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Wednesday, Apr 25, 2018
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Bucs use draft to upgrade offensive side of ball

— Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht didn’t intend to spend the entire 2014 draft acquiring fixes for an offense that ranked dead last in the 32-team NFL last year.

That, though, is precisely what he and coach Lovie Smith wound up doing.

The leaders of the new Bucs hierarchy wrapped up their first draft Saturday by adding a guard, a tackle and a slot receiver prospect in what proved to be the most lopsided draft in franchise history.

After drafting a wide receiver, a tight end and a running back the first two days, the third-day additions helped mark the first time in franchise history that the Bucs have used all their picks on one side of the ball.

“An all-offensive draft — I don’t know if that’s some sort of record or not, but I can assure you that wasn’t the plan,’’ Licht said. “It really just fell to us that way.’’

Not entirely. The Bucs actually made a move up the board to get one of the players they drafted, trading their seventh-round pick this year and a fifth-round pick next year for the Buffalo Bills’ 2014 fifth-round pick.

They used that to select Purdue offensive tackle Kevin Pamphile, a 6-foot-5, 315-pound former Miami Central basketball star who has been ascending draft boards across the league since his pro day a few weeks ago.

“We were correct with our intelligence that there were teams going after him, so we felt like it was a good opportunity to use an extra pick that we had next year to go up there and get him,’’ Licht said of Pamphile.

“He’s a developmental player with a big upside. He’s only played a year and a half at offensive tackle, but when Lovie and I watched him together, he was one those (offensive players) that Lovie wasn’t sitting back in his seat on.’’

Smith probably wasn’t sitting back in his seat while scouting the Bucs’ sixth-round pick either. Wyoming wide receiver Robert Herron has the ability to pull just about everybody out of their seat, no matter where they’re sitting.

Players who can run a 4.31-second 40-yard dash the way Herron has tend to do that, and despite concerns from scouts about his willingness to play between the numbers, the Bucs are going to give him a chance to win their slot receiver job.

“Our quarterbacks coach, Marcus Arroyo, coached him at Wyoming, so we knew quite a bit about him, and he gives us a different dimension,’’ Smith said of the 5-foot-9, 193-pound Herron.

“You look at (fellow receivers) Vincent (Jackson) and Mike (Evans, the Bucs’ first-round pick) and they’re big, fast receivers. But you also need a guy that’s quick, that can do some of those things inside, and he brings that to the table.’’

A receiver wasn’t the only inside player the Bucs picked up Saturday. After being forced to sit out the fourth round without a pick, the Bucs spent their first pick of the day in the fifth round on guard Kadeem Edwards.

Another Florida product, Edwards played for the Sanford Seminole High team that won the 2008 Class 6A state title and was a four-year starter at left guard for Division I-AA Tennessee State in college.

Like Pamphile, it could be a while before Edwards is ready to step in and contribute with the Bucs, but his presence fills what many, including Licht and Smith, believe was one of the team’s greatest needs.

“Even my young grandson was a little concerned about the offensive line position,’’ Smith said. “But we had a plan for that position and we were able to address it.

“You know, you look around the league and they’re not all first-round draft pick that end up playing offensive line, so we have two more players now that have a chance to contribute for us.’’

The search for offensive line talent won’t end there. Not only do the Bucs plan to address that need as they try to lure undrafted free agents to Tampa, but also they intend to keep searching for upgrades throughout the offseason.

“We have the offseason, the preseason, training camp; we’ll have several avenues to continue to look into upgrades and get better,’’ Licht said. “Rome wasn’t built in a day, so we’ll keep plugging away at it.’’

While Licht and Smith are plugging away, the newest members of their team will be getting a crash-course in Bucs football starting with their arrival today at One Buc Place.

“Then on Monday morning, at our main 8 o’clock meeting, they will be in that group with (the veterans), introducing themselves to Tampa Bay Buccaneer football and taking physicals.

“On Tuesday, they will be out on the practice field with our guys and then on the following weekend, we’ll have our rookie minicamp. So there’s a lot of football we’re going to start cramming into their minds.

“But as I’ve said, I’m excited about the group, because I believe we’re a better football team right now than we were with a mix of some very good football players.’’


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Twitter: @RCummingsTBO

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