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Buccaneers are no longer a young team with potential

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The past few years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have consistently been one of the top teams in the NFL in terms of young talent. But in this year's ranking of under-25 talent, provided for ESPN by Football Outsiders, the Bucs drop all the way to 22nd.

Last year's high ranking was probably our Lavonte David appreciation shining through. He no longer qualifies along with most of the defense, save for free safety Bradley McDougald, who may take over for a position that has been a problem in recent years.

Offensively, this group all depends on how much you love the Jameis Winston to Mike Evans connection. It could be really good with Winston giving his very talented receiver ample chances, or it could turn into a lot of interceptions. Evans also had a strangely uneven season with a monster three-game stretch in the middle. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and running back Charles Sims likely factor into this year's offense, but neither showed any star quality last year. The offensive line was a mess, but hopefully two premium picks (left tackle Donovan Smith and right guard Ali Marpet) make that situation stronger, or else Winston is in for a very long year.

The Bucs have been young and talented for years, and at some point all that young talent is going to grow up and leave you with an old team. That's what's slowly happening with the Bucs, though Lovie Smith's purging of Greg Schiano's favorite players probably didn't help. Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David and Demar Dotson are veterans now -- not quite aging, but not that far removed from it either. Even the young pass-rush talent isn't really that: George Johnson and Jacquies Smith both spent four years bouncing around the league before their minor breakout seasons.

Still, the Bucs do have some young talent coming in with this draft. Already, four players are starting in Jameis Winston, Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet and Kwon Alexander. That's a really good result for any draft, though it says something about the team's lack of depth as well.

The truth is that the Bucs aren't young because they really haven't drafted many key players in recent years. This year's draft looks to be different, and that's a good start. But to have a consistently positive outlook in future talent, the Bucs need to start drafting well every year.