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The Buccaneers never foresaw O.J. Howard falling to them

The Buccaneers still aren’t satisfied with their defense, though.

NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Alabama vs Florida Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were really happy to get O.J. Howard in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft. That’s been obvious in everything they’ve said since taking him, but The MMQB’s Albert Breer talked to general manager Jason Licht and got a few more interesting notes.

Intriguingly, contract guy Mike Greenberg, who is involved in big-picture salary cap and roster strategy but not really in evaluating players, thought Howard could fall to nineteen, because tight ends tend to fall in the draft. Licht wasn’t buying it until draft day.

“We thought he could go as high as 6,” Licht said over his cell on Saturday, headed off to pursue undrafted free agents. “And from what I heard from sources, that very well could’ve happened. But the Jets, unexpectedly, got their safety when Adams fell to them. I’m not saying I know for sure the Jets were taking him, but that looked like a landing spot for him.

“And then, he was linked to every single team between them and us at some point. I was afraid that, even if a team didn’t need a tight end, he was just the best available player, the you-can’t-pass-on-him type of guy … We were just fortunate.”

That’s exactly right. It just so happened that teams in front of the Bucs had bigger needs, and a few key players fell in the right spots. The three quarterbacks getting picked that high pushed down other players, including safeties Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker, and tight end wasn’t high on any team’s must-have list.

Which is how the Bucs ended up with the best tight end in the draft, an offensive weapon who can block and adds more speed to the Bucs’ offense. The latter was a priority for the Bucs this offseason, as Breer chronicles and Licht and Dirk Koetter have emphasized repeatedly this offseason.

There’s one more interesting note in that piece: Jason Licht doesn’t sound too confident in the defense.

“Defensively, we still have a ways to go before we get it exactly like we want it … we wanted to get more physical there. And we drafted a physical linebacker in [Kendall] Beckwith. And we drafted a huge 350-pound DT in Stevie [Tu’ikolovatu] from USC.”

This may have something to do with Mike Smith’s desire to get bigger in the front seven. The Bucs have added several big defensive linemen this offseason, and just drafted the biggest linebacker on their roster in Kendell Beckwith, too.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bucs add a few veteran free agents on defense later this offseason, perhaps a cornerback or a pass-rusher, or just a few larger defensive linemen to anchor the team’s run defense.

Buccaneers draft picks

Round 1: pick 19 (19th overall) - TE O.J. Howard, Alabama

Round 2: pick 18 (50th overall) - S Justin Evans, Texas A&M

Round 3: pick 20 (84th overall) - WR Chris Godwin, Penn State

Round 3: pick 43 (107th overall) - LB Kendell Beckwith, LSU

Round 4: pick 19 (125th overall) Traded to the Jets

Round 5: pick 18 (162nd overall) - RB Jeremy McNichols, Boise State

Round 6: pick 20 (204th overall) Traded to the Jets

Round 7: pick 5 (223rd overall) - DT Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, USC

Round 7: pick 19 (237th overall) - Traded to the Dolphins