By all accounts, the Buccaneers have had one of the most productive rookie classes in all of the NFL this season. All four of the team's top draft picks stepped in as starters and all four have had significant impacts.
The team's first overall pick, Jameis Winston, is putting together one of the best rookie passing seasons in NFL history; on Sunday, he's poised to pass Peyton Manning for No. 3 all-time in passing yards for a rookie. For his efforts, Winston is a popular name used when discussing this year's Rookie of the Year.
Behind-the-scenes photos of the Buccaneers vs. Bears game at the Raymond James Stadium on December 27th.
Tampa Bay has also enjoyed a high level of production out of second-round picks Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith. The two have paved the way for the NFL's second-leading rusher and hope to finish the season with the league's rushing title when all is said and done. Additionally, the Bucs' offensive line has given up just 25 sacks this year, the fourth-fewest in the league.
Kwon Alexander, who was selected in the fourth round, is a two-time NFL Rookie of the Week and No. 2 on the Buccaneers in tackles, despite missing the final four games of the season.
When Winston and the Bucs rookies arrived in Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers had just completed a 2-14 season, which was the worst in the NFL. The group got together and made a pact to change the culture within the organization.
"Our rookie class, especially with Donovan, Ali and Kenny Bell and the guys that got drafted – we wanted to make a difference when we got here," Winston said on Bucs Total Access on Monday. "Donovan and Ali, they had a chance to make instant impacts as well as Kwon Alexander on the defense. We just got together, we made the decision that we wanted to change the mentality and change the perception of Tampa Bay. We feel that we've started that right now."
In one season, the Buccaneers have jumped from the No. 30 offense in the league to No. 7. The team's defense has improved drastically as well. The unit has improved from No. 25 in the NFL in total yards in 2014 to No. 9 this season.
If that's just a start, as Winston put it, then the future is bright in Tampa Bay.