Bucs' top pick must be 'mentally strong,' Licht says
The projected players for the Bucs' top draft pick -- No. 7 overall -- cover several prospects at positions on both sides of the ball, but Bucs general manager Jason Licht said the quality he needs most from someone with such high expectations is being mentally strong.
"There's a high bust rate up there, especially where we're picking," Licht said Tuesday in his pre-draft interview with reporters. "You want somebody that can handle the expectations that are placed on them, from us, from you guys, from our fans. So he has to be a mentally strong player, in addition to being a great player. That's probably the No. 1 thing we look for."
Licht and first-year Bucs coach Lovie Smith have worked hard in recent months to develop a staff consensus as they create their draft board, ranking the players as a guide for making their picks. The draft starts a week from Thursday, and Smith said that evaluation process will continue all the way up until the Bucs are on the clock.
"You guys should all be inside the war room, to see all that goes on in there," Smith said. "There's so much preparation that goes on before. Those decisions are made well in advance. So much work goes into it. Jason and I, we watch players again and again, with the staff, with the scouts. It's a little easier, what we're going to go, than you might think. ... You keep evaluating, going back over it again and again, like anything else."
As a result of such preparation, Licht said he won't toil as much the night before the draft, because so much of the difficult decisions have already been made, such that the draft itself is the simpler task of acting on all that research and making the picks.
"I had more of that going on early in the process, when we were setting the board, just making sure it's right, going over it again and again and again with Lovie," Licht said. "We're going to do it again tonight, leading up until early next week. On draft day, it'll be simple."
Licht said for all the elaborate systems of grading and ranking players, he also likes the way Smith approaches a draft prospect.
"Lovie has his own grading scale. We have numbers and things," he said. "Lovie's just 'I like him' or 'I love him.' He makes it a little easier on me."