TAMPA — Running back may have been the Bucs' deepest position entering the draft, with three backs who each rushed for 150-plus yards in games last season returning for 2014.
And despite that, the Bucs saw enough in West Virginia's Charles Sims to take him in the third round Friday night, citing a versatile skill set that includes a great set of hands.
"He's a very explosive athlete," general manager Jason Licht said. "It brings us a back who not only has 4.46 speed as a runner, and this guy is the top receiving back in the draft, we felt. I always feel like you can't have enough backs."
Sims, 6 feet and 213 pounds, played three seasons at Houston, then went to West Virginia last year as a graduate transfer. He rushed for a career-best 1,095 yards and 11 touchdowns, giving him 48 total touchdowns.
Most notable perhaps is his 203 career receptions for 2,108 yards. He had 70 catches as a freshman at Houston in 2009, playing under future West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen.
"I like being able to catch the ball, to line up as a receiver — I actually played receiver in high school, so that's where me being comfortable catching the ball came from," said the 23-year-old from Houston. "I feel good about the situation, feel real good."
The Bucs have starter Doug Martin back and healthy after missing 10 games last year with a shoulder injury. Backups Mike James and Bobby Rainey are also back after showing good things in helping the Bucs to four wins after an 0-8 start. Productive as they were, James was a sixth-round pick last year, and Rainey was picked up off waivers from Cleveland.
None of those three looks to be the pass catcher Sims is, and Bucs coordinator Jeff Tedford's offense likes running backs catching passes out of the backfield, even motioning out of the backfield to line up in the slot.
The Bucs had more glaring needs, such as offensive guard, but Licht said Sims' talent was enough to override the needs at other positions.
"Running back was a pretty strong position. We felt that way and feel that way," Licht said. "This one stood out, like (second-round tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins) that, 'Hey, we have a chance to get a back that has a versatile skill set that can score points for us.' We didn't want to turn it down."
As for improving the line that will block for all these running backs, Licht said that can still be addressed, either in the final rounds of the draft or after.
"It's also an option (today) and moving forward … also veterans as we progress along in summer to training camp," Licht said. "We felt like we had a lot of needs. We didn't feel like we could fill them all, necessarily (in the draft). That would be a dream. We're going to plug away at it."
Asked if there was an NFL running back whose skill set he would compare his to, Sims pointed to the Bears' Matt Forte, who had at least 44 catches in each of his five seasons playing under now-Bucs coach Lovie Smith in Chicago.
Greg Auman can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3346. Follow him on Twitter at @GregAuman