After selecting Jameis Winston with the first overall pick in last year's draft, the Buccaneers immediately turned to the offensive line, selecting tackle Donovan Smith and guard Ali Marpet in the second round.
The transition from college football to the NFL is significant, especially for a player like Marpet, who played for a Division 3 school. But he stepped in to earn the starting job at the onset of the season and enjoyed a fair amount of success in 2015.
In just one season, Marpet is beginning to establish himself as one of the league's top run-blockers. Pro Football Focus graded him as the twelfth-best run-blocking guard this season and, in Week 8, graded him as the best in the league.
"I think I showed that I can play in this league," Marpet said. "I improved a lot. I think it was a pretty successful year for me."
The Buccaneers gave up just 27 sacks this year, tied for the fourth-fewest in the league. The team also finished the year with the NFL's No. 2 rusher in Doug Martin. Both of those statistics, Marpet said, were a source of pride.
"Obviously you want to have a leading rusher, so that's huge for us," Marpet said. "Another thing that we can impact is, obviously, sacks allowed. I'm pretty sure we were in the top ten for that, or whatever it was. That's a good spot for us to be in.
"Yard per carry, sacks allowed. Those are usually the measures (of an offensive line)."
Marpet missed three games, from Week 10 to Week 12, with an ankle injury. He said the most important thing he took away from his rookie year was to take care of his body so that he could be on the field for all 16 games.
"It's a physical game and it's a long season so (the most important thing I learned this year) was to take care of your body."
Marpet is one of four talented rookies that played significant roles in 2015. He, along with Winston, left tackle Donovan Smith and middle linebacker Kwon Alexader all earned starting spots this year and all had promising seasons.
"I think it's pretty obvious that we'll be a good team," Marpet said. "We are a pretty good team right now but there are a lot of young guys so it's only going to get better."