When Buccaneers GM Jason Licht met with members of the media on Day 3 of the 2016 NFL Draft, he mentioned a common theme that his organization saw in all of the picks made, especially those chosen in the later rounds: versatility.
Draft picks Ryan Smith, Caleb Benenoch and Danny Vitale especially show such positive signs of adaptability, and may be placed in positions by the Bucs' coaching staff that they were not previously assigned to in college. Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter elaborated on the importance of flexibility for his new draftees at minicamp last week.
"Versatility in the later rounds is key. You've got to have multi-position guys," Koetter said. "Look at a guy like Kevin Pamphile. Last year, his versatility's what kept him here, and he did a lot of great things for us on offense."
To break down the flexibility desired for this year's draft selections, 4th round draft pick Ryan Smith displayed an instinctual, yet adjustable athleticism in college that the Bucs' scouting department took notice of. The team hopes that innate talent could be applied to playing safety, as well as his native position of cornerback. Jason Licht even said that the team had specifically drafted Smith for the possibility of playing safety, as the team tries to improve against its Kryptonite, which took the form of defending slant routes last season.
Tackle Caleb Benenoch has been shifted up and down the offensive line significantly during minicamp, in hopes of the team finding a location that he could potentially thrive at. Benenoch may earn a starting position at right guard if he can do well enough in practice, and has said he is more than ready for the challenges that lie ahead of him in terms of moving around the offensive line.
The Buccaneers also lent more credence to their theme of versatile drafting by signing Danny Vitale as a tight end, despite the fact that he was a fullback in college. Vitale may end up being a mixture of the two for the Bucs if he makes the roster, and shows levels of physicality that can allow him to succeed as a hybrid of a player. The fullback is becoming a dying breed in today's pass-heavy league, while the tight end position is arguably on the rise with such recent talents like Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce and Greg Olsen making huge impacts offensively for their respective franchises. Vitale will need to be able to establish a solid connection with quarterback Jameis Winston if he is to fit snugly into Bucs offensive coordinator Todd Monken's scheme.
Versatility is crucial for the success of the Bucs' new rookies. If they are able to make switches to relatively unfamiliar positions and thrive in them, long term success may be in store for the franchise.
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