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GM Jason Licht says Bucs are prepared for all draft scenarios

Tampa Bay would be thrilled if a QB or two went ahead of its No. 5 choice.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in February in Indianapolis. [AP Photo/Darron Cummings]
Bucs general manager Jason Licht speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in February in Indianapolis. [AP Photo/Darron Cummings]
Published Apr. 16, 2019

TAMPA — Bucs general manager Jason Licht offered very few insights into the Bucs’ thinking with the No. 5 overall pick during his pre-draft press conference Tuesday.

But after allowing 29 points per game last season, it’s clear the defense will be the priority in the first round. “I think we’ll get a very good player at five. I think we have a very good player,’’ Licht said. “We have at least five players that we think — at least five, that if we stay in our spot that we’d be very happy with.”

Here are a few takeaways:

It’s clear Gerald McCoy is not going to be on the 2019 football team:

Licht wouldn’t address it, but with the six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle scheduled to earn $13 million this year, it’s clear the team will attempt to trade him sometime during the draft.

“You know, that’s hypothetical. Right now, we are focused on the draft,’’ Licht said.

However, coach Bruce Arians has said he wanted to evaluate McCoy on the field before making a decision about his future. So how do you do that when he’s not participating in the offseason workout program?

“There are other ways to evaluate a player,’’ Licht said. “Gerald is not here, but there are plenty of players around the league that aren’t at this voluntary part of the offseason, and Gerald is the last person I would worry about. He is a consummate pro, he has always been one and he works very hard.”

On whether he thinks Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray will go in the top five picks:

“I can’t answer that. You never know what happens on draft day; that’s what makes it made for TV,’’ Licht said. “I’ll keep that opinion to myself, but he very well could. If he does or doesn’t, it affects what happens behind the number one pick, so we just have to be prepared for all the scenarios.”

On how far back the Bucs could trade and still get an elite player:

“We have a line drawn at a certain number,’’ Licht said. “It’s still a talented group, a good group. I would say after a certain number — which I won’t give — then they kind of all are together. It’s tougher than most years to really rank the let’s just say top 50 players, because of that. But the flip side is what makes this draft exciting. Those players — let’s just pick a number out — 20 through 50 or 20 through 60 are all very good. I think this is a deep draft. I think we’re going to get good players in the second, third, fourth, fifth round. We have plenty — I have a certain number of players I want to put (on the board). We start with 1,000 players, we whittle it down to 300, then on draft day we take about half of that and those are the players that we go into the draft, these are the guys we know, we think have the best chance of making the team. This year was harder to come up with that because we could’ve expanded that more and more.”

On whether he pays attention to the perceived value in certain positions:

“Really you have to grade the players how you feel they are in terms of just a football player,’’ Licht said. “Maybe that’s not perceived, but some years it ends up being that. I don’t think a five-foot-10 quarterback has ever gone in the top five. It’s just different year-to-year. I don’t think you can take the perceived notion that you shouldn’t take a certain player of a size or a certain position at a certain point. We’ll rank the players like we think they can make an impact for us.”

On the expectations of a rookie player:

“It’s tough to expect your rookie no matter where you take him to come out and just have an All-Pro/Pro Bowl year. I remember when I first started this, my bosses always told me, “You have to give them three years.” Then it was two and now everybody expects them by Week 2 to be Player of the Week, making highlights and making Top 10 on ESPN SportsCenter. So, the expectations are growing, so — you do want these guys to contribute right away. I am excited what we are doing here with Bruce. He wants to give these guys as many reps as possible, and you guys will see it with the two practices going on at the same time, which I saw in Arizona when he worked with (Cardinals GM) Steve (Keim) and (Cardinals President) Michael (Bidwill) there. Instead of a guy getting 10 reps at the end of the period, he was going to get 65, and that player development phase that we wanted to make sure we put an emphasis on, Bruce and I, which is a very important part of the development of a player.”

On whether they would address the running back position:

Well, you are still looking for a guy that has talent, has vision, quickness and speed and power. Nothing has really changed. I will say this, that Bruce feels very good about our running back situation. He has gone on record talking about Peyton (Barber), and I would say that our — probably right now, the guy that we’re all collective the most impressed with right now is Rojo (Ronald Jones). Just his attitude, his willingness to do extra and you can just see the confidence rising in him. So, I don’t know if anything has changed in the way that we look at running backs. We may emphasize one thing over another, but nothing has really changed.”