Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bucs are big Aggies fans in NFL draft

Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins is expected to be gone when the Bucs pick.

Associated Press

Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins is expected to be gone when the Bucs pick.


It happened every time they turned on a tape to watch Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

As Johnny Football made his magic with Houdini-like escapes, throwing passes from impossible angles, two of his teammates kept jumping from the screen: receiver Mike Evans and left tackle Jake Matthews.

All three Aggies have a chance to be selected in the top 10 of the NFL draft tonight, a feat that has only occurred twice in the past 18 years.

Bucs general manager Jason Licht and coach Lovie Smith had a tough time not falling in love with those three during late-night film sessions. In fact, they would be thrilled if any were still on the board when they make the No. 7 overall selection.

"They're easy to evaluate because we've seen a lot of tape on them," Licht said. "I wouldn't say we've seen more tape on them than anybody else. But when you're going through all the receivers, you happen to watch the linemen on their team, you're exposed to them a little bit more. It's an interesting situation there where they've got three very good players."

Manziel, the most polarizing draft prospect in many years, would bring Tampa Bay a franchise quarterback with unique improvisational skills. He also would be a good fit in the new offense under coordinator Jeff Tedford, the former University of California head coach.

The Bucs signed Bears free agent Josh McCown in March and immediately named him the starter. But he will be 35 in July and clearly his presence means the team isn't bullish on backup Mike Glennon. Having McCown would allow Manziel time to develop.

But the club's two biggest needs might be at receiver and on the offensive line. With no playmakers opposite receiver Vincent Jackson, it was hard for Licht and Smith not to notice the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Evans, who kept showing up on the receiving end of so many Manziel missiles.

Evans is frequently compared to Jackson and could stretch the field with his 4.5 speed in the 40. It would give the Bucs a couple of big, bookend wideouts like McCown had success with in Chicago with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

"He's really very similar to Vincent Jackson already," former Bucs and Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. "I don't know if you want two of those on the same team. I don't know that you don't. Depends on what Jeff Tedford has in store."

At 6 feet 5, 305 pounds, Matthews kept peeling off potential tacklers from Manziel. Licht believes he is athletic enough to play guard for a year or two before moving to left tackle. The Bucs signed Bengals free agent Anthony Collins to a five-year, $30 million contract in March to play left tackle, but he also has played guard.

If the team needed more information on Manziel, Evans or Matthews, it can just consult strength coach Dave Kennedy, who held the same position at Texas A&M the past five years.

Though the bulk of the Bucs' draft will be aimed at improving the league's worst offense, Smith is a defensive coach. At No. 7, the Bucs might be fortunate to consider Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who along with All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy might give the team the best 1-2 inside pass rush in the NFL.

What the Bucs can't control is what happens in front of them. At least four teams in the top five — Texans (1), Jaguars (3), Browns (4) and Raiders (5) — are QB-needy, and the Rams (2) are dangling their spot for Manziel-ites.

"He will excel at whatever you ask him to do," Gruden said of Manziel.

If Evans and Clemson's Sammy Watkins, the top receiver, are both gone, the Bucs could consider LSU's Odell Beckham (5-11, 198), a player with 4.43 speed. Trading down might be a possibility since the Bucs own only six picks. By moving down, they still could pick a quarterback such as Fresno State's Derek Carr, whose brother David played for Tedford at Fresno State.

Smith spoke to the only thing the Bucs are certain of tonight: "At that seventh spot, we feel we'll get a pretty good player there."

Bucs are big Aggies fans in NFL draft 05/07/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 10:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays morning after: At least Archer looked good



  2. Seizures drove Jerry Kill out of coaching. He's back, and so are they


    PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Jerry Kill knew he was headed down a familiar path. Kill, the Rutgers offensive coordinator, acknowledged as much on a lunchtime walk around the Scarlet Knights' football stadium two weeks ago.

    Rutgers offensive coordinator Jerry Kill watches drills as he continues to stay in football while experiencing seizures. [Associated Press]
  3. Joe Maddon gets warm reception in return to the Trop

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The night was arranged to honor former Rays manager Joe Maddon in his first visit back to the Trop, and the standing ovation from the bipartisan crowd and scoreboard video tribute seemed proper acknowledgments of his hefty role in the Rays' success during his nine-year stint.

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) talks with reporters during a press conference before the start of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.
  4. Rays vs. Cubs, 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Cubs

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM; 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays' Blake Snell poses for a picture during the team's photo day at baseball spring training in Port Charlotte, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  5. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Cubs game

    The Heater

    Chris Archer's night ended with his 11th loss, but he and the Rays should feel good about his six solid innings. After the forearm tightness scare in Chicago, he had two rough outings (15 hits, 11 runs, seven innings), so Tuesday was a reassuring rebound.