Bucs' Rookie Class is Special

We are watching one of the best groups of rookies the Bucs have ever drafted.

For those that follow the draft closely, we knew this Bucs' class of rookies had the potential to be special. After 12 games this season, they are living up to that potential.

Remember when there was a debate about whether the Bucs should even take Jameis Winston? I'm not even talking about the Marcus Mariota discussion either. I'm talking about the notion that some people had, saying the bucs would be better off either trading down and/or drafting an offensive lineman. Those people quickly shut up.

Jameis Winston is the undisputed leader of the locker-room, of the franchise, and of the sports in this city. At 21 years old, Winston's passion to win has fueled the souls of fans who had once given up on the team. A player like that is invaluable for any team in any sport. It's also the type of player the Bucs haven't had in their locker-room since Derrick Brooks.

The Bucs spent their next two picks improving that offensive line that some people were overly concerned about. Donovan Smith was their early 2nd round pick, and then they traded back into the late 2nd round to select Ali Marpet. Anyone that watched day 2 of the draft with me at Buffalo Wild Wings knows how pumped I was for the Marpet selection. Marpet has arguably been the Bucs most consistent rookie all season, and he might be the Bucs most important offensive lineman this season.

For Donovan Smith, the criticism started immediately. All we heard was that he couldn't play left tackle and that he couldn't pass protect. As a rookie, Donovan Smith has made many fans forget he's even a rookie with how well he has played. Smith has gone against JJ Watt, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Greg Hardy this season, and none of them recorded a sack against the Bucs.

What makes a stellar draft is being able to nail a mid to late round pick or two. The Bucs did just that when they selected LSU LB Kwon Alexander in the 4th round. Alexander has been one of the steals of the draft and has displayed flashes that he may become an elite linebacker for years to come.

Late round picks are always a toss up, so while Kaelin Clay and Joey Iosefa didn't work out, the jury is still out on Kenny Bell as he develops at wide receiver.

Congratulations to Jason Licht and his staff on what looks to be one of the Bucs' best draft classes in their 40-year history. It's tough to beat a draft class of two hall of famers, but this 2015 class, should still go down as one of their best. Licht is putting together a young roster loaded with talent. If they have one more solid draft in 2016, the Bucs may be ready to compete for the ultimate prize sooner rather than later.

For now, I'm just happy for relevant games in December, and to be thinking about the playoffs again.

USA Today

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