TAMPA — With the seventh overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a prime position to pick up an impact playmaker. There is also a chance the Bucs will grab someone who can simply help them make plays.
Though it wouldn’t sit as well with fans hoping the Bucs get a quarterback such as Johnny Manziel, a receiver such as Mike Evans or a tight end such as Eric Ebron, the team could make a play for an offensive lineman at No. 7.
One who is starting to climb draft boards as Thursday’s first round approaches is 6-foot-4, 208-pound Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin, a player many scouts believe is best suited to play guard in the NFL.
That just happens to be a spot the Bucs are in dire need of filling.
Tampa Bay was working Oneil Cousins and Patrick Omameh at left and right guard, respectively, during a minicamp last week, but few believe they will be manning those positions once training camp begins.
The Bucs hope, of course, is that two-time Pro Bowler Carl Nicks will bounce back from two seasons lost to injury to play left guard, and many expect the Bucs to pick up a starter for the right guard spot in the draft.
Martin, who has drawn comparisons to Logan Mankins of the New England Patriots, could be their choice, especially if the Bucs decide to trade down a few spots to add more selections later in the draft.
Martin is ranked 12th overall by NFLdraftscout.com, and while that may seem a little early to draft a guard, keep in mind that top-level guards usually provide long-term returns on the investment teams make in them.
Mankins, for example, has been a key starter for the Patriots for nine years. And Davin Joseph, the right guard the Bucs are looking to replace, was a starter in Tampa Bay for seven years.
Martin’s versatility is another reason he could be on the Bucs’ radar. Bucs coach Lovie Smith wants his linemen capable of playing more than one position, and Martin can certainly do that.
Some scouts believe Martin could even play center, if necessary, but his ability to play tackle or guard, something he proved at the Senior Bowl, could vault him into the top 15 or even top 10 of this draft.