Tampa Bay prepares for 'biggest draft' in franchise history

ByPat Yasinskas ESPN logo
Monday, April 20, 2015

TAMPA, Fla. -- In the eyes of Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht, the upcoming draft is bigger than Bo Jackson, Vinny Testaverde, Ricky Bell and Lee Roy Selmon.

The Bucs, coming off a 2-14 season, have a chance to land a potential franchise quarterback in Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota. They hold the No. 1 overall pick -- the same spot in which the franchise took Selmon, Bell, Testaverde and Jackson.

"It's huge," Licht said Monday as he held his pre-draft meeting with the media. "Personally, I think it's probably the biggest draft in the history of the organization. We've got a real chance to really put us over the top and get us to the level that we think we're going to be at this year, which we think is competing for a championship. It's a great draft, and it's a great draft to have the No. 1 pick."

Licht stopped well short of saying how the Bucs will use the pick but did acknowledge that there is a consensus favorite.

"Going back all the way to [the combine], we said we had a leader in the clubhouse, and we still do," Licht said. "If we had to pick today, we'd feel very comfortable making the pick.

"That said, we'll wait and use the majority of our allotted time. There's always something that could pop up that you wish you would've waited. I'm talking about a scenario where somebody offers you something that you can't refuse. So we'll use our allotted time, but everybody in the organization feels very comfortable with where we're at."

The Buccaneers have done extensive homework on Winston and Mariota. In particular, they have done a lot of research into Winston off the field.

The Florida State quarterback has had several off-field incidents, including an allegation of sexual assault, for which he was not charged. Winston's accuser filed a civil lawsuit last week, which Licht said was not a surprise to the team.

"The information that came out with it was not a surprise to us," Licht said. "We're very confident in the amount of work we've done. Maybe 25 years from now, I'll write a book. But we feel very confident in the amount of work we've done internally, we've had work done externally through third parties, and on and on. There have been no surprises."

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