NFL DRAFT Links
If the great prize of the 2015 NFL Draft was at quarterback, it's greatest depth might be along the offensive line. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have now taken advantage of both, and the result could be a rapid offensive renaissance.
On Friday evening, the Buccaneers used their second round pick to select Penn State offensive tackle Donovan Smith, one day after beginning the draft with Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. The Bucs obviously hopes Winston will be starting on Day One of the upcoming season; similarly, Smith could be a key part of the team's efforts to build a more dominant line in front of their quarterback.
Tampa Bay selected the 6-6, 338-pound Smith with the second pick of the second round, #34 overall. While there was speculation that the Buccaneers might use some of their Day Three pick ammunition to trade up into the latter stages of the first round on Thursday night, they instead were able to let the strength of this draft come to them. Even with seven offensive linemen among the first 32 picks on Thursday – including five who are considered likely to play tackle in the NFL – there were still several intriguing blockers left as Day Two of the draft began. That included Smith, whose size and left-tackle pedigree were surely attractive to the Buccaneers.
Whether or not the Buccaneers got first-round value in the second round will only be evident after Smith has had several pro seasons to prove himself. Still, the Buccaneers obviously believe they have landed a young man who can develop into an outstanding player on the professional level. Given that he started 31 games at left tackle for the Nittany Lions but also has the versatility to play in the interior line if needed, the team's optimism is warranted.
The pick will prove to be particularly valuable if Smith can stay at left tackle in the NFL and start early in his career. He manned that spot for most of three years at Penn Sate and was named a preseason Outland Trophy candidate heading into the 2014 campaign. Smith declared for the draft with one year of eligibility remaining, though he had already achieved his degree in criminology.
Due to his size and quick feet, Smith has drawn comparisons to San Diego Chargers tackle D.J. Fluker. A powerful blocker with an aggressive style of play, he is considered the type of athletic prospect who can take his game to another level in the NFL.
The Buccaneers are determined to upgrade their offensive line after a 2015 season in which they finished 29th in both rushing yards and sacks allowed. There is a starting tackle position open for competition with the offseason release of 2014 free agent acquisition Anthony Collins. Incumbent right tackle Demar Dotson also started the final three games of last season at left tackle as an audition for possibly moving into that higher-profile role. Oniel Cousins, who also logged a handful of starts at left tackle last season, has also departed as a free agent but the Buccaneers do have 2014 fifth-round pick Kevin Pamphile also in the mix at that position.
The Buccaneers have one more pick to exercise on the second night of the 2015 Draft, as they are due to pick first in the third round, #65 overall. The draft will conclude on Saturday with Rounds 4-7, with the Buccaneers currently owning five more selections in that span.