Defense makes sense for Bucs in draft
Bucs general manager Jason Licht pulled the trigger on only one defensive player in the past two NFL drafts and hit the jackpot with linebacker Kwon Alexander, a fourth-round pick from Louisiana State who was second on the team in tackles last season.
So it's no surprise the Bucs have spent a lot of time with players on Alexander's side of the football. According to various reports, the list of players that have either worked out or met with the team for interviews include Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, Eastern Kentucky defensive end Noah Spence, Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, UCLA linebacker Myles Jack and Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple.
"We've spent a lot of time on defensive players in this year's draft, whether bringing them in or working them out," Licht said during a pre-draft news conference Thursday. "It doesn't necessarily mean we're going to draft a defensive player at No. 9 or wherever we are in the first round. We did some things in free agency that gave us some flexibility. We want to still strive. We have several needs on this team. We want to get better, there's no getting around that. But we still strive to pick players where best available and need intersect."
A pass rusher, either at defensive end or tackle, or cornerback would seem to be among the Bucs biggest needs and they should be able to address one if they elect to make a selection with the No. 9 overall pick.
"The way I assess it is it is what it is," Licht said. "You have to work around it. There's a lot of good players in this draft. We have to prepare to take a player there, we have to prepare a situation of moving back and we have to prepare a situation where we're enticed to move up.
"This is a very good draft, the more we dig into it, the more meetings we have, the more tape we watch. It's very deep at certain positions — a lot of positions. There's a lot of good players to be picked and here we are, we're ready to do it."
A year ago, the Bucs netted four starters from the draft — quarterback Jameis Winston, left tackle Donovan Smith, guard Ali Marpet and Alexander. That's why Licht says it's important to target good players throughout all three days of the draft.
"There's also the flashy players people know about, but there's always the deep tracks on an album that you don't know about now, but some day you're going to know, like Kwon Alexander," Licht said. "We want to hit the right one, so we're doing a lot of work on those guys."