For many of you, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a source of entertainment and at times a distraction from the stresses of everyday life. With the 2020 NFL Draft however, real life and football are colliding more than ever as the way this year’s selection process happens is being impacted by the COVID-19 coronavirus.
His seventh draft as GM is undoubtedly going to be one of, if not the most memorable one in his career. In light of this, Bucs general manager Jason Licht sat down via Zoom to discuss the upcoming NFL Draft with members of the media. Here now, are just some of the key takeaways from that conversation.
Talking about some of the preparation going into conducting this portion of the off-season within the restrictions in place, Licht stated, “We’re currently going through a lot of scenarios with that. We’re working through a lot of different platforms in terms of being able to have some video conferences and talk to one another...Sometimes you can get a little bit over technical in these situations....But sometimes it comes down to old fashioned, picking up the phone and calling the league office and saying, ‘We’re going to pick, this player.’”
Of course, before the team can draft, they have to evaluate available prospects. Cancelled Pro Days paired with missed drills at the NFL Scouting Combine have created a unique situation where organizations have limited access to many of the players they still need to nail down grades on. Many across the league have resorted to Zoom video conference calls or similar platforms to get as much access as they can to some of those players, again within league guidelines.
One thing Licht spoke about was the use of those conferences, saying, “Our scouting department, our coaching staff has been working around the clock doing FaceTime and Zoom - what have you - interviews. I’ve joined in on quite a few of them, and we’ve been getting quite a bit out of it.”
Perhaps, this has actually been a bit of a silver lining with everything going on, as Licht emphasized the ability to focus in with a prospect doing these video calls in place of the normal processes of interviewing players.
“Sometimes when you have a player in for a visit you talk to a guy for ten minutes, you move him on to another coach, or anther personnel guy, or another scout,” Licht said. “This way we’re focused in on the player for a solid amount of time and we all have our chance to ask questions and see how he reacts.”
Leading to the acquisition of quarterback Tom Brady, there were reports and speculation the future Hall of Famer was seeking some level of roster control or influence. Licht was asked whether or not he has received any input from his new quarterback ahead of the NFL Draft, and whether or not his influence would drive at least a part of the strategy in selecting this year’s class.
Licht responded, “In terms of his input on what we need, no. Mostly the conversations were what he was excited about working with. I had some conversations as well as Bruce (Arians) about what we were ideally looking to add, maybe not even through the draft, maybe after the draft, maybe through free-agency still.”
Tampa Bay’s general manager made sure to praise a good amount of the young players currently on roster when discussing any potential moves still to come. Scotty Miller specifically earned praise for what he might still have to offer the team, as well as Justin Watson who was lauded by Licht for contributing late in the season after stars Mike Evans and Chris Godwin were lost to hamstring injuries.
Coming into the call with media, I really wanted to know if Licht felt any added pressure given the impact last year’s draft class made and the relatively short window everyone assumes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have with Brady at quarterback.
“In terms of having Tom on our roster and looking for immediate impact players. You know, there’s a balance here,” Licht said. “Obviously Tom isn’t - probably - going to play for the next ten years. He’s been kind of a freak of nature in terms of playing at the level he has at his age, because he takes care of himself so well, so I can’t put a timeline on how long he is going to play. But you have to think about the future as well. If you try to go for the guy that you think is only going to be able to play next year, and if you expect him to come in and make an instant impact, I think you’re fooling yourself a little bit. All of these players are going to need some developmental time, especially with the backdrop that we’re in right now.”
It’s clear from the conversation Licht had with the media he is confident in their ability to successfully navigate the times ahead, and continue to build what looks to be a very promising roster for the 2020 NFL Season.
Stay tuned to Bucs Nation and the Locked On Bucs Podcast for more stemming from the conversation with Jason Licht, the general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.