Reasoning was the first question asked in fact, as Licht addressed the decision to draft safety Antoine Winfield Jr. bypassing well-known running backs like J.K. Dobbins (Ohio State) and Cam Akers (Florida State).
“Obviously we had Antoine Winfield graded pretty high,” Licht said. “It’s also a position that we wanted to address in the draft. We felt that as the draft rolled along that we’d be able to hopefully get a running back that we liked...We felt the safeties were coming off pretty quick, and if we left Antoine sitting on the board, he wouldn’t be there.”
Versatility was something everyone discussing Winfield - including himself - have highlighted as a major plus attribute for the new Bucs safety, and Licht also took time to emphasize the importance of that within Todd Bowles’ defense.
“Well, it’s one of the things that we really loved about Antoine,” Licht said. “I hate doing comparisons to players in the NFL right now because he hasn’t stepped foot on the field in the NFL, but some of the reasons we liked Budda Baker (and) Tyrann Mathieu - and I’m not putting them in that category yet. But we feel that he has the ability to play free and strong, we play interchangeable in our scheme. He’s dropped down to nickel and done a really nice job there too. So, you’ve got a safety that can do all those different things, it really raises his value.”
As confused as some were about the decision to go safety instead of running back in the second-round, when the Buccaneers did draft a running back, the selection of Vanderbilt’s Ke’shawn Vaughn left some confused as well.
Asked about what Vaughn does that attracted the team to him, Licht said, “We know that he’s got good speed. We know that he can catch the ball. We know that he’s good in space. He’s been very productive there (at Vanderbilt). He’s also a very intense person, just like Antoine in terms of his demeanor, in terms of his football character (and) passion...I think he’s capable of playing on all three downs.”
Of course, drafting a running back on day two is bound to open up questions as to the future role of Ronald Jones. Licht has been on record this off-season saying the team has high hopes for the third-year back out of USC. He doubled - or tripled - down on those comments, Friday night.
“We love Ronald, we think Ronald’s going to take another step this year,” Licht said. “We try to evaluate our players based on our coaches, our scouts, and how we like them. Sometimes a guy can be - and I’m not picking on any player in particular - but sometimes everybody thinks that a player that’s talked about the most is the better player.”
After two days of the virtual NFL Draft it’s safe to say the team has addressed some big needs most people agreed needed addressing, even if the target players didn’t match.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have four more picks coming up currently on day three, with one in the fifth round, one in the sixth, and two now in the seventh round.
Stay tuned to Bucs Nation as we continue bringing you in-depth coverage of everything going on with the NFL Draft and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers!