NFL DRAFT Links
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went into the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft looking for help on the offensive line. They came out of that round with not one but two potential starters for their front five.
After landing Penn State tackle Donovan Smith with the second pick of the round (#34 overall), the Buccaneers traded up to ensure they added their second target of the night, Hobart guard Ali Marpet. Originally set to select at #65, the first pick of the third round, the Bucs instead moved up four spots in a deal with the Indianapolis Colts that cost them a swap of fourth-round picks. Tampa Bay gave up pick #109 (originally acquired in a trade with St. Louis) and got back pick #128. The Buccaneers will still head into Day Three of the draft armed with five picks in the final four rounds.
Determined to address an offensive line that struggled in 2014, and concerned that the well of top blocking talent was running low, the Bucs made an aggressive move to get their targeted player in Marpet. With Smith expected to compete immediately for the starting left tackle spot, the Bucs could have two rookies on their offensive front if Marpet can win the right guard job. Those two are likely to be blocking for another NFL newcomer, number-one overall pick Jameis Winston.
The 6-4, 307-pound Marpet is one of the Bucs' most intriguing draft picks in some time simply because he played his college football at Hobart, a Division III school in the Liberty League, located in Geneva, New York. A dominant performer at that level, Marpet started for three seasons at left tackle, earning first-team all-league honors each year and sharing the Offensive Player of the Year Award in 2014. As a senior, he played the entire season without allowing a single sack.
Hobart is the first Division III player selected among the top 100 players in an NFL draft since 1990, when the Seattle Seahawks took Ferrum College's Chris Warren at #84 overall. Warren went on to a very successful NFL career, most of it Seattle, finishing with nearly 8,000 rushing yards and 57 touchdowns, as well as three Pro Bowl berths.
Obviously, Marpet's success at the DIII level only carries weight if it is backed up with strong performances against other linemen in the 2015 draft pool. Fortunately, he turned in a dominant performance at the Senior Bowl in January and then impressed the assembled scouts at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. Marpet's performances in the 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle and three-cone drill were among the best of all the offensive linemen in attendance.
The Buccaneers came into the second day of the draft with the acquisition of Marpet as one of their primary goals, and it took a small maneuver among their collection of picks to make it happen.
"We wanted to ensure that we got here with our last pick [of Day Two] a player that we had been targeting for some time," said General Manager Jason Licht. "He's a favorite of a lot of ours here from the perspective of how his football character, his intelligence [and] his physical traits were outstanding."