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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

O.J. Howard is a 'throw back' to what tights ends were in NFL

One of the first people O.J. Howard heard from after being selected by the Bucs with the 19th overall pick was quarterback Jameis Winston.

“He texted me as soon as I was drafted and said, “Hey man, welcome aboard,’’ Howard said.

The Alabama tight end was expected to be gone long before the Bucs made their first round selection Thursday. When coach Dirk Koetter said when they still had about a half dozen teams ahead of them in the draft, he didn’t want to jinx the team’s good fortune.

“I actually had to go to the bathroom for the last six picks but I was afraid to stand up,’’ Koetter said. “I didn’t want to jinx the mojo in there.

“We said we needed more explosive players and this is an explosive player. He just plays inside instead of outside and we’ve been fortunate to add speed on the outside with DeSean Jackson to pair up with Mike and now we’ve got two tight ends to pair side by side in Cam (Brate) and O.J.

According to Koetter, Howard represents what has become a dying breed in college and pro football – an in line tight end who can block but has the speed to stretch the field and become a receiving weapon. …

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Bucs' Mike Evans remembers 'emotion' of his draft night

It's been three years since the Bucs took Mike Evans with the No. 7 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but the Pro Bowl receiver remembers well how emotional he was that night, realizing what he had been able to accomplish for his family. Evans couldn't stop himself from crying in joy, especially as he held his daughter Mackenzie.

"The whole week, everyone was asking me was I going to get emotional," Evans said this week. "I was like 'Naw,' I guess because it didn't feel real at the time. Then I got off the phone with Lovie (Smith) and Jason Licht, and then I was holding my daughter and they called my name. I was overwhelmed with emotion. To know that I could provide for my daughter and my family, it was a great experience."

You can check out a three-minute video of Evans being selected here -- he's wiping back tears more than a minute after being picked. It's also wild to think how much has changed for his college teammate and close friend, Johnny Manziel, who gets a hug from Evans on the way to meet commissioner Roger Goodell. Manziel, of course, would fall to No. 22 and the Browns, who are still searching for a quarterback entering tonight's draft. …

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Bucs' opportunity to trade down may depend on QB market

North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky is among the quarterbacks that will receive first-round consideration.

AP photo

North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky is among the quarterbacks that will receive first-round consideration.

A robust quarterback market and a run on that position will give the Bucs their best opportunity to acquire more picks by trading down in the first round of Thursday's NFL draft.

Tampa Bay has discussed the possibility of moving down from the No. 19 overall pick with more than three teams. As many as four quarterbacks could go in the first round this year, although none are considered locks to become franchise passers such as Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota, who went 1-2 to the Bucs and Tennessee, respectively, in 2015.

North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky, Clemson's Deshaun Watson, Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes and Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer all will receive first round consideration. Some longshots to go in the first round include California's Davis Webb or Pittsburgh's Nate Peterman.

The most likley trading partners for the Bucs would be the Houston Texans at No. 25 and the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 27. Texans coach Bill O'Brien is a good friend of general manager Jason Licht and Bucs coach Dirk Koetter used to work on the same staff as Chiefs coach Andy Reid at Div. II San Francisco State, so there is a high level of trust between those organizations. …

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Bucs trading down? Here's Jason Licht's draft-deal history

The Bucs, having traded down 19 spots in the fourth round, used a seventh-round pick to trade back up four spots to get Kwon Alexander in 2015.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

The Bucs, having traded down 19 spots in the fourth round, used a seventh-round pick to trade back up four spots to get Kwon Alexander in 2015.

Given the perceived depth of the 2017 NFL Draft, it's not too surprising, but ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Wednesday morning that the Bucs, sitting at No. 19, have reached out to at least three teams about trading down, potentially out of the first round entirely.

We'll get to Jason Licht's three-year history as an active draft-day trader, but first -- what might the Bucs be able to get by sliding down at bit? The most likely option would be to trade down a few picks -- say you anticipate having several prospects you'd be happy with at 19, but would like to pick up, say, another pick Friday. There's an old "draft value card" that Jimmy Johnson came up with, giving a relative value to all picks -- I'm sure it varies from draft to draft and team to team, but as a starting point, you can always use it to float trade possibilities. …

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Finebaum: Warren Sapp has 'no credibility' to criticize Myles Garrett

Warren Sapp is under fire for his criticism of the draft's likely No. 1 overall pick, Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, pictured, as being "lazy."

AP photo

Warren Sapp is under fire for his criticism of the draft's likely No. 1 overall pick, Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, pictured, as being "lazy."

Two days before the NFL Draft, former Bucs star and Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp is under fire for his criticism of the draft's likely No. 1 overall pick, Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, as being "lazy."

Sapp made his comments to ESPN's Adam Schefter on Sunday, saying of Garrett: "I don't see it from this kid. I see the splash plays; everybody gets those. Where's the game he took over? Where? Any defensive lineman who's the No. 1 pick, you turn up and you say 'There it is!' This kid, no, I don't. I'm a pretty plain and frank guy, and I watch the tape and he disappears. I watch the tape and he absolutely disappears. ... I see a lazy kid that makes four plays a game. This is the No. 1 guy? No, no, no. This ain't even close."

Sapp had 96.5 sacks in his career, 77 with the Bucs, so he knows plenty about defensive line success, and worked as an analyst for the NFL Network until two years ago, when he was fired after an arrest in Arizona on Super Bowl weekend on misdemeanor charges of soliciting a prostitute and assault. …

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Adrian Peterson chooses Saints, will face Bucs twice

Running back Adrian Peterson, who had expressed an interest in playing for the Bucs, is signing with the Saints, which means the former NFL MVP could face Tampa Bay twice this season, including the season finale in Tampa on Dec. 31.

[Associated Press]

Running back Adrian Peterson, who had expressed an interest in playing for the Bucs, is signing with the Saints, which means the former NFL MVP could face Tampa Bay twice this season, including the season finale in Tampa on Dec. 31.

Running back Adrian Peterson, who had expressed an interest in playing for the Bucs, is signing with the Saints, which means the former NFL MVP could face Tampa Bay twice this season, including the season finale in Tampa on Dec. 31.

Peterson, 32, is signing a two-year deal worth $7-million, according to ESPN. He rushed for an NFL-best 1,485 yards in 2015, but was limited to three games and 72 yards last season due to a knee injury. He also played only one game in 2014 due to a suspension related to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault, alleging Peterson had "an incident of abusive discipline" with his then 4-year-old son.

Peterson won't be the only running back in New Orleans, which also returns Mark Ingram, who rushed for 1,043 yards last season. That combination will only benefit Drew Brees, who threw for an NFL-high 5,208 yards and 37 touchdowns last season. The Saints are literally getting Peterson for 20 cents on the dollar, compared to the $18-million he would have made if the Vikings had exercised his option for 2017. New Orleans opens this season in Minnesota on a Monday night and a game that will now be highly anticipated. …

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Bucs' Kwon Alexander pulling for old LSU teammates

Kwon Alexander lasted until the fourth round in 2015 before the Bucs took him.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Kwon Alexander lasted until the fourth round in 2015 before the Bucs took him.

Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander is entering his third NFL season but is still only 22, so he remains close with his former LSU teammates, who could be a big part of Thursday's first round of the NFL Draft.

"All of them -- back at LSU, we're all close. We always want to see somebody succeed," Alexander said Monday as the second week of offseason conditioning began for the Bucs. "We've got a couple of guys being top-flight going in the first round, like (safety) Jamal Adams, (running back) Leonard Fournette and (cornerback) Tre White. I can't wait to see where those guys go. It's going to be a fun draft to watch."

Alexander lasted until the fourth round in 2015 before the Bucs took him, so he had to wait through two full days of not being picked, but that didn't stop him from stepping in as an immediate starter -- he's already piled up 238 tackles in 28 career games.

"I had to wait for a little bit. That was the stressful part," he said. "Getting drafted was the most amazing part. They (called and) asked me 'Do you want to be a Buc?' I already knew what my mindset was, to come in and start anyway. When I got that chance, that's what I did." …

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Bucs' Mike Evans ready to take on leadership role, even at 23

"I'm going to be a more vocal leader," said Mike Evans, entering his fourth season in the league.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

"I'm going to be a more vocal leader," said Mike Evans, entering his fourth season in the league.

A year ago, Mike Evans excelled on the field, catching 12 touchdowns on the way to his first Pro Bowl, but with some of the veteran presence gone from the Bucs receiving corps, he understands he'll have to be more of a leader in 2017.

"I'm going to be a more vocal leader," said Evans, entering his fourth season in the league. "I always try to lead by example, but I'll be more vocal now, since V-Jax is gone."

The Bucs brought in free agent DeSean Jackson, 30, who can take over the veteran presence that Vincent Jackson had, but the Bucs will also be without Louis Murphy and Cecil Shorts, both 29, and Russell Shepard, 26, who were part of last year's group.

Much like Jameis Winston, who has quickly stepped up as a leader at 23, Evans said he's comfortable trying to command authority in a leadership role despite his relative youth.

"That's how it was for me in college as well -- guys were seniors and I was a redshirt freshman and I had to be a leader," Evans said. "I was a starter and I was one of the best players on the team, so I think the best players, no matter their age, should be comfortable being a leader." …

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19 for 19: Nineteen players mocked as Bucs' pick at No. 19

The most frequent pick for the Bucs' first-rounder is Florida State running back Dalvin Cook.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

The most frequent pick for the Bucs' first-rounder is Florida State running back Dalvin Cook.

Pretty much any time a national site or newspaper that covers the NFL throws up a mock draft, I'll tweet out a link to give people another perspective on what the Bucs might do with the No. 19 pick. You certainly agree with some more than others, but I see a value in sharing as many different views as possible -- this shows how difficult it is to project a pick deep into the first round, and reminds people how much guesswork is usually involved.

I went back and checked the last 40 mock drafts I linked to -- this goes back to January, which is before free agency, before the combine, where there's even less known to even line up team needs with perceived talent in the draft. How many different players were paired with the No. 19 pick in those 40 mock drafts? NINETEEN. From eight different positions -- nearly everything, save quarterback, linebacker and special teams. It's reasonable to think a handful of these players will still be there when the Bucs pick again at No. 50, and that the Bucs will pass on some of them a second time. …

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Mike Mayock: RB should be Bucs' priority with 19th pick

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock held a conference call on Friday to talk about next week's NFL Draft, and he offered his insights on what the Bucs should do with their first-round pick, No. 19 overall.

"They've got to take some pressure off Jameis Winston ... 24 turnovers last year, too many," Mayock said. "They've got to help him with the run game. I think that's got to be their first priority."

Mayock said FSU's Dalvin Cook and Stanford's Christian McCaffrey "make sense at 19," but said he thinks McCaffrey will already be picked when the Bucs are up.

"Could Dalvin Cook be staring them in the face at (19)?" he asked. "I think he could be, and I think he needs to be in the conversation. ... At 19, does the tailback or running back make the most sense?"

Mayock said because of the age of cornerback Brent Grimes (turns 34 in July) and defensive end Robert Ayers (turns 32 in September), the Bucs must "continue to upgrade their defensive backfield" and "have to continue to look for edge rushers ... (and) upgrade that group."

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Patriots? Packers? What will toughest Bucs ticket be in 2017?

Thursday night's schedule announcement means that NFL fans finally have dates for Bucs games they've known were somewhere on the 2017 schedule months ago, so there's an initial rush of demand for tickets on the secondary market.

For now, any seats available are from fans who are splitting up their season tickets -- the Bucs are putting you on a watch list as we write this -- but there are plenty being sold, so you can already get a sense of what will be the most expensive seats to buy.

Of the eight Bucs home games, as expected, the Patriots -- who still haven't played in Tampa in the regular season under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady -- are the top-dollar draw so far, with tickets starting at $195 on Stubhub on Friday morning. The Giants, who played here just two years ago, aren't far behind at $154, with the NFC champion Falcons next at $105 -- all the rest are between $88-98 to start. …

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Beat Giants and Jets? Bucs have doubled up New York before

Cornerback Jeremiah Castille returns an interception in the Bucs' 41-21 victory over the Jets in 1984.

Times files

Cornerback Jeremiah Castille returns an interception in the Bucs' 41-21 victory over the Jets in 1984.

Last year's scheduling quirk saw the Bucs travel to California twice and win at both San Diego and San Francisco -- amazing, considering they'd been 4-24 in their history in regular-season games played in California before 2016.

This year's challenge? Can they beat both the New York Giants and the New York Jets in the same season? Both come to Tampa to play the Bucs -- the Giants in Week 4 on Oct. 1 and the Jets in Week 10 on Nov. 12.

(PRINTABLE 2017 BUCS SCHEDULE)

The Bucs have lost eight in a row to the Jets and five in a row to the Giants -- they're 1-10 all-time against the Jets. And yet, somehow, they've beaten both teams in the same season before. The 1984 Bucs, who went 6-10, beat the Giants 41-21 and the Jets 20-17, both in Tampa. …

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In Green Bay, in December? More on the Bucs in cold weather

Packers safety Charlie Peprah closes in on Bucs tight end Kellen Winslow during Green Bay's 35-26 victory in 2011.

Times files

Packers safety Charlie Peprah closes in on Bucs tight end Kellen Winslow during Green Bay's 35-26 victory in 2011.

So the Bucs are playing the Packers in Green Bay ... in December.

How cold is Lambeau Field likely to be on Dec. 3 when the Bucs play there? Last year, the Packers had a home game on Dec. 4 and at kickoff it was 32 degrees. Fahrenheit.

A few things to bring up: The Bucs haven't done well in cold weather historically -- they're 17-56 all-time (.233) when the temperature at kickoff is 49 degrees or colder, though they've won three straight games under such conditions -- at Kansas City last year, at Philadelphia in 2015 and at Washington in 2014.

(PRINTABLE 2017 BUCS SCHEDULE)

So most of the current Bucs have a winning record in sub-50 temperatures -- many don't even know the feeling of a defeat in such cold.

The Bucs have gone to Green Bay only twice since they stopped being division rivals in 2002, winning in 2005 and losing in 2011. They're 7-18 all-time at the Packers, though temperature plays a big role in that -- when it's 48 degrees or colder at kickoff, the Bucs are 1-10 at the Packers; when it's 49 or warmer, they're 6-8 all-time. Along those lines, the 2011 loss was in late November with 32-degree temperature, while the 2005 win was in September at 65 degrees. …

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Patriots at Bucs, Oct. 5: Five things to know, plus Tom Brady trivia

The Patriots are back in Tampa for the first time in the regular season since 1997.

AP photo

The Patriots are back in Tampa for the first time in the regular season since 1997.

The Patriots are coming to Tampa, with a national CBS audience tuning in on a Thursday in Week 5, Oct. 5 -- here are five things to know about that game and the two teams' history ...

-- The Patriots are back in Tampa for the first time in the regular season since 1997 -- since 2002, all AFC teams rotate in with trips to Tampa every eight years, but the 2009 Bucs-Patriots game was a "home" game played in London. As such, Bill Belichick has never beaten the Bucs in Tampa (in the regular season), despite an NFL coaching career that predates the Bucs by a year, to 1975.

(PRINTABLE 2017 BUCS SCHEDULE)

-- New England, of course, has had an amazing run under Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, who both came to the Patriots in 2000. They've won at least 10 games every year since 2003 and have missed the playoffs just once -- in 2008, when Brady missed all but one game with injury and they still went 11-5. Since the Bucs' last playoff win in the Super Bowl in January 2003, the Patriots have won 22 playoff games, including four Super Bowls. …

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Schedule unveiled: Bucs learn their path for 2017

The Bucs' schedule is uniquely skewed with home games early and late in the year, creating a tough stretch in the middle of the season that has just two home games over a span of 66 days.

Times staff

The Bucs' schedule is uniquely skewed with home games early and late in the year, creating a tough stretch in the middle of the season that has just two home games over a span of 66 days.

The Bucs' 2017 schedule, released Thursday with the rest of the league, includes two high-profile showcase games, with Tom Brady and the defending champion Patriots coming to Tampa on a Thursday in Week 5 and the Bucs hosting the Falcons in a huge Monday night showdown the week before Christmas.

(PRINTABLE 2017 BUCS SCHEDULE)

The Bucs open the season on Sept. 10 at Miami, and in all, Tampa Bay's schedule is uniquely skewed with home games early and late in the year -- three of the first five are at home, as are three of the last four, creating a tough stretch in the middle of the season that has just two home games over a span of 66 days.

The schedule will be officially announced at 8 p.m. on NFL Network.

The NFC South has sent its champ to the Super Bowl in each of the last two seasons, and if the Bucs are to challenge for the division title, they'll need a strong finish, with three division games to finish the season -- the Monday against Atlanta on Dec. 18, a Christmas Eve game at Carolina and a season finale at Raymond James Stadium on New Year's Eve against New Orleans. …

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