TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren't wasting any time getting the members of their 2014 draft class acclimated to life in the pros.
The occasion is the Bucs' three-day rookie minicamp, which also will serve as a tryout camp for more than 40 undrafted NFL hopefuls.
With that in mind, we'll look at five things worth monitoring this weekend.
The wide receivers
Everyone is eager to see the size and speed combination that first-round draft pick Mike Evans possesses, but he's not the only rookie wideout worth watching here. The Bucs spent a sixth-round pick on Wyoming speedster Robert Herron who, according to coach Lovie Smith, has a 4.31-second 40-yard dash to his credit. The Bucs have promised Herron a shot at winning their slot receiver job but he'll have to prove he can stay focused and make plays between the numbers first. Also worth watching is former Florida wideout Solomon Patton. The Bucs signed Patton as an undrafted free agent, hoping his speed will add another dimension to their offense.
The tight end
An NFL rule that prohibits rookies from participating in team activities until spring classes are complete has kept second-round draft pick Austin Seferian-Jenkins off the field this week. The rule does, however, allow rookies to participate in their team's rookie minicamp, so this will be the Bucs' first look at one of the staples of their draft class. At 6-foot-6 and 262 pounds, Jenkins looks like a prototypical NFL tight end, and scouts say he also has the necessary speed, body control and pass-catching skills. The Bucs believe Jenkins will make an already deep position group a strength, so they'll be eager to see just how strong he can make that group.
Much to the chagrin of many of their fans, the Bucs didn't draft a quarterback this year. But they didn't ignore the position, either. The Bucs signed Wyoming junior Brett Smith as an undrafted free agent, and there's a good chance he'll survive this camp and go to training camp with the team. The reason is two-fold. Coach Lovie Smith has expressed a desire to take four quarterbacks to camp, and Brett Smith might be a better prospect than some have given him credit for. He has a good arm and a great work ethic — the kind coaches love — and some scouts believe he would have been drafted had he played somewhere other than Wyoming. If he doesn't look out of place in this camp he could earn a pass to training camp.
The offensive linemen
The Bucs spent two fifth-round round picks on offensive linemen, selecting Tennessee State guard Kadeem Edwards and Purdue tackle Kevin Pamphile. The general belief among scouts and even Bucs player personnel folks is that both are developmental players who are not ready to step in as starters. But this weekend, one or both could prove to be further along than most think. The Bucs have an opening in their starting lineup at right guard, and they might be in need of a left guard if projected starter Carl Nicks can't make it back from two seasons lost to foot injuries. The opportunity is there for someone from this camp to win a job.
The local kid
Matt Patchan is an Armwood High product whose career has taken some unusual twists and turns. For example, he started his college career playing defensive end at the University of Florida and finished it playing offensive line at Boston College. Before all that, he suffered soft tissue damage in his shoulder after he was struck by gunfire from a man who shot a gun into a crowd at a park. Patchan was an innocent bystander then but he won't be a bystander in this rookie minicamp. He was one of just 12 players the Bucs signed as undrafted free agents following the draft, so the Bucs must believe he has the makeup to make it in this league.