, $30 million deal before the 2014 campaign. But he struggled mightily and became a healthy scratch multiple times late in the year.
Clearly, the Bucs need help in the area. They ranked 29th in the NFL in rushing by averaging 85.9 yards per game on the ground last season. They also allowed 52 sacks.
Smith’s adjustment could be made easier because of his familiarity with a pro-style system under former Penn State coach Bill O’Brien. Smith said he gained comfort developing under O’Brien, who now coaches the Houston Texans.
"I feel like I learned most of my football at that time, the ends and outs of it and breaking in what an NFL offense looks like," Donovan Smith said. "Being able to get two years under that, it will only help me transition better."
Donovan Smith’s selection could represent some help for new Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, who was made the first overall pick Thursday. One of the early concerns about Winston’s addition was that the current makeup of the Bucs’ offensive line wasn’t favorable to allow him to succeed.
"He knows how to win," Smith said of Winston. "I’m just going to be ready to match our talents together and the talents in the locker room. And we’ll go out there and do what we have to do and win a Super Bowl."
After two offensive line selections Friday, the Bucs hope their protection has improved.
"We’re trying to add good football players, but we want an athletic football team too," Lovie Smith said. "I love speed at all positions. … We’ve added two good offensive linemen to the mix. We’re a better football team by doing that."
Heading into the draft’s final rounds on Saturday, the Bucs hold five picks. They can make selections at No. 128 overall (fourth round), No. 162 overall (fifth), No. 168 overall (fifth), No. 184 overall (sixth) and No. 218 overall (seventh).