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2015 NFL depth charts: Buccaneers have all hopes riding on Jameis Winston

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a new quarterback and a rebuilt offensive line, and given the weak NFC South, they could contend next season.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the worst team in the NFL last season, and accordingly were awarded the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. With a ton of holes and issues on both sides of the ball, most figured they would draft a quarterback to begin yet another rebuild and that's exactly what they did. Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is the franchise's best hope going forward.

If they have one thing going for them -- outside of Winston's skill set and high ceiling, of course -- it's that the NFC South is the weakest division in football by a large margin. The Buccaneers, a team that was never really in the playoff discussion last season, were technically not eliminated from postseason contention until well down the stretch given how bad the rest of the division was all season.

The Carolina Panthers wound up taking the division with a losing record. There's plenty of room for the Buccaneers to put things on the right track and compete sooner than later, but success hinges on the answers to a few key questions.

What can we expect out of Winston in Year 1?

Success for a rookie quarterback isn't necessarily rare, but that really depends on how you define success. If success is a deep postseason run, then Winston is unlikely to find it, but if success is the team making positive strides towards competitive play, then the Buccaneers might be on the right path.

Tampa Bay's team is not bereft of talent on either side of the ball, and if the quarterback position is not a weakness going forward, then the Buccaneers could easily be competing for the division crown next season. What they'll need is for Winston, who was considered more pro-ready than Marcus Mariota, to pick up the offense quickly and take care of the football more than anything. If he's smart with the football then the Buccaneers may be competitive.

How's the protection going to be for Winston?

The Buccaneers feel they have their franchise quarterback in Winston, an NFL-ready pocket passer. Now they just need one of those things pocket passers like throwing from -- a pocket. Tampa Bay's offensive line isn't exactly stellar, and the Buccaneers recognized this, taking Penn State offensive tackle Donovan Smith with the No. 34 overall pick and Hobart interior lineman Ali Marpet with the No. 61 pick.

Smith is a massive, mauling lineman who is guaranteed to start at one of the tackle spots. Tampa Bay surrendered 52 sacks last season, and Smith will have his work cut out for him on the outside. Marpet played left tackle at Division III Hobart, and his selection is incredibly significant. He's the first player drafted from his school and the highest-drafted Division III player ever. He's slated to start at right guard as a rookie. Winston's fate will be in these guys' rather large hands.

Will the Buccaneers get any use out of the team's first drafted defensive player in two years?

The Buccaneers drafted LSU linebacker Kwon Alexander in the fourth round, which was significant given the fact that the team hadn't drafted a defensive player in two years. Alexander is an outside linebacker and played both sides of the line at LSU. He's an intriguing prospect because he fits right in with Lovie Smith's defense.

That said, rookies tend to sit in Smith's defense, and Alexander will have an uphill battle earning a starting role. Still, most believe Alexander will get his opportunity to shine in training camp and if he really outplays Danny Lansanah, then Alexander could walk away with a starting role or at least some kind of rotational role. Unfortunately, outside linebacker is one of the more difficult positions to adjust to at the next level, due to the coverage duties expected of them.