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Upcoming draft a ‘bit more tilted offensively,’ Bucs GM Jason Licht says

But Licht still insists the Super Bowl champs will select the best available player, regardless of position.
Published Apr. 21
Updated Apr. 22

Following the most unconventional draft evaluation season of his career, Bucs general manager Jason Licht isn’t about to shed light on what his team will do with the 32nd overall selection in eight days.

But he might have offered a few flickers Wednesday.

For one, Licht says he feels this draft “seems to be a little bit more tilted offensively.” He also agrees it’s thin on quality interior defensive linemen, but concurs there are a cluster of intriguing edge rushers/outside linebackers in the 20-50 range.

He also suggested trading back for more picks may not be a prudent call this year, with all 22 Super Bowl starters and several key reserves back.

“I love draft picks,” Licht said during a Zoom session with reporters Wednesday. “But I don’t know in this year, if we start to accumulate a lot of late-round picks, if all these picks will make our team. So that’s another thing we have to keep in mind.”

Here are some other highlights from Licht’s session.

On the recent signing of free-agent running back Giovani Bernard, and whether it alters the Bucs’ draft approach at that spot:

“We’re going to take the best player. ... It might not be someone that comes in and steps in right away or has a huge role his rookie year. You would like that player to play a role, this goes for any position. So I would say every position is on the table right now for what we’re selecting in the first, second round — and the rest of the draft, for that matter too.”

Related: If the Bucs choose to draft a running back, we have some options

The pros and cons of selecting a quarterback in this draft, even in later rounds:

“There’s always pros drafting a quarterback for us, because of our coaching staff. Bruce (Arians) and Byron (Leftwich) and Clyde (Christensen) and Tom Moore — couldn’t think of a better staff to groom a quarterback. You just want to make sure that you’re not picking a quarterback just to pick a quarterback.”

Related: Why Bucs should consider drafting Gators QB Kyle Trask

On the most challenging part of this draft evaluation process during a season of no all-star games, no combines, etc.

“One of the more challenging parts is going to be the medicals, since it’s not done in the way that we’ve done it in the past and even last year, because the pandemic started to really hit after the combine. So having to rely on our medical staff and the process that the NFL put in place to get as much medical information as possible.”

His assessment of interior defensive line quality/quantity in this draft.

“It’s not as deep as it has been in some years. We’ve known that for some time. Now there still are some that we like, but it went into our thought process of re-signing Nacho (Rakeem Nunez-Roches) and Stevie (McLendon), and we’re excited where (third-year backup) Jeremiah (Ledbetter) was last year when he had to play. Khalil (Davis) made some big strides for us (as a rookie in 2020), and we feel like he’s going to get even better, and then of course we have Vita (Vea).

“So we’ve got depth for this year, and in the future that may be a position that we’re going to have to look at, and it could come out of this year’s draft. But we feel good about going into this year with the group that we have.”

On the collection of edge rushers possibly available between picks 20 and 50.

“There is a group there that’s interesting. We have to then do our due diligence in terms of ranking them compared to other positions on the draft board. We’re in a great position, once again, that we don’t have to go after what may be perceived as the bigger need. If there’s a better player at another position, we can go that route.”

Related: Antonio Brown reaches settlement with former trainer who accused him of sexual assault

NFL draft

April 29: Round 1, 8 p.m

April 30: Rounds 2-3, 7 p.m.

May 1: Rounds 4-7, noon

TV/streaming: ESPN, ABC, NFL Network

Notable: Bucs pick 32nd (Day 1), 64th and 95th (Day 2), and 137th, 176th, 217th, 251st and 259th (Day 3).

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