Bucs have found top talent at Senior Bowl
Practices begin today at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., and for the next three days, NFL general managers, head coaches, assistants and scouts will be evaluating the players gathered for what has been consistently fertile ground for draft picks.
Jason Licht and Dirk Koetter will be among the Bucs' contingent in Mobile, with good reason -- Tampa Bay has 10 players on its current roster who have played in the last five Senior Bowls, including some of their most successful stars. In all, there are 16 current Bucs players who played in Mobile before their rookie years, five more than the Shrine Game can boast. Those 10 include seven players the Bucs would draft in the third round or higher.
Last year? Defensive end Noah Spence had a sack in Mobile, then was picked by the Bucs in the second round. The year before, both of the offensive linemen drafted in the second round by Tampa Bay, tackle Donovan Smith and guard Ali Marpet, helped themselves with a good week at the Senior Bowl. Third-rounders? Running back Charles Sims played in the Senior Bowl in 2014, and quarterback Mike Glennon the year before that.
And for biggest impact the Bucs have found in Mobile, consider 2012, when running back Doug Martin and linebacker Lavonte David were both in the Senior Bowl and would become two of Tampa Bay's best players over the last five seasons. That was a particularly star-studded Senior Bowl, with Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins, Bobby Wagner and Janoris Jenkins among the players in attendance.
Other players who weren't drafted by the Bucs but are on the current roster -- WR Russell Shepard in 2013, WR Josh Huff in 2014, RB Blake Sims in 2015 -- played in Mobile as well. Luke Stocker played in Mobile in 2011, and veteran players who signed with the Bucs as free agents got their starts way back in the Senior Bowl -- Robert Ayers in 2009, Gosder Cherilus in 2008, Vincent Jackson in 2005 and Daryl Smith in 2004.
Will that success continue in 2017? The Bucs will meet with a ton of prospects in the next three days -- one report Monday had them already talking with Western Kentucky receiver Taywan Taylor, who has been prolific in college, with 17 touchdown receptions in each of the last two seasons. Another name already linked to the Bucs is Tennessee State guard Jessamen Dunker -- the Bucs and Licht drafted Kadeem Edwards out of Tennessee State in 2014, you'll remember.