The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2015 NFL draft class looks pretty good to me. A franchise quarterback, two starting offensive linemen to protect him, a perfect scheme-fit at linebacker, a presumptive heir to Vincent Jackson, an explosive returner, and a fullback. That's a pretty solid draft class -- if they all pan out, which won't happen, but it's nice to think about.
And most analysts seem to think the Bucs have done well. The main criticisms are of Donovan Smith, and the lack of a pass rusher -- but mostly, everyone thinks the Bucs became a much better this past weekend.
What Winston is capable of doing for Tampa Bay could be special, especially considering the wide receivers he has at his disposal in Tampa. Adding Bell was a good move. He can work the underneath game pretty well. The offensive linemen should be good starters immediately for Tampa. Clay is a good special teams player - as long as he holds onto the ball.
The Bucs were very methodical in filling their biggest needs at the top of the draft. They got a quarterback and two offensive linemen with their first three picks. That should provide a big boost for an offense that ranked 30th in the league last year.
The top pick in the 2015 NFL draft, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, will either be a franchise-defining stroke of genius or a franchise-defining disaster, depending entirely on whether Winston can channel his estimable talent and keep his head straight. The Bucs did give Winston some important on-field protection with second-round tackle Donovan Smith (a 6'6", 328-pound mauler from Penn State) and Hobart's Ali Marpet (a former tackle who looks like a really good guard in the NFL). Also, adding to big targets Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, Tampa Bay took Nebraska burner Kenny Bell in the fifth round and slot man Kaelin Clay from Utah, an underrated player with gliding speed.
I warmed up to Winston the more I evaluated him over the course of draft season. I think his supporting cast was severely flawed -- particularly last year -- and he often put Florida State's team on his back, leading them to an undefeated regular season while exhibiting all the traits of a big-time NFL pocket passer. I think he will be a hit. Smith and Marpet were obvious need picks. I think the Bucs will be disappointed if they indeed play Smith on the left as opposed to the right side, but expect him to become a solid starter nonetheless. Despite his small-college background, Marpet is a high-ceiling guard with a nasty streak. Alexander is a classic Lovie Smith linebacker. Bell was a fifth-round steal and could become the Bucs' No. 2 receiver as soon as 2016, when Vincent Jackson likely won't be around. Clay and Iosefa were uninspiring picks. I've been fooled by the Jason Licht/Lovie regime before. I thought they would be a .500 team last year. So I'm cautious when evaluating them, but on paper I like their draft.
The Bucs had months to figure out what they wanted to with the top pick, and to nobody's surprise, they grabbed Winston. He should do well in a Tampa Bay uniform, but he isn't the top player in the draft, and some analysts believe he isn't the top quarterback. There are obvious off-the-field issues, but the Bucs have a new leader under center, and a pretty good one to boot. Smith was undoubtedly taken to protect Winston and should fit in right away at right tackle, even if he does need to refine his protection skills. Marpet will face a big jump in competition from the Division III level, but he might have been the biggest riser in the draft. Alexander is very athletic and a player Lovie Smith can turn into a star. Bell is a great field-stretching option out of the slot for Winston to find.
The Buccaneers nearly accomplished everything they needed to. They drafted a quarterback, added two offensive linemen to protect their franchise signal-caller and then found some weapons for him. Tampa couldn't block whatsoever last year, but that shouldn't be the case this upcoming season.
Getting Winston with the first pick makes this draft. It was the easy pick. I like Donovan Smith in the second and some of their other picks were solid. It's all about Winston, who I think will be good.