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Five things to love about Tampa Bay’s 2018 draft class

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The Bucs had a good draft and there is plenty of reason to be excited for 2018.

NFL: NFL Draft
To the surprise of many, Tampa chose Vita Vea with their first-round selection.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 NFL Draft is over, but the analysis and opinions will reign long into minicamps and OTAs as teams officially begin to map out their rosters. While the coaches and GMs make the hard decisions, we the fans get to revel in the aftermath. Let’s take a look at some of the best parts of this year’s draft after previously looking at some of the worst.

Jason Licht, Wizard of the Draft.

One of the most popular theories heading into the draft was the Buffalo Bills trading up in the draft to get a quarterback. Tampa was considered a very popular trade partner, but many of the potential trade scenarios that were proposed were somewhat underwhelming.

Enter Bucs GM Jason Licht.

Licht worked wonders in the 2018 Draft. Tampa entered the draft with just two picks in the first 100 selections and ended up amassing a total of five in that same span - including four picks in the first 63 selections.

Licht worked the trade with Buffalo beautifully, snatching both of the Bills’ second-round picks on top of the 12th overall pick. He then used his fourth-rounder, No. 102 (and a sixth-round pick) given to him by the Giants, to trade up into the third round for Alex Cappa - giving the Bucs some depth along the offensive line and a potential replacement for Demar Dotson.

Without Licht, Tampa Bay would have had an average draft.

Stick to your guns.

I don’t want it to seem like I am the captain of the Jason Licht fanboat, but I am a firm believer in giving credit where credit is due - and the man deserves a ton of it.

Licht made a somewhat-surprising move when he drafted incumbent guard/center Ali Marpet in the second round of the 2015 draft out of Hobart College.

Marpet has risen quickly as Tampa’s best offensive linemen and their most versatile. He is a mauler and also has the speed and athleticism to help promote him as one of the more complete lineman in the game.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Buffalo Bills
Marpet has blossomed into Tampa’s best offensive lineman.
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Licht obviously took note of this and it’s made even more evident with his selection of Alex Cappa, a tackle out of the Division II school Humboldt State.

Cappa is bigger and longer than Marpet, and will play right tackle for the Bucs. He won the award for the best offensive lineman in the Great Northwest Atlantic Conference all four seasons he played at Humboldt.

Maybe Licht has found something in the smaller-school lineman. Regardless, he deserves a nice pat on the back for his diligence on Cappa.

Needs, Needs, NEEDS!!

Tampa came into the draft with three major priorities: offensive line, running back, and the secondary.

Check. Check. And Check.

All of these positions were filled - now, whether or not it’s the player you wanted is a different story - and overall, Tampa made out quite nicely with their picks.

Tampa took two cornerbacks in the second round, on top of former USC running back Ronald Jones II. They then addressed their offensive line needs with the selection of Cappa, while finishing off the secondary with Jordan Whitehead out of Pitt.

Whitehead is a bit undersized, but he is so much more physical than his 5-foot-10, 198 pound frame suggests.

He reminds me a lot of Bob Sanders. If the Bucs can even get close to that level of play, then Whitehead will be a major steal.

Competition.

As we all know, the jury is out on Vernon Hargreaves III, the Bucs’ first-round pick in 2016. He finally seemed to find comfort in the slot position last year, but still underwhelmed.

Hargreaves will be pushed by M.J. Stewart for playing time during camp and there is no doubt about that.

The third-year cornerback isn’t the only one on high-alert. Chris Conte, Ryan Smith, and Beau Allen will be fighting off Tampa’s draft picks for playing time on the defensive side of the ball. The offense isn’t solidified either, with Evan Smith, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Peyton Barber looking over their backs too.

Competition brings out the best in everyone and Tampa should have plenty of that come training camp.

Finding a necessary balance.

Head coach Dirk Koetter’s forte is offense - obviously. Tampa had a pretty decent passing attack in 2017 and were very effective on converting third-down plays, however, their running game lacked any punching power and the defense couldn’t hold a feather.

The 2018 Draft - as well as free agency - has shown the Bucs attempting to find a balance on both sides of the ball. The influx of talent should elevate Tampa to where they need to be, but the results remain to be seen.

But this draft feels different for the Bucs due to the fact that they made some moves - namely Carlton Davis - that they wouldn’t have made in the past. Maybe it’s a change in philosophy, but regardless, sometimes change is necessary.

At least they are attempting the correct moves.