Buccaneers selected OT Donovan Smith in second round
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Drafting Jameis Winston is just part of Tampa Bay's plan to improve a sputtering offense. Now, the Buccaneers are in the market for players who can help the young quarterback be successful.
Hours after signing the first overall pick in the NFL draft to a four-year, $23.35 million contract, the Bucs selected a pair of offensive lineman in the second round Friday night - adding Penn State tackle Donovan Smith and Hobart College's Ali Marpet, who'll get a chance to earn a starting job at guard.
''I can't tell you how excited we are about these two guys,'' general manager Jason Licht said.
''We went into the draft knowing we had to shore up the offensive line,'' the GM added. ''We didn't want to reach for these guys. They were on our board exactly where he took them.''
Smith was the second pick in the second round, No. 34 overall. He was a left tackle at Penn State, an area of need for Tampa Bay.
Marpet played tackle at Hobart, a NCAA Division III program, but impressed the Bucs at the Senior Bowl and against at the NFL Combine.
''He dominated at Hobart. The concern a lot of people had is how is he going to play against top-notch competition,'' Licht said. ''At the Senior Bowl ... he played very well. He looked like he belonged.''
To get Marpet, the Bucs gave up the first pick in the third round - No. 65 overall - to Indianapolis in exchange for get back into the second round to select the 2014 Liberty League co-offensive player of the year at No. 61 .
The teams also swapped positions in the fourth round, with the Bucs dropping to No. 128 and the Colts moving up to 109 on Saturday.
''We've added two good offensive linemen to the mix,'' coach Lovie Smith said. ''We're a better football team for doing that.''
Scouts say the versatile 6-foot-5, 335-pound Smith has the ability to play left or right tackle.
''I can play either or,'' Smith said in during conference call from Chicago, where he attended the draft.
''I also like to say I can play four out of five (offensive line) positions. Wherever I need to be on the line to make the line stronger, that's where I'll be,'' Smith added. ''But in my mind, I'm a tackle.''
Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner, was selected Thursday night and is expected to immediately move into the starting lineup.
Smith and Marpet will get an opportunity to do the same.
''I think all three of these players have a chance to play a lot of football for us,'' Lovie Smith said, adding he's never shied away from starting young players ''if they're the best we've got.''
The Bucs drafted two offensive linemen a year ago, but neither tackle Kevin Pamphile or guard Kadeem Edwards played much as rookies.
Donovan Smith followed Winston's career at Florida State from afar and is looking forward to providing protection for him.
''Watching him play ... he knows how to win,'' Smith said. ''I'm just going to ready to match our talent together, and the talent in the locker room, and get ready to go out there and do we've got to do and win a Super Bowl.''
The Bucs ranked 29th in scoring and 30th in total offense en route to finishing with a 2-14 record last season.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL