PHOENIX - In just over five weeks, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be on the clock with the No. 1 selection in the 2015 NFL Draft and the team already has a leader in their mind to be that selection. At the NFL's annual meetings on Wednesday, Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith said one player has stood out, but played coy about the possibility of it being a quarterback.
While many are assuming that the Buccaneers will take either Florida State's Jameis Winston or Oregon's Marcus Mariota, Smith said it's never safe to make assumptions about the NFL Draft.
"I just think that in the draft … I wouldn’t go that far," Smith said. "There are so many different ways things can go in the draft, but barring a trade, I can see how you’d think we would go for a quarterback."
In the latest mock draft from SB Nation's Dan Kadar, Winston is the player to go No. 1 overall and Smith didn't disagree with the notion that the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner could be the No. 1 pick, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. But with individual workouts still on the way, there's time for minds to be changed.
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"I look at it like a football game," Smith said. "We have a leader, but you let the game play out. I’ve seen teams be in the lead early on and lose the game too. So you let it all play out and that’s where we are. We’ll know once we go through the process, but you don’t call a winner before the game is over."
Much of the concern around the selection of Winston revolves around a series of off-field incidents that have called the quarterback's character into question. Smith downplayed those concerns on Wednesday and said the team is "comfortable" with the character of Winston.
Still, Smith also spoke highly of Mariota and said the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner is "going to be a good player in the league."
Another possibility for the Buccaneers is a trade involving the No. 1 overall pick, which is something Smith isn't ruling out.
"If someone would come up and offer you a deal that no one else has offered before, you have to consider that," Smith said. "It’s all about this year and you have to keep all your options open, but we have great options. Taking that first pick is one and we’re as happy as we can be if that’s what we end up doing."
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